Liam Romero | September 28th, 2018
With the departure of Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs are going into the 2018-2019 NBA season missing three big pieces. Will the Spurs match up with the super teams of the Western Conference, let alone make a playoff run?
Recap of Last Season
The Spurs were a bit of a disappointment last season. With their star player injured and their starters aging, Spurs fans didn’t know what to expect out of the 2017-2018 season. In the season, the Spurs ran through center LaMarcus Aldridge, who led the team in all categories. The team finished seventh in the Western Conference with a 47-35 record. Kawhi Leonard, who despite scrutiny for his trade, wasn’t an asset to the Spurs last season as he only played in nine games. The team scraped their way into the playoffs but lost in the first round, 4-1, to the eventual champions, the Warriors. In the offseason, the Spurs were abnormally active, losing Tony Parker and the previously mentioned Kawhi Leonard, while acquiring Toronto star DeMar DeRozan. Gregg Popovich has had a lot of work especially with so many changes to the team.
Last year, the Spurs ranked 17th in the league for offensive efficiency. Scoring only 102 ppg, the Spurs paled in comparison to their Western Conference counterparts, the Warriors, who averaged 112 ppg. Their most efficient scorer by far was LaMarcus Aldridge who averaged 23 ppg. With the acquisition of DeMar DeRozan though, the Spurs now have two prime scorers who averaged 23 ppg last season and can most definitely increase the number of points they score per game. DeRozan has high expectations going to San Antonio as the team and its fans hope to continue their playoff streak. The starting five is projected to consist of LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, Pau Gasol, Rudy Gay, and Dejounte Murray. The offense is oriented towards the basket. With two bigs in Gasol and Aldridge down low, DeRozan slashing to the basket, Dejounte Murray shooting from beyond the arc, and Rudy Gay as a stretch forward. With Gregg Popovich’s pass-oriented offense, Aldridge and Gay can open the floor for DeRozan to get inside or shoot the jump shot. Murray will have to step up as he is now surrounded by younger and more athletic players. The spurs assist totals may go down as more fastbreak points are prevalent with DeRozan and Murray as the athletic backcourt. Overall as the team appears now, the Spurs offense will have to grow and adapt to their new teammates’ skillsets. Going deeper into the season, fans may possibly see a different offense run in San Antonio as their new acquisitions are different from the players they’ve lost this offseason.
While the Spurs finished 12th in the league last year, they ranked first in opposing points per game, keeping their opponents to under 100 points on average. NBA.com gave the 2017-2018 Spurs a defensive rating of 102.4. This is a decent rating considering the Spurs starting five had older and unathletic players compared to other teams, starting Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. The defense was carried by both LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay. That being said, the Spurs will have a strong defensive frontcourt this season. Led by LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol. The defense down low will be very strong and lengthy as the two combined for 2.3 bpg. This offseason, the Spurs’ kept their leader in steals, Rudy Gay, who averaged 1.3 spg last season. With this well-rounded frontcourt, coupled with the new additions to their backcourt in DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray, who combined for 2.3 spg last season, the Spurs have a very solid defense. They could defend their slower and bigger Western Conference counterparts like the Mavericks, Pelicans, and Suns, but they may find difficulty defending faster and more spread out offenses such as the Warriors and the Lakers. Overall, the Spurs definitely have a substantial defense in a tough conference, but one of the best in the Southwest Division.
Looking at the Spurs’ bench, it’s prevalent they have a strong, young backcourt. The biggest names coming off the bench are point guard, Patty Mills, and shooting guard, Marco Belinelli. Mills averaged 10 ppg and 3 apg and Belinelli averaged 12.1 ppg, 2 apg, and 2 rpg last season, both of them being good assets for playing few minutes. The bench becomes weaker though as we look into their frontcourt. This isn’t a huge threat because LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol play so many minutes. The backups for the two big men are Jakob Poeltl, Dante Cunningham, Chimezie Metu, and Davis Bertans. Of the eleven players on the bench, five are guards. Like we saw last season, this can create problems in the Spurs’ offense as it may be more difficult to spread the floor with so many guards. With the departure of Tony Parker, Danny Granger, and Manu Ginobili, the team now has a massive amount of minutes to distribute and will see an evolution in their guard play as so many new faces enter different rotations. Despite the enigmatic backcourt, the Spurs have good small forwards coming off the bench in Quincy Pondexter and, depending on the rotation, Marco Belinelli and Dante Cunningham playing the position as well. With the new acquisitions in Jakob Poeltl and DeMar DeRozan, there really is no way to predict how they will pan out as they are going to most likely play a lot of minutes. Overall though, the bench isn’t bad as the offensive playstyle of the Spurs won’t rely heavily on their substitutions. If LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan can stay healthy, the Spurs have the potential to make a good playoff run.
I predict that the 2018-2019 San Antonio Spurs will be slightly better than the team of the previous year. Since they had so many changes in their roster this offseason, they will have to adapt and grow with each other as any new teammates should. I do believe they have a better roster this season despite not having Kawhi Leonard. I estimate that the San Antonio Spurs, given their youthful new acquisitions and recent departures, will win at least five more games and will snag one of the lower seeds in the Western Conference playoffs. As they did last season, I don’t think they’ll make it past the first round though with teams like the Warriors and the Lakers to compete with.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images