San Antonio Spurs News

San Antonio Spurs: Deconstructing the projected frontcourt

By Rob Wolkenbrod
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 05: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts with Pau Gasol #16 against the Houston Rockets during Game Three of the NBA Western Conference Semi-Finals at Toyota Center on May 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 05: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts with Pau Gasol #16 against the Houston Rockets during Game Three of the NBA Western Conference Semi-Finals at Toyota Center on May 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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With the signing of Dante Cunningham, how does the San Antonio Spurs frontcourt look for the 2018-19 season?

The 2018 offseason has provided unusual instances for the San Antonio Spurs. It started with Kawhi Leonard‘s reported trade request, which remains unresolved. Tony Parker‘s departure to the Charlotte Hornets followed, after 17 years with the Silver and Black. Kyle Anderson even left for greener pastures with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Amidst the chaos, the Spurs have made moves towards their roster. While guard depth has become a focus, their frontcourt might be the most interesting of the two, due to moves that were made or have yet to transpire.

There’s a similar look to San Antonio’s frontcourt, but the addition of a new face may shake things up. How does it stand in the first half of the offseason?

Stretch fours galore

A once prototypical Spurs rotation started to follow along and use stretch fours next to the center, or players who can spread the floor and shoot three-pointers. Rudy Gay filled this role and Davis Bertans supplemented it.

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For the 2018-19 season, it seems the Silver and Black have a similar plan; Gay is back on a one-year, $10 million deal and Bertans will receive $14 million over two seasons. The former provides scoring from multiple parts of the floor, while the latter man worked almost exclusively as a three-point specialist (3 of his 4.2 career attempts per game are from long range).

However, the Spurs added Dante Cunningham to the mix. While potentially angled toward depth at the three, he can fill in as a four in a limited role and split the time with Bertans and Gay. Though all three can also play at the three in larger lineups that Gregg Popovich rolls out.

What’s the plan at center?

The Spurs have three players to act as stretch fours, but what about the five? It’s a position that features the same faces, for now.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol may play better as power forwards, but both are positioned to be centers on this roster, due to their size and rebounding ability. Neither are vaunted rim protectors (not anymore for Gasol), but these two remain the only options at center with the team’s roster nearly full.

It’s possible Popovich chooses to continue with traditional lineups, as well, which removes the stretch four role, puts Aldridge in his usual mid-range area and Gasol under the hoop. If anything, that limits the fresh bodies to fill in off the bench, unless the Spurs plan on using smaller lineups more frequently.

A Kawhi Leonard trade could make or break it all

As of July 17, Kawhi Leonard remains with the San Antonio Spurs. If he somehow stays once the season starts, this squad obviously has their small forward. In the likely case that they do not, it’s possible the returning pieces build their frontcourt.

With the Toronto Raptors as the new leader for Leonard, they can send any of OG Anunoby, Jakob Poeltl or Pascal Siakam in a package, all of whom fill in spots at small forward, center and center/power forward, respectively. The Spurs can use youth at all three spots, and each owns an affordable contract for the 2018-19 season and beyond.

Depth would be the result, but it changes the stretch four situation, potentially moving Gay into a full-time small forward role, especially without Kyle Anderson’s presence. If Poeltl or Siakam join the Spurs, it could result in Aldridge and Gasol starting in the frontcourt, as well, for that aforementioned traditional look.

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It’s still early in the summer, but the Spurs’ frontcourt will have somewhat of a different group for the upcoming season. Will it prove to be successful, with or without Leonard involved?

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