What's Next for the San Antonio Spurs?
Outside of winning an NBA title, the San Antonio Spurs could not have dreamt of a better outcome for their first year in 19 seasons without Tim Duncan. The Spurs finished the year 61-21, good for second best in the NBA. They reached the conference finals for the fourth time in six seasons and would’ve had a better showing if not for injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker. San Antonio looked great throughout the regular season and for most of the playoffs, but as the postseason progressed, it became apparent that changes need to be made if they want a real chance at beating the Warriors in a seven game series. The Spurs are arguably the best in the league at internal development (Kawhi, D-Green, Patty Mills, Jonathan Simmons, etc); however, they need a better point guard, an All-Star, or a player that is both to pair with Kawhi. Here are some potential targets they could pursue in free agency.
If CP3 is looking to leave to Los Angeles, San Antonio should be the only team he considers. Paul would give the Spurs a point guard they can rely on defensively, more outside shooting and a vocal leader on the floor. Tony Parker can no longer hang with the elite point guards in the NBA and should transition well into a reserve role like Manu Ginobli. Someone is sure to overpay Patty Mills in the offseason, but the Spurs will still have Dejounte Murray who has shown immense potential and would benefit greatly from CP3’s mentorship. Since 2000, the only teams out West not to make a conference finals were the New Orleans Pelicans/Hornets and the Clippers; both of those teams have CP3 in common. If Paul decides to turn down $200 million from the Clippers and wants to rid himself of those playoffs demons, San Antonio is where he should finish his career.
Gordon Hayward emerged as an All-Star during the 2016-17 season as the best player on a Utah Jazz team that won 51 games. Fortunately for the Spurs, Hayward was still left off an All-NBA team after his performance this past season, increasing the likelihood of him leaving Utah. Hayward would give the Spurs a legit second option behind Kawhi Leonard since LaMarcus Aldridge has proven he is incapable of consistently being such. Hayward has proven that he can carry the load offensively in a lead role, allowing Kawhi to expend more energy on defense when facing opposing teams with elite perimeter players. Danny Green would move into a reserve role, but Popovich should still be able to play him for 25 minutes every night. Hayward has been linked to the Celtics for months, but adding him won’t be enough to dethroned the Cavs as kings of the East. The former Butler Bulldog’s best chance at seriously competing for a title is with the Spurs.
Like Gordon Hayward, Lowry was also left off all three All-NBA teams, making his decision to stay in Toronto more challenging. Lowry has stated that he wants to win a championship more than anything, so the Spurs should be atop his list of potential destinations. Lowry would give the Spurs another 20 ppg scorer, and his gritty demeanor would be more than welcomed by Greg Popovich. Playing with San Antonio would also take some much-needed pressure off Lowry after years of struggling in the playoffs. With Kawhi as the focal point, Lowry and Aldridge’s game would both benefit from each other since defenses wouldn’t be able to give them as much attention as they did in the past. Toronto would be able to offer Lowry the most money and that may be too much to turn down, but San Antonio gives him an opportunity to avoid LeBron in the playoffs until the Finals.
On draft night in 2011, the Spurs traded George Hill to the Pacers for the draft rights to Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs were torn on making the trade and waited until the final minute before making the deal. Things could come full circle for both parties this summer if Hill chooses to leave Utah to sign with the Spurs. If San Antonio doesn’t get CP3 or Kyle Lowry, George Hill will likely be their priority at the point guard position. Hill is coming off a career year with the Jazz and is a major upgrade over Tony Parker and Patty Mills. Hill is already familiar with the culture of the Spurs and their offensive and defensive schemes, so his transition back to San Antonio should be seamless.
If the Spurs are looking for a cheaper option than Gordon Hayward, Gallinari would be a nice consolation prize. The 6-10 forward from Italy can knock down the three, get to the rim and he would be lethal as the third option in San Antonio. Gallo would fit in well with the Spurs, as they’ve done as good a job as any team of integrating foreign-born players into their organization. Danilo can also operate as a small-ball PF as he often did in Denver. A lineup of Danilo, Aldridge, Kawhi, and Danny Green would give the point guard four shooters that can space the floor, putting tons of pressure on opponents’ defense. While defending isn’t his strong suit, Coach Pop should be able to find ways to hide him on that end of the court without sacrificing the team’s overall defensive performance.