GM: R.C. Buford
Head coach: Gregg Popovich
2016-17 record: 61-21 (2nd in the Western Conference)
2016-17 result: Lost 4-0 in the West Finals
Key departures: Jonathon Simmons, Dewayne Dedmon
Key acquisitions: Rudy Gay
The San Antonio Spurs are fresh off another 60-win season, but for the first time it feels right to question if they have enough to contend in 2017-18.
They tried to make a splash this off-season by going after both Chris Paul and Paul George through trades. That failed, and so did their attempt at landing a top 10 pick in the 2017 Draft. Instead, the only off-season addition they made was Rudy Gay, whose 2016-17 was cut short with a torn left Achilles tendon.
Coach Gregg Popovich is a maestro, and it’s wise to never doubt him. But he’ll be entering the 2017-18 with a roster that will have to rely far too much on Kawhi Leonard, who is expected to miss the Spurs’ season opener due to a quad injury.
Instead, San Antonio will be looking to a 37-year-old Pau Gasol, who just signed a new three-year deal, a 40-year-old Manu Ginobili, and eventually to a 35-year-old Tony Parker, who is also making his way back from injury.
The Spurs signed LaMarcus Aldridge to a three-year extension prior to the season, but the five-time all-star saw his average in points and field goal percentage drop last season, despite playing more minutes per game.
At this point, it’s hard to think the Spurs will add another Larry O’Brien Trophy to their collection come the spring.
Potential Breakout Player
At this point, Gregg Popovich doesn’t expect Tony Parker to be back till December. Considering Patty Mills has carved out himself a role as their sixth man, this year we could see sophomore Dejounte Murray takes seize of his opportunity to prove that he’s their future at point guard.
A late first round pick (29th overall) in the 2016 Draft, Murray showed in flashes that he’s the real deal on both ends of the court. He had a 24-point performance during the regular season, and went on to post 11 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals in a series clinching win against the Houston Rockets, a game the Spurs won without Kawhi Leonard.
Murray also showed off his range last year, hitting 39.1 of his attempts from three-point distance, and an ability to attack the paint with a crafty handle. Add all that next to the fact that he plays with an edge, and he seems like the perfect breakout candidate for a Spurs team that will need to somehow make up for their lack of depth.
What a successful 2017-18 season would look like
A successful year for San Antonio would have them returning to the Conference Finals.
The Spurs are one of the few franchises that are judged almost solely by what they do in the playoffs. It’s expected, considering they hold the longest postseason streak with 20 straight appearances.
As long as Gregg Popovich is at the helm, the Spurs should never be doubted, but they’ll need Aldridge to return to his form as a 20-point scorer if they want to contend for their sixth NBA Championship. They’ll also need a time-machine for Gasol, Parker and Ginobili, but that’s a conversation for another day.
The Spurs will need a strong season from Rudy Gay if they want to contend with the West’s super teams. He should give them another formidable wing on their roster alongside Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. It’s something that will prove to be invaluable when matching up against players like Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Chris Paul.
At six-foot-eight, the 12-year pro can play both forward positions and score the ball with ease, averaging 19.3 points on 45.7 per cent shooting over the the last four seasons. In 2016-17, his streaky three-point stroke was also on an upswing, converting on 37.2 per cent of his attempts. Gay should have an easier time maintaining that clip on a Spurs team that led the league last year in three-point percentage (39.1).