San Antonio Spurs: 5 early bold predictions for 2017-18 season

By Rob Wolkenbrod
OAKLAND, CA - MAY 14: LaMarcus Aldridge
OAKLAND, CA - MAY 14: LaMarcus Aldridge
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San Antonio Spurs, OAKLAND, CA – MAY 14: LaMarcus Aldridge
San Antonio Spurs, OAKLAND, CA – MAY 14: LaMarcus Aldridge

The San Antonio Spurs’ 2017-18 season is a long way off from starting, but here are some way-too-early bold predictions for what could happen.

The San Antonio Spurs had a successful run in the 2016-17 NBA regular season. They finished 61-21, claiming second place in the Western Conference. An MVP-caliber year was produced by Kawhi Leonard, along with production from LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, and a handful of other contributors.

However, in the Western Conference Finals, the Spurs were swept by the Golden State Warriors. It came after Leonard suffered a series-ending ankle injury. Couple that with Tony Parker’s torn quad, and it weakened San Antonio.

It’s almost impossible to predict an injury to a player, let along something else negative or positive that happens to the team. That especially goes three months prior to the next season starting.

With the offseason no longer at rapid fire, though, the 2017-18 season has begun to be looked upon. That means rosters are getting put together for a potential NBA championship run, along with early predictions on who will reign supreme in the next calendar year.

With the offseason no longer at rapid fire, though, the 2017-18 season has begun to be looked upon. That means rosters are getting put together for a potential NBA championship run, along with early predictions on who will reign supreme in the next calendar year.

Outlandish predictions could be made, too, for things that have a slim chance of happening. It’s not quite like saying the New Jersey Nets will go from worst-to-first in the Eastern Conference, but something that has a realistic chance of happening. That could be a career season for a particular player or a lowlight of a year for another basketball star.

For the Spurs, it’s early, but predictions can be made for their upcoming season – even bold ones. What are five bold predictions for them in the 2017-18 campaign, and how possible are they?

Next: Parker's in-game performance

SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 1: Tony Parker
SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 1: Tony Parker

5. Tony Parker will play below 25 minutes per game

Due to a playoff injury, Tony Parker will miss time into the 2018 season due to a torn quad. It will open up the point guard position, meaning players like Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills get the opportunity to start and put up the best numbers of their respective careers.

When Parker returns, it’s hard to think he’ll receive a grand total of minutes. He’ll be recovering from a severe injury, along with being 35-years-old. That could lead to Popovich limiting the Frenchman’s exposure for however long he plays in the 2017-18 NBA season, setting a career-low in minutes.

Is this a major change for Parker? Not quite. He played a career-low 25.2 minutes per game last season, and only averaged 10.1 points. So the decline and limited use of Parker already started.

The 2001 NBA Draft pick will lose minutes to Murray, Mills, and even Derrick White, at point guard. He’ll be rested and have to fight for minutes from these other one-guards, leading to a potential reduction in on-court time. Going below 25.2 minutes seems possible — maybe realistic, which may not be the worst thing for an aging guard on a contending team.

Next: Murray's rise

CLEVELAND, OH – JANUARY 21: Dejounte Murray
CLEVELAND, OH – JANUARY 21: Dejounte Murray

4. Dejounte Murray will play at least 20 minutes per game

Dejounte Murray spent time with the San Antonio Spurs and the G-League in 2016-2017. He flashed potential in both levels, including picking up 7.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists in developmental. The 17.2 points per game can’t be forgotten from the 2016 NBA Draft pick, who put up similar numbers in Washington.

Murray only played 38 games at the top level. However, for next season, look for him to get a larger run with the Spurs.

Uncertainty will fill the point guard position for the fall. Tony Parker won’t be around until early 2018, due to a torn quadriceps; Patty Mills has almost exclusively played as a bench scorer in his career; Derrick White has yet to play a regular season game. That leaves a potential opening for Murray to get an opportunity beginning on Opening Night.

Starting Murray would see Popovich bet on youth and upside at point guard, looking toward the post-Parker era. If he’s willing to make this bet early in the season, it will see Murray’s minutes immediately rise from the 8.4 per game from the rookie year, and an obvious increase in statistics.

Even if Murray’s minutes drop in the second half of the year, he should finish with enough time per game from early on to average at least 20. It’s not full starter minutes, but enough of an improvement to get a season-long test of his NBA abilities.

