The potential weaknesses of the San Antonio Spurs’ 2017-18 roster.
The San Antonio Spurs will walk into another NBA season on Wednesday, Oct. 18. Its opponent will be the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are one of the youngest teams in the league and a group that’s predicted to do big things in the 2017-18 season.
Teams like the Timberwolves might be a problem for the Spurs, much like how others are structured. They’ll attack San Antonio’s weaknesses, and there are multiple of them.
What issues might this Spurs team face as the 2017-18 season starts? Can any of them be improved on?
Versatility won’t be the biggest of the San Antonio Spurs’ issues, but there are some concerns with it around the roster.
A player like Kawhi Leonard can man the small forward, shooting guard and point guard positions, if needed. His athleticism, ball-handling skills, and shooting ability warrant this. It’s a skill set that’s far and above the rest of the roster.
At center and power forward, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol aren’t the most versatile players. They aren’t well-defined toward center or power forward, but neither can be shifted into different roles. Gasol — maybe due to his improved shooting stroke — can find more scoring openings around the court, but doesn’t offer much versatility after that.
At the guard spots, Patty Mills can be an undersized shooting guard like he’s been for a handful of years. That won’t be there for the 2017-18 season, however, as long as Tony Parker is out and Mills is needed in the starting lineup. Danny Green, the potential starter at the two spot, is likely locked in there. He can provide use at small forward, but doesn’t have the scoring acumen to back it up.
Kyle Anderson provides some versatility off the bench at small and power forward, but only receives a limited amount of play per game. New signing Rudy Gay is another question, as even before his Achilles rupture, he wasn’t the most versatile player on the court.
Next: Lack of athleticism
2. Lack of athleticism
The San Antonio Spurs roster is steadily getting younger, which will provide more athletic players. However, near the top of the roster, that’s not so much the case.
It starts at the center and power forward positions, with Aldridge and Gasol. In their 30’s, their ability to move around the court has decreased, along with the changing ways of the NBA. Centers and power forwards are more athletic and can bolt up and down the court. While the Spurs’ big men can move, it’s not up to what players of similar heights can do like DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert.
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The bench isn’t the most athletic, either, especially after losing Dewayne Dedmon and Jonathon Simmons in free agency. They were replaced by Joffrey Lauvergne and Brandon Paul, players with minimal-to-no NBA experience, so let’s see how they hold up in the pace of the game.
Outside of them, Anderson, Gay, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker will all have questions about their athleticism, whether it’s due to age, injury or overall concern about their respective games. Clarity on how much these players can move around, mostly Gay, should be known once they step onto the court.
Athleticism will be a question against some of the quickest teams not only in the Western Conference, but in all of the NBA. From the Golden State Warriors to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Minnesota Timberwolves, these are teams that can move around the court well. Can the Spurs match up with them?
Next: Big man depth
1. Big man depth
The glaring hole on the roster is behind Aldridge and Gasol, at the backup big man spots. After the San Antonio Spurs let go of Dedmon and David Lee, all that’s left is Lauvergne. He signed a two-year deal in the offseason, with a player option for the second season.
Lauvergne has questions around his game. Can he develop into a shot-blocker? How deep is his offensive repertoire? The latter was only seen in spurts in his first three NBA seasons, while the rim-protecting abilities weren’t existent.
Either way, this Frenchman will be the backup center. That leaves everything else, however.
Davis Bertans is the projected backup power forward. His rookie season showed he can be a stretch four, but didn’t display much of a rebounding acumen to warrant play at one of the big men spots. Development might be on the way, but it’s a see-it-to-believe-it situation.
After that, the Spurs might rely on Gay to be a stretch four. With his recovery from an Achilles injury, how much versatility he can provide, in that way, is unknown.
In the smallest of lineups, maybe Leonard can step into a stretch four role. The same goes for Anderson.
This might all be a test to see how the Spurs play with a small-ball lineup, and evaluate from there. If it fails and no other big men are signed, then the team might be stuck in this playing format for the majority of the season.