2017-2018 Record: 47-35, 3rd in Southwest, 7th in Conference, lost to Golden State 4-1 in First Round
Additions: DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, Dante Cunningham, Lonnie Walker, Marco Belinelli, Quincy Pondexter, Chimezie Metu
Departures: Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson, Joffrey Lauvergne, Matt Costello, Darrun Hilliard, Brandon Paul
It’s a whole new era for the Spurs, with several cornerstones of their championship runs now on other teams or retired from the league. Of the Spurs’ 2014 NBA Championship team, the only players still on the roster are Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli. Belinelli has bounced around the league since that season, and is returning to the Spurs in 2018.
The 2017-2018 season also marked the end of several long-standing win records for the team. The Spurs had a losing road record for the first time since 1997. The team continued their streak of overall winning seasons at 21, but failed to win 50 games for the first time since the 1997-1998 campaign.
There was quite a bit going on with the Spurs last season, both on and off the court. Kawhi Leonard spent most of the season out with a quad injury, ultimately leading to his departure from the team this summer when (in case you haven’t heard) he was traded along with Danny Green, cash money, and a traded player exception to Toronto. In return, Toronto sent DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a 1-20 protected 2019 first round pick down to San Antonio.
Coming back is a mixture of older and younger players including the aforementioned Mills, Davis Bertans, Rudy Gay, Pau Gasol, Bryn Forbes, and the two players expected to lead the the team alongside DeRozan: LaMarcus Aldridge and Dejounte Murray.
The Spurs are going to look to Murray to do more of that on the offensive side of the ball. Murray’s shot still needs some improvement, but he’ll have the chance to grow as a facilitator as well. Playing with a dynamic player like DeRozan helps with that, too. He’s no slouch as a creator but he still has a long way to go.
From there is where things get a little less certain. Rudy Gay, who turned 31 a month ago, had arguably his worst season since his rookie year with the Grizzlies with career lows (or close to it) per game in almost every category. Pau Gasol is in the same situation. The 37-year-old Spaniard turned in his worst season as a professional statistically, as well. Aldridge isn’t getting any younger either, this being his 13th season in the league. The thing that startles me even more when looking at the roster, is that after the 9 -plus years of experience of Aldridge/DeRozan/Gasol/Gay/Cunningham/Bellinelli, the only player with more than 2 seasons in the NBA is Quincy Pondexter (6).
While the team definitely lost a bit of its soul and character (and talent, depending on your views on Leonard) this offseason, it shouldn’t be too difficult to finish where they did last year or better. Most predictions from various analysts have them hovering right around 45-50 wins and getting the 4th-6th seed in the conference. Which is impressive considering what so many teams in the Western Conference did this offseason. The Spurs’ combination of age and inexperience will be a curious situation. Whatever your view of the Spurs, one thing is certain heading into this season. This will probably be the biggest test of Gregg Popovich’s coaching career since he took over the team in 1996.
Prediction: 51-31, 2nd in division, 5th in the conference