San Antonio Spurs will outperform ESPN’s Summer Forecast
By Rob Wolkenbrod
The San Antonio Spurs should be able to outperform ESPN’s Summer Forecast for the 2017-18 NBA season.
ESPN released its Summer Forecast for the 2017-18 NBA season. This went for all 30 NBA teams, including the San Antonio Spurs. They ranked No. 3 in the Western Conference, with a record of 54-28.
The Spurs at No. 3 is one notch lower than their 2016-17 season finish, as they placed second in the Western Conference. This was behind the Golden State Warriors, who won the West and the 2017 NBA Finals.
It’s only a projection, so the Spurs can easily outperform or have an underwhelming season. In this case, the team has the chance to do better than 54-28 and placing third in the West.
3. The Rockets won’t immediately gel
The Houston Rockets arguably made the offseason’s biggest splash when they acquired Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers. He was speculated to go to the San Antonio Spurs, but the Rockets jumped on a trade and got him to opt-in for the 2017-18 season.
Paul will join James Harden in a star-laden backcourt for Houston. They will draw headlines for everything, from the positives to the negatives, and be expected to lead the team to great things. While this may be the case, look for the team to not gel, at least to start the season.
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Paul and Harden are players that need the ball in their hands to succeed. For CP3, it’s to distribute and find the open player, along with finding his outside scoring touch. Harden can do the same and is one of the best scorers in the NBA, but may look invisible without the ball.
To start the season, Paul and Harden may have to iron out the kinks in their respective games. It could take some on-court yelling or dysfunction that causes a weaker record early in the season, which leads to them not finishing second in the West, as ESPN predicted.
If the Rockets have trouble to start the year, the Spurs can pounce on this early and make it look better for the end of the season. That hot start gives them a chance at finishing second, while Houston slides to third.
Next: No PG problems?
2. No problem at point guard?
One of the San Antonio Spurs’ biggest questions for the 2017-18 season is at point guard. They’re without Tony Parker for the first few months, as he recovers from a torn quad that was suffered in the 2017 playoffs.
Without Parker, it leaves Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray and Derrick White as the remaining options at point guard. It’s little starting experience, but what if this trio does ample job at replacing the long-time starter?
Mills has the most experience of the trio, as he’s played eight seasons compared to Murray and White’s one combined. While this is the case, he started just 18 games in this span from 2009-17, with the most (eight) coming last season.
Mills is a veteran presence, however, and likely earned enough trust to start at point guard (see the 2017 playoffs). He won’t be Parker in his prime, but a steady 11-15 points per game with four assists could be good (and enough) to replace the Frenchman’s production from 2016-17.
As for Murray, he should get the opportunity to develop as the backup. After playing just 38 games as a rookie, he’ll be ready for a bigger role as a defensive stopper and distributor off the bench. It’s a steady fit, while other players take on the scoring load.
If the combination of Mills and Murray deliver early and produce wins, the Spurs will keep up a pace similar to the 2016-17 season. Plus, they’ll get Parker back for the end of the year, which only adds more depth at the position.
Next: The bench
1. The bench will be okay
The San Antonio Spurs lost Dewayne Dedmon and Jonathon Simmons in free agency, as they opted to let both go and replace them. David Lee entered free agency but never got signed by a NBA team.
To replace Dedmon and Simmons, Brandon Paul, Rudy Gay, and Joffrey Lauvergne were signed. They’re new players and, frankly, interesting fits for the Spurs. However, this shouldn’t be alarming for the team’s projected look.
Gay won’t be the defender Simmons was, but a better scorer, even with the recovery from an Achilles rupture. If he can rebound from this, look out for a 10-15 point scorer for the Spurs that provides lineup versatility in the small-ball NBA.
First look at @RudyGay in Silver & Black ? pic.twitter.com/q5Pqj5xY2N
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) July 26, 2017
Paul, however, may be the player Simmons was, or somewhat close. He can shoot from behind the arc and displayed some defensive knacks in the D-League and Euroleague. That has to translate to the NBA, which is obviously no guarantee, but the upside is there on a cheap contract.
Lauvergne won’t be the rim protector Dedmon was. In fact, the former averaged just 0.2 blocks over three seasons. What he does offer is outside shooting that fits the modern-day NBA game, allowing the Spurs to spread the floor further as every team in the Association will attempt to do.
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If these pieces fit, the Spurs should find little issue replicating last season’s success. It gives them depth to challenge the best teams in the NBA, with a potential lock on the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.