Questions to ask for the San Antonio Spurs after the Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Carmelo Anthony on Saturday afternoon.
Around the San Antonio Spurs, Western Conference teams dropped bombshell acquisitions in the 2017NBA offseason. The Houston Rockets acquired Chris Paul; the Minnesota Timberwolves traded for Jimmy Butler and signed Jeff Teague; the Oklahoma City Thunder snatched Paul George from the Indiana Pacers. The Golden State Warriors re-signed players and remain a top-tier team.
On Saturday, the odds continued to be stacked against the Spurs, a quiet offseason team. The Thunder acquired New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2018 second-round pick.
New York has agreed to a deal to send Carmelo Anthony to OKC for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a draft pick, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 23, 2017
It’s a trade that shakes up the top of the Western Conference and the NBA, again. That was said a handful of times this offseason, and for one last time, before the 2017-18 season starts. Training camp kicks off for teams before Oct. 1, too.
For the Spurs, this boosts one of their top competitors for the No. 1 (most likely No. 2) seed in the Western Conference. It’s about the superteam battle to conquer the Warriors, who still boast Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green for the upcoming season. They won two of the past three NBA championships, and won’t be looked past to win the 2018 title.
This trade leads to questions to ask about the 2017-18 Spurs season. Some things may be in doubt for their success. What does this include?
Let’s look at three questions for San Antonio after the Anthony trade.
Next: Will the Spurs regret standing pat?
3. Will the Spurs regret not joining the superstar race?
The San Antonio Spurs notably didn’t acquire a superstar player. They showed interest in Chris Paul before he went to the Houston Rockets. Nothing materialized prior to that, so it wasn’t known how serious this the mutual desire had been.
Outside of Paul, the Spurs were quiet around the superstar hunt. They reportedly made an offer for Kyrie Irving, but lost out to the Boston Celtics. San Antonio’s offer was never revealed.
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Other Western Conference teams acquired stars to build up for the battle to claim the No. 1 seed and spot in the 2018 NBA Finals. That was while the Spurs lost Dewayne Dedmon and Jonathon Simmons, and filled out their bench with question-filled players (Rudy Gay, Joffrey Lauvergne, Brandon Paul).
Will San Antonio regret not acquiring a big name? Given their history of avoiding this, maybe not. They signed LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015, which was one of their biggest offseason moves ever. Otherwise, they usually sign veterans to supplement the star players.
Limited cap room didn’t help, either. If Aldridge, Gay, and Danny Green opt out of their 2018-19 contracts, then the Spurs will be able to join the 2018 offseason race for a superstar. Before that, they don’t have the assets to trade for one, so the wait is on.
Next: Can the Spurs defend the Big 3?
2. Can the Spurs defend the Big 3?
A “Big 3” became the common term of the NBA. The Boston Celtics sported Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen. The Miami Heat had LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. The Cleveland Cavaliers had James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. The Golden State Warriors have a Big Four of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
Defending a Big 3 has been difficult for any team. They’re three top-end offensive players, with teams only able to throw so many defenders on a particular player. The same will go for the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs’ attempts at defending them.
Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green are defensive stoppers on the perimeter, which obviously goes a long way toward the effort. They’re two of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, so they should at least limit Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and Russell Westbrook.
The new Big 3 in OKC. pic.twitter.com/FxArUaFswS
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 23, 2017
The problem? There are three of them. Unless someone else steps up as a top-end defender, this might provide matchup problems, especially if someone needs to be double-teamed. Who do you stay lenient on? What player gets the “opportunity” to guard the available third man?
Something to consider: through Anthony’s 14-year career, who’s the team he has the lowest shooting percentage against? The Spurs, at 41.2 percent.
Look for the Spurs to roll out smaller lineups against Oklahoma City. That won’t counter the defensive attack but aid the offense. That means Rudy Gay gets extra minutes or Davis Bertans is thrown into the starting lineup, two players with outside range, rather than relying on LaMarcus Aldridge or Pau Gasol to follow someone like Melo around the court.
Next: Are the Thunder better?
1. Are the Thunder better than the Spurs?
The last question is simple but complicated: are the Oklahoma City Thunder better than the San Antonio Spurs?
With Anthony, George, and Westbrook to lead the way, the popular response might be “yes.” They’re three elite offensive players that can score in a variety of ways. George and Westbrook offer some versatility, while Anthony doesn’t, but as the potential third-best player that shouldn’t be a problem.
The Spurs offer one of the NBA’s best players, Kawhi Leonard. He played like an MVP in 2016-17 and finished in third in the MVP voting for his efforts. With another year of experience, he’ll look to top this.
Outside of Leonard, there’s a deep selection of players. Despite the fall of LaMarcus Aldridge, he remains a quality starting power forward. Pau Gasol adds a veteran presence at center. Patty Mills will get the chance to shine as the starting point guard, with youngsters Dejounte Murray and Derrick White behind him. That’s while Tony Parker recovers from injury.
Factor in Rudy Gay, Danny Green, an aging Manu Ginobili and Davis Bertans, and it makes for a solid roster.
Will this group rival the Thunder? It should, but that will be seen once they face each other in the regular season.