Next: Anderson's big break

HOUSTON, TX – MAY 11: Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs talks with Kyle Anderson
HOUSTON, TX – MAY 11: Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs talks with Kyle Anderson

3. Kyle Anderson will have a breakout year

Kyle Anderson came out of UCLA with hype and potential, as he stood at 6-foot-9 with the ability to play point guard. He doesn’t have the top-notch athleticism to start at this position, but it’s rare that anyone that size can handle the ball.

Through three seasons, Anderson never broke out. He mostly played second or third fiddle in the pecking order at small forward or power forward, the latter of which he’s not an ideal fit at. It doesn’t help that Kawhi Leonard became a superstar at the three spot, either.

In this time, Anderson only averaged 3.7 points and 2.9 rebounds in 14.3 minutes per game. Is he in line for an uptick in production, though?

Anderson will be helped out by Jonathon Simmons’ departure, which opens a spot at the wing position. Bryn Forbes and Brandon Paul could occupy those open minutes, but the NBA experience of the New York native may help his case. That might not lead to a major rise in scoring or candidacy for Most Improved Player, but enough to get 8 or 9 points per game, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block. That’s not a bad fantasy basketball bench option, and one Popovich could take advantage of in real life.

Next: Aldridge's rebound season

OAKLAND, CA – MAY 16: LaMarcus Aldridge
OAKLAND, CA – MAY 16: LaMarcus Aldridge

2. LaMarcus Aldridge will have his best season with the Spurs

When LaMarcus Aldridge signed in the 2015 offseason, the San Antonio Spurs were getting one of the best power forwards in the NBA. He came off a 23 point, 10 rebound per game season in 2014-15, and looked to be a force next to Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, and company.

While Aldridge’s numbers were likely to dip as not being the leading man anymore, they arguably went lower than expected, including the most recent season. This saw him average 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds, his lowest marks since 2008-09. He was a playoff disappointment, too, struggling when Leonard went down in the 2017 Western Conference Finals.

2017-18 could be Aldridge’s last year in San Antonio, as he has a player option for $22 million for 2018-19. With reports of being disgruntled, he may look for an out next spring. If that’s the case, what if the Spurs get their best year from the Texas product?

A contract year could motivate Aldridge to step his production up, especially if he wants one last multi-year contract as the salary cap rises (he’ll turn 33 next offseason). That may mean nine figures for him in 2018, something that would be difficult to pass up or not stepping up on-court production to have a better chance at achieving this.

If so, what if Aldridge approached a double-double average? Would 18 points and 10 rebounds be realistic, especially with the lack of depth at power forward and center?

Next: Still the same Spurs

SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 22: Manu Ginobili
SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 22: Manu Ginobili

1. Despite competition, the Spurs will finish second in the Western Conference

The Western Conference was shaken up throughout the offseason, all with the goal of topping the Golden State Warriors’ reign of dominance in the 2017-18 season. The San Antonio Spurs have mostly watched as other teams added star players.

One of the first dominos that fell, was Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets. The Los Angeles Clippers traded him for a package of players, but Paul was, by far, the best player in that trade. He’ll join James Harden to form a mega-pairing in the backcourt.

More from San Antonio Spurs News

One year after losing Kevin Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder acquired Paul George from the Indiana Pacers. He’ll team with Russell Westbrook and look to bring the Thunder back to the top of the West.

Behind them, there’s still a strong Clippers team, a steady team in Portland, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ new-and-improved squad with Jimmy Butler, and the DeMarcus Cousins-Anthony Davis duo in New Orleans.

Despite all this, the Spurs will still sneak their way into second place in the Western Conference. It won’t be done with flash like Paul, George, and Butler, but with the same model of consistency that’s been used for almost two decades under Gregg Popovich.

The Spurs finished 61-21 in the 2016-17 season, and only lost Dewayne Dedmon and Jonathon Simmons in free agency. They were replaced with a perennial 18 points per game scorer, Rudy Gay, and bench pieces in Brandon Paul and Joffrey Lauvergne, who possess upside as backups. They’ll join a team that’s going to otherwise look similar to last year and make the same amount of noise.

Next: Looking back on players who left the Spurs in FA

What could be an early bold prediction for the San Antonio Spurs? Is it any of the previously mentioned ones?

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