San Antonio Spurs News

San Antonio Spurs: 4 questions after the Kawhi Leonard trade

By Rob Wolkenbrod
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 02: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs in action against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 2, 2018 in New York City. The Spurs defeated the Knicks 100-91. 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 Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 02: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs in action against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 2, 2018 in New York City. The Spurs defeated the Knicks 100-91. 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 Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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SAN ANTONIO, TX – JANUARY 5: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the Phoenix Suns on January 5, 2018 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – JANUARY 5: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the Phoenix Suns on January 5, 2018 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)

After the Kawhi Leonard trade, what questions remain for the San Antonio Spurs?

The San Antonio Spurs put a spin on the offseason Wednesday, with the trade of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors. In return, DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick will go to the Silver and Black.

It’s a game-changing trade for the Spurs, who moved on from the player they once figured to be their face of the franchise — the one to accept a five-year, $221 million contract and become one of the NBA’s highest-paid players.

The future is now in San Antonio, and the focus can go on the 2018-19 roster. This trade left some questions behind on the roster. How will the squad be impacted?

4. Is San Antonio’s offseason over?

The San Antonio Spurs already added Marco Belinelli, Dante Cunningham and Lonnie Walker IV to the roster, but, of course, the Kawhi Leonard trade trumps it all. It may be the final piece of their offseason, however, as the roster finalizes.

With this trade, the Spurs have 15 players under contract for the 2018-19 season. This does not include potential invitee, Jaron Blossomgame, who wants to make the squad this fall. Since San Antonio sent two players and received two in return, it did not change their original roster count.

However, two changes remain possible: the retirement of Manu Ginobili and the release of Brandon Paul.

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As of July 18, Ginobili has yet to announce his playing intentions for the 2018-19 season. He’s under contract, if he chooses to return, but there’s no indication of what his decision will be.

Paul is on a non-guaranteed deal for 2018-19, but it becomes guaranteed by Aug. 1. The Spurs open roster flexibility with his release, and they have two weeks to decide on what to do.

If Ginobili plays another season and Paul remains on the roster, San Antonio’s offseason is over. They can move towards training camp and focus on the season at hand, rather than the Leonard saga that plagued them for most of the past campaign.

Next: Is there still an overload of guards?

PHILADELPHIA, PA – JANUARY 3: Bryn Forbes #11 and Patty Mills #8 of the San Antonio Spurs talk against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on January 3, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 Rob Carr/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA – JANUARY 3: Bryn Forbes #11 and Patty Mills #8 of the San Antonio Spurs talk against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on January 3, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 Rob Carr/Getty Images)

3. Is there still an overload of guards?

Before Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green left for the Toronto Raptors, the San Antonio Spurs had an abundance of guards. With this deal in the rearview mirror, the Silver and Black still have Marco Belinelli, Bryn Forbes, Manu Ginobili, Brandon Paul, Patty Mills, Lonnie Walker IV, Derrick White, all of whom can play at shooting guard.

Granted, Ginobili, Mills and White can handle the ball, but there’s not enough room for everyone. It remains a cluttered situation, and DeMar DeRozan’s arrival does not help anyone fighting for shooting guard minutes.

The most likely situation? The Spurs release Paul to free up space, and Walker starts the season in the G League. That leaves Belinelli, Forbes, Ginobili (retirement status in doubt), Mills and White as the guard depth. Belinelli and Ginobili can play small forward in undersized lineups, so it further breaks down how this guard situation could look.

DeRozan will command 30-plus minutes, however, as he did with the Raptors. If Dejounte Murray receives a boost from 21.5 minutes, there’s only so much opportunity for everyone else, including White’s development and, especially, if Walker does not go to Austin.

This could become a training camp battle, or the Spurs have one more move up their sleeves. How will they sort out this situation?

Next: Where is the outside shooting?

CHARLOTTE, NC – NOVEMBER 25: Rudy Gay #22 of the San Antonio Spurs looks on during the game against the Charlotte Hornets on November 25, 2017 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC – NOVEMBER 25: Rudy Gay #22 of the San Antonio Spurs looks on during the game against the Charlotte Hornets on November 25, 2017 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)

2. Where is the outside shooting?

Hello, mid-range shooting. The San Antonio Spurs have plenty of it for the 2018-19 season, as Quixem Ramirez of News4SanAntonio.com noted. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan were No. 1 and 4, respectively, in mid-range shots last season.

NBA leaders in mid-range shots last year:

1. Aldridge (7.4)2. Porzingis (6.8)3. Westbrook (6.6)4. DeRozan (6.3)5. Anthony (5.9)

— Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) July 18, 2018

Aldridge and DeRozan arrived to the NBA before the three-point revolution started, and everyone began to eye outside shots over points inside the arc. These two have played as the poster boys of it, with Aldridge’s trademark mid-range jumper and DeRozan’s knock being his outside game.

Now that Aldridge and DeRozan are in the same starting lineup, Dejounte Murray, Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol seem to be the logical fits next to them. In an NBA of three-pointers galore, though, where do you find them in this lineup?

Murray is a work in progress from behind the arc, but is still just two years in and has room to grow. Will that happen imminently, though?

Gasol attempted a career-high 120 shots from three-point range, but at age 38, he will never be known for this aspect of his game.

Gay is the only guarantee of this group to score consistently from the outside. Even he only shot 31.4 percent.

This lineup will score, but Spurs coach Gregg Popovich might need to rely on his bench for San Antonio’s 27th-ranked three-point shooting team, or he does not start the expected lineup. Does that mean Belinelli is in and Gasol goes to the bench?

Next: What is this team's ceiling?

OAKLAND, CA – APRIL 24: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs and Patty Mills #8 of the San Antonio Spurs exchange a high give against the Golden State Warriors in Game Five of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2018 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. 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 Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA – APRIL 24: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs and Patty Mills #8 of the San Antonio Spurs exchange a high give against the Golden State Warriors in Game Five of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2018 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. 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 Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

1. What is this team’s ceiling?

The San Antonio Spurs only had Kawhi Leonard for nine games, but they still won 47. Sure, it did not cross the coveted 50-win plateau that Gregg Popovich consistently achieved, but on a roster that featured a revitalized LaMarcus Aldridge and a bevy of injuries, it’s difficult to call their season a failure.

Now, the Spurs have a full season of a 20-plus point per game scorer, DeMar DeRozan, and the big man depth that remained absent for most of the 2017-18 season, as Joffrey Lauvergne never reached expectations. So how much further will this team go?

San Antonio bolstered its guard depth, even beyond the Leonard trade, with Marco Belinelli and Lonnie Walker IV’s arrival. How many wins does this account for? If Walker goes to Austin and Derrick White joins the roster, will that make any kind of difference?

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The Spurs lost perimeter defense, with Danny Green out, and DeRozan is hardly known for this part of his game. How much of an impact will this make on the Spurs’ win total?

Most importantly, can this team contend for a championship? The Golden State Warriors still sit atop the NBA, and with the acquisition of DeMarcus Cousins, that will not change for the 2018-19 season.

A Warriors team without Stephen Curry still beat the Spurs in five games. With a healthy roster, and San Antonio’s addition of DeRozan, can a series at least become competitive? What about against the Houston Rockets, who also had their way at times? Where do the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers factor in?

Next: Breaking down San Antonio's return for Kawhi Leonard

The Spurs probably have enough talent to win a playoff series but, beyond that, pending how this new group meshes, it remains in doubt.

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