The 2016-17 season was the first in decades that the Spurs had to play without Tim Duncan. The Silver and Black attack exceeded all expectations by putting together perhaps the best rebuilding season by any team in history.
The 2017-18 season will be one of continued rebuilding, laying a foundation for now and the future, one as solid as we spoiled fans of San Antonio can hope for.
The post season had our franchise attached to big names and rumors of this generation’s best point guard wanting to join our squad. Chris Paul was serious about wanting to come to San Antonio, despite the realities of his contract needs and the inability of the Spurs to bring him with the team’s cap restrictions.
What’s important is that he, Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade, and many others have now been actively and publicly linked to playing in San Antonio. Longtime fans know that San Antonio was not a destination for elite free agent NBA stars in the past. That’s changed. The significance of this cannot be overlooked.
We have many, many, many reasons to be optimistic about this year and beyond. And I believe this may be the deepest roster San Antonio has ever fielded.
I predict that LMA will have a monster season. Why? Its a contract year. He has lost a lot of weight. He looks visibly stronger, showing more muscle definition. He and Coach Pop had a honest, publicly discussed conversation about his role on the team and two-way expectations between the All Star and the organization. He took and hit 3ss in preseason and is passing sharply. He is ready to play and eager to win. He is motivated and physically showing it. His snub from the All Star game last season has helped reignite his passion. His head is in the game. His PPG and FG attempts are both down about two per game compared to his Blazer years – his rebounds are nearly the same, and his defense is every bit is good –
but make no mistake, he is ready to play like he has before. Watch for a renaissance season from him. He can play the “beautiful game,” which makes the Spurs nearly unbeatable and immensely fun to watch. LaMarcus sees double teams and passes now, hustles back on defense, and battles for boards like a man on a mission.
Kawhi had the Warriors at +29 before Zaza Pachulia swept his leg. On Easter Day 2016, he completely dominated Golden State in Oakland and blew them out (as usual) in their gym. He is the best basketball player in the world, and he is a Spur. Make no mistake; Kawhi is the real MVP of the NBA.
We saw a renaissance from Tony in last season’s playoffs. He will be back on the court ahead of schedule. He is extremely motivated to earn a final contract. And he has publicly said for the first time that he is willing to accept a backup role to help the Spurs win more. His outside shot finally became a consistent threat last postseason, too. He is still a dangerous player, and he complements Aldridge perfectly. Both are playing for their basketball careers this season. Both will shine.
Danny rediscovered his touch. He is an elite defender, always. When he is cold from outside, he is excellent to stretch the floor on offense. When he can dribble and score – which he started doing late last season – he is outright dangerous, and an absolute steal for his salary.
Gasol nearly broke the single-season record for three-point shooting percentage last season, then opted out of his contract to help the team make a run at free agents. If that wasn’t enough, he absolutely shined in summer ball in Europe and lost 20 pounds. He is a threat from anywhere on the floor, he can pass as well as anyone on the team not from Argentina, he can rebound, and will high-low other teams into submission with LaMarcus. Wait and see.
Ginobili has proven Pop’s theory that rest can extend players’ careers. If The Admiral had Pop as a coach his whole career, he might have played several more seasons, at least. Manu has one of the deepest wells of experience of anyone playing basketball. He and Vince Carter prove that age is meaningless for a healthy player who is smart and talented. Manu helped demolish the vaunted Rockets last playoffs and was ready for more. We are lucky he chose not to retire.
Gay is the hidden gem acquisition of the NBA offseason; truly he was a steal for the Spurs. He has aggressively rehabbed his injury and has already (successfully) completed the same exact move and play he was injured executing last season. He is strong, healthy, has been a phenomenal talent his entire career, and is one of the elite forwards in the game. His preseason showing demonstrated his health has returned; if anyone can carefully manage a player’s minutes to protect their health its Gregg Popovich. Rudy can’t fail.
Dejounte has a work ethic rivaled by few. When the Spurs’ season ended, he went immediately into the gym. He appears to be bulking up with additional weight and strength. His summer league play is not indicative of his talent; I watched him start against the mighty Damian Lillard and play him to an absolute standstill. Lillard is a spectacular player, and Murray played like he was his equal last season. Since then, the kid has developed more, strengthened more, and is deeply committed to making more progress. Pop trusts him. He is learning to run the offense. He is learning that despite not being quite old enough to drink, he has to be the vocal leader of the most successful sports team in the world. Dejounte Murray is the young man to do that. He is not only physically gifted, a natural athlete and basketball talent, but he is also long. With Murray, Danny Green, and Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs boast incredible wingspan and athleticism on defense. Manu wonders how long it will be before Murra is an All Star.
Patty is back, thankfully. San Antonio is his home. He knows the offense. He knows the players. He knows the coach. He knows the guy who shows up at the gym to practice with the team who used to wear 21. He is a system guy and exactly what you want in a backup point guard.
Kyle is in a contract year and, like Rudy Gay, a weapon as a bench small ball 4. In a return to beautiful game basketball and needing point guard play from everyone, we need Vile Kyle.
The Latvian shocker continued to improve in summer play. He is a consistent outside threat. His ability to pass and block are well documented. Now he is more willing and able to dribble and attack with the ball. He is confident to the point of being fearless. He is a versatile team player and an absolute threat to other teams. He and Danny Green becoming threats off the dribble are important developments to watch.
Forbes has enormous talent for his size. He and Rudy Gay can create offense. Coach Pop increasingly trusts him. He is dangerous and also a steal at his contract. As he showed against Dallas late last season, he can heat up and be the high scorer in a game (albeit that was a meaningless one). He will get more run this season and continue to prove his mettle.
Absolute steal of a signing. Tall and strong, his court vision makes him a huge athletic asset. He is the backup Pau Gasol. During pre-season he racked up nearly a triple double with assists. He can pass and shoot from anywhere on the court. He will make teams sorry they see him. He is like a tall, lean, pale Boris Diaw, but don’t expect him to make espresso in his locker.
White is a guy for the Nth time who made the NBA say “the Spurs might have won the draft. Again.” On a very deep team, he will benefit from playing for the Austin Toros, like Murray and Forbes did last season.
Brandon Paul and Matt Costello
Both showed flashes of respectable play and very solid contributions in preseason. Both add depth and insurance, and we may see them brought up for injuries and rest during the campaign. For deep bench / preseason / Austin level players, they are quality security.
Many Spurs players are bringing their best this season for their very careers. Contract years have a tremendous motivational effect on players. Others, like our Spanish speakers, signed multi-year contracts to return and give their best. Pau and Manu blessed us with being the exact kind of team players our franchise is built on. Tim Duncan has been in the gym with the guys too.
This Spurs team may be our deepest and youngest in a long time. Their potential is unlimited. Don’t let hype scare you; these Spurs can beat anyone. Expect a massive number of highlights, assists, steals, and threes. Hope you like exciting Spurs basketball.
Go Spurs Go.