San Antonio Spurs: 3 areas of concern for 2017-18 NBA season
By Rob Wolkenbrod
Three potential areas of concern for the San Antonio Spurs in the 2017-18 NBA season.
With the heart of the NBA offseason nearly over, the San Antonio Spurs can move on to the next stage, which is prep for the 2017-18 NBA season. That’s with training camp and working out the rotation for the fall.
The 2017 offseason has been an interesting one, however, with what did and didn’t happen for the Spurs. It stems from the free agent signings and those who were let go, which will change the look of the roster for the next campaign, as they try to take out the Golden State Warriors.
So, months before the season, should there be anything for the fans to be concerned about? Can these things be turned around?
3. Rudy Gay’s recovery
A ruptured Achilles is a historically different injury for NBA players to return from. They usually do, but never at the level they were previously at. Recently, this affected Kobe Bryant, who saw his career rapidly decline and contributed to his retirement after the 2015-16 season.
For Rudy Gay, he tore his Achilles in January, while as a member of the Sacramento Kings. He missed the rest of the season, before signing a two-year, $17.2 million deal with the San Antonio Spurs. It seemed low for a player that averaged nearly 20 points per game for most of his career, but the risk is there for him to never be the same.
The Spurs didn’t invest a lot of money in Gay, but he should be one of the team’s top four scorers, being featured in a group of Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Pau Gasol. However, it’s no guarantee the UConn product falls into this category, as his return from the Achilles injury could lead to subdued scoring averages (which is likely to come on this type of roster, anyway.
It goes beyond the scoring category, as Gay’s explosiveness and ways of getting around defenders will need to be monitored. If this doesn’t return, then it’s not a huge loss for the Spurs, but they won’t be able to rely on him as much as they may desire.
Next: Point guard experience
2. Lack of starting experience at point guard
Without Tony Parker, who will be in recovery from a torn quadriceps, it leaves the San Antonio Spurs with barely over half a season’s worth (42 games) of starting experience at point guard; Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray, and Derrick White are the options.
Mills has almost exclusively been a bench player in his eight years in the NBA. He started when Parker went down in the NBA playoffs and provided capable production to fill in. Can this last for half a season or more?
Murray played in just under half the games of the 2016-17 season, but flashed upside in heavier minutes in the NBA playoffs. The potential is there for him as the team’s starting point guard. In a win-now mode for next season, however, it may lead to Gregg Popovich giving the nod to the player with more experience.
As for White, he has little chance of jumping both Mills and Murray for the top minutes at point guard, unless he storms out of the gate in October. If he shows enough potential, whether it’s in the NBA, G-League or both, then by the 2018-19 season, Spurs fans could see more of him.
So, either way, it looks like the Spurs will run with an inexperienced option at point guard. That’s unless Kawhi Leonard is used as the distributor, which changes the outlook of the rotation.
Next: Depth at center and power forward
1. Depth at center and power forward
Maybe the most interesting part of the San Antonio Spurs’ offseason came at the center and power forward positions. They lost Dewayne Dedmon and David Lee, two veterans that provided quality production at center and power forward, respectively. Dedmon went to the Atlanta Hawks and Lee remains in free agency, but with 14 rostered players, there doesn’t seem like a spot open for the veteran big man.
The only guaranteed contract at the big men spots went to Joffrey Lauvergne, a three-year pro of the Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Chicago Bulls. He’s nowhere close to the shot blocker Dedmon was, averaging 0.2 blocks per game for his career, but has an improving outside stroke and can work around the rim.
However, outside of Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, this is it at center and power forward. Matt Costello was signed, but on a two-way deal that limits his stay in the NBA. It’s a risky proposition, with Gasol aging and Aldridge’s disappointing two years in the Alamo City.
This leaves Davis Bertans, who’s 6-foot-10, as an option to play power forward. He showed upside as a scorer, but wasn’t the option under the basket that players, at this size, usually are.
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Unless the Spurs make a late-offseason acquisition or choose to go for a small-ball lineup, depth will be a problem under the basket. Let’s see if the plan for this gets revealed before the next season.