Over the next several weeks, we’re going to be “scouting the enemy,” as we’ll be covering the outlook for the 29 other teams in the league ahead of the 2019-2020 season.
Offseason in Review
The San Antonio Spurs didn’t have a splashy summer, but it was kind of meh compared to their Western Conference counterparts.
They picked European Luka Samanic with the 19th overall pick, which is totally fine — but probably not enough for Spurs fans to be too excited about. Once the Spurs were on the clock, I was mortified at the thought of them taking Brandon Clarke and watching him become a perennial All-Star with the Spurs. Thankfully they went with Samanic, who could be a fine player in the Spurs’ system, but with who was left on the board (Clarke, Nassir Little, Grant Williams, Kevin Porter Jr.), a San Antonio fan would have probably preferred one of those guys. They also landed Keldon Johnson with the 29th pick, and he could evolve into a solid role player for them nearly immediately.
The Spurs free agency wasn’t hot at all, though. One of their first moves was to sign DeMarre Carroll, which isn’t bad, but not an ideal first signing. They also traded away Davis Bertrans, a productive stretch big, thinking they were going to sign Marcus Morris — who bailed for a more lucrative one-year deal with the New York Knicks. They later signed Trey Lyles to compensate for the loss.
They also re-signed Rudy Gay to a 2-year, $32M deal. Though he had an efficient shooting season where he shot 40% from deep, I don’t know if spending that kind of money on an aging wing with a bad Achilles history is the right move going forward.
Oh, the Spurs also brought back Tim Duncan...as an assistant coach...which is still pretty rad.
The big offseason “additions” for the Spurs are Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV. Murray missed all of last season with a torn ACL, but the 23-year old point guard should bounce back and provide the Spurs with “All-Defensive Team” level defense. Walker didn’t receive much playing time his rookie year. However, his strong Summer League performance could earn him more time off the bench, as he could inject some much-needed athleticism and streakiness to the second unit.
Their chances have to be high, right?
Though I’m a firm believer of “never counting the Spurs out until they’re actually out,” there’s a chance that theory doesn’t hold true this year. Popovich is a mastermind, but can he take this roster to the playoffs?
The Nuggets, Clippers, Lakers, Jazz, Rockets, Warriors, and Trail Blazers all feel like guarantees. That leaves one spot left. The Spurs can be good, but can they hold off upstart teams such as the Pelicans, Timberwolves, or Kings? Who knows, the Thunder could still be good with a quartet of Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Steven Adams.
It’s going to be a battle for San Antonio, and they’re counting on a lot of internal improvement from their young players.
It could happen though. Dejounte Murray has the tools to be one of the better two-way guards in basketball. He’s already a near-elite defender with budding offensive tools. One of the most underrated young players in basketball, Derrick White broke out in the playoffs and is proving it wasn’t a fluke with some strong play with Team USA this summer. He’s a high IQ player on both ends of the court, as he’s a hound for the ball defensively, and he has the scoring cops to be a third wheel next to DeRozan and Aldridge.
It’s going to be a battle this season, but with Popovich still at command, it won’t be surprising to see them still playing basketball in mid-to-late April.
It’ll always be the case until it doesn’t happen.