After undergoing an inconspicuous offseason the Spurs were, for the umpteenth time, usurped by the Los Angeles Lakers, who benefit from their immense clout.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are also natural media targets given their adherence to the Spurs’ organizational platonic ideals, ironically, but they benefit from being young, fresh and impervious to the rigors of a large-market.
San Antonio is still ahead of the next tier of Western Conference talent but their noticeably quite offseason leads many to believe that they have given up. That is not the case, as Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated expounds on, because there is still some latitude in which to maneuver.
“But the Spurs were so close last season that going for it again was really the only option. They can likely count on internal improvement from several places: a full season of Diaw; run-of-the-mill development from small forward Kawhi Leonard and center Tiago Splitter; an upgrade at the back of the guard rotation via some combination of Mills, Cory Joseph and Nando de Colo; and perhaps a deal involving a surplus asset such as Gary Neal, Matt Bonner or DeJuan Blair. A bit of internal improvement, plus some good health and luck, and presto — you’re in the Finals. The odds might not favor it, but unless you’re Miami at this point, the odds don’t necessarily favor you making the Finals. That doesn’t mean you just pack it in when there’s still a small but decent chance at a title.”
Lowe went on to mention that their decision to maintain continuity is actually quite sensible. He believes so, and I agree with his sentiment, that demolishing a team on the verge of the NBA Finals isn’t the optimal solution. Miami, Oklahoma City and possibly Los Angeles are viable contenders and luck, through one way or another, will have to be an intricate part of the Spurs’ championship equation. But that doesn’t suddenly make tearing down a successful team, and one that played brilliant offensive basketball last season, a feasible solution.
This offseason can be characterized as such — patient, dawdling, unassuming, boring, sensible, cost-efficient, savvy etc. San Antonio didn’t suddenly put themselves ahead of the Heat and Thunder by re-signing their players but they aren’t much farther than they were last year. That’s a good thing.
So, I’m advising patience. Whether the Spurs indeed succeed without actually doing much isn’t the only issue here. Had they renounced their free agents, as Lowe notes, the ensuing cap room likely wouldn’t have amounted to much. That possibility surely isn’t the risk. And even though the Spurs may end up with nothing to speak for staying pat; all is not lost.
Because in a couple of years, R.C Buford and Gregg Popovich can start anew, flush with cap room, flexibility and the knowledge that, at the very least, they put Tim Duncan in an excellent position to win even as his skills diminished.
It’s the least they could do.