The San Antonio Spurs had the most successful regular season record since they first moved into San Antonio in October of 1973.
Winning big in the season was a tremendous accomplishment, but losing shortly afterwards in the playoffs brought many questions along with what the future of the team should look like.
Let’s take a look at 5 things the Spurs need to look at in order to build upon this successful season and possibly reach the goal of a championship next season.
Do the Spurs have another big man they can consistently count on?
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All Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge started a bit slow in the beginning of the season but picked it up and earned himself on the West All Star roster. His production rose as the season progressed, and the reserves did a great job of filling in when the starters rested.
After taking down an injury depleted Memphis Grizzlies team, the Spurs blew out the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1, but eventually losing the series. Reserve forward David West, a former all-star himself signed with San Antonio for the veterans minimum (to everyone’s surprise) for a chance to win a championship. West’s production in the postseason was a bit disappointing as he posted 5.6 points per game in 17 minutes in the conference semi-finals round, before the Spurs were eliminated in 5 games.
Some might say that you get what you pay for, but in this case, David West did not output his usual production. He has 1 more year under contract, but with a player option, and if the Spurs can bring him back again, they should because the quality of the player for that dollar amount is difficult to be had in the NBA.
Boris Diaw and Boban Marjanovich are also players that the Spurs must consider if they want to keep, because they need to become more athletic and versatile. Tim Duncan, if he decides not to retire might be better suited off the bench. He dealt with a lingering knee issue, and while he did produce for the team defensively throughout the season, his offensive production drop is enough to look at finding a new starter at center, whether the Spurs feel Marjanovich is ready for that role, or if they feel the need to look elsewhere.
Apr 8, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets center Joffrey Lauvergne (77) defends against San Antonio Spurs center Boban Marjanovic (40) in the second quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Marjanovich played the least amount of minutes between the 3, but none of the other bigs were able to keep Steven Adams and Enes Kanter off the glass, or make them uncomfortable on defense.
Can anyone guard the best player on the other team?
When you have a star player like Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant who can catch fire, there isn’t much a defensive game plan can do to stop it, but on the nights where superstar players can be neutralized, there has to be someone who can step up to execute that task.. Kawhi Leonard was fantastic during the season, on most nights taking a load of the offense, and guarding the other teams best player. He had trouble when there was no one else on the perimeter to help him guard teams that have multiple stars on the roster.
The Spurs must have someone who can support the role Leonard plays on a consistent basis throughout the season. Danny Green has had his moments but he was generally unreliable, and struggled with his shot for most of the season. The Spurs have to look at taking to take the pressure off of Leonard on the perimeter if he is also to be a featured player on offense.
Is it time to upgrade the point guard position?
Tony Parker has been fantastic as the starting point guard over the years. At this current stage of his career, after nursing a few leg injuries, and aging a bit, it’s becoming clear that Parker is not fast enough any longer to consistently keep up with the new younger generation of point guards. When Parker plays well, it’s usually a good sign for the team because it’s easier for them to get into a flow when he’s in a flow.
Now, the Spurs need youth and athleticism and the point guard is one of the most crucial positions in the league. Pop may have to consider going really hard after free agent Mike Conley to run the point, and use Parker as his backup. Their combination of shooting, driving, passing would put the Spurs in position, where their opponents can never take a night off.
April 7, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich instructs against the Golden State Warriors during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Will Popovich trust his new players as much as he did the big 3?
We all know that Pop has his loyalties to his players. Unfortunately for some other players, that means he will not play them, no matter what’s happening on the court. Players like Jonathan Simmons got no playing time in the playoffs, even though he fits the category of young and athletic. There is no way to tell how much help he would have been, but Popovich wasn’t willing to take the risk or take a chance on him being an option.
Manu Ginobili, if he decides not to retire may have to concede some of his minutes to a younger player. Experience is one thing, but being able to keep up with the opposing team is needful. The Spurs’ core players that have all of the knowledge and experience of how the Spurs work for the longest amount of time are also the oldest. Coach Popovich is going to have to trust his younger players with more time after teaching them what he expects from them on the court.
Will the spurs address shooting this summer
One of the weaknesses that stuck out sorely for the Spurs in the semifinals series was shooting. Danny Green struggled the entire year behind the 3-point line and in the semi-finals averaged 9 points shooting 42% from the field averaging 31 minutes. Patty Mills wasn’t able to provide his usual spark off the bench, averaging just 4 points averaging 15 minutes off the bench.Kawhi Leonard shot less than a percentage point under 45% and 26% from 3-point range. When he has to guard the other teams best player, the Spurs need support players, especially to spread the floor on offense to help ease the load on offense. Green and Patty Mills didn’t give the Spurs the support they needed, and it helped cost the Spurs in the series.
If the Spurs expect to improve, they have a lot of work to do, and they need to address key points if they want to win. Even if they bring back Duncan and Ginobili for one last year, the dynamic of the teams roster will need to change, if the plan is to send those two out with just one more ring.