San Antonio Spurs: ‘Winners’ and ‘losers’ of 2018 offseason
By Rob Wolkenbrod
With the offseason settled down, do the San Antonio Spurs have any “winners” or “losers” amidst the chaos?
With July about to make way for August, it closes an active month for the NBA. The San Antonio Spurs arguably faced the most active or controversial offseason of anyone over the past four and a half weeks. That included moving Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors.
Amidst the trade and free agent signings, players that remain in San Antonio were impacted by the moves; some positively, others negatively. Was anyone altered by this the most?
Were there any clear-cut “winners” or “losers” of the Silver and Black’s offseason moves? Let’s take a look after a wild month:
Dejounte Murray (Both Sides)
Dejounte Murray ascended up the San Antonio Spurs depth chart in the 2017-18 season, which began as the starting point guard for an injured Tony Parker. That became temporary, as Patty Mills took over the spot for underwhelming play, and Parker reclaimed it upon return.
Once January arrived, however, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made the change and inserted Murray as the full-time starting point guard, moving Parker to the bench for the first time in his career. This stuck through the rest of the regular season and the postseason.
Well, with the Frenchman off to Charlotte, Murray no longer has the looming presence of a franchise great behind him. Does that take pressure, if it exists, off him to perform?
Losing Parker also costs Murray a mentor entering year three in the NBA. A future hall of famer never hurts to learn from, and even if Manu Ginobili remains, will it hurt to no longer have a point guard of 17 seasons to learn from?
The point guard spot is Murray’s, and it likely would not matter if Parker stayed. So, it makes the Washington product lean towards both sides here.
Next: Rudy Gay
Rudy Gay (Winner)
Rudy Gay is among the winners of the Kawhi Leonard trade the San Antonio Spurs made in mid-July, which also sent Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick.
When Gay arrived in 2017, he was not just a sixth man off the bench, but someone to back up and play next to Leonard in various lineups, including the small-ball concept, with one at power forward and the other at small forward. That never took place.
Without Leonard, Gay was pushed into the secondary scoring role behind LaMarcus Aldridge, an unexpected spot for a player on a “prove-it” deal, after a ruptured Achilles tendon in January 2017. The UConn product still produced double-digit points per game, but it was too much to put on a recovering player.
DeRozan is in town, however, as the 1A or 1B to Aldridge on offense, bringing 20-plus points per game to the table. That’s an easy win for Gay, who drops into a lesser role behind these two without the pressure to carry a chunk of the offensive load in 2018-19.
It might not mean an increase in production for Gay, but, at this stage of his career, he’s better off as someone to flank the stars, rather than assuming a marquee role. He will be among the Spurs that perform in this capacity.
Next: Shooting guards
Shooting guards behind DeMar DeRozan (Loser)
When DeMar DeRozan arrived, it shook up the San Antonio Spurs’ shooting-guard depth, positively and negatively, depending on who it is.
For the organization, it’s a positive to get a perennial 20-point scorer to play every night, replacing a player who did not want to stay and only appeared in nine games last season. They stay relevant in the Western Conference and the season goes on.
Players face impact from DeRozan’s presence, however, if he takes 30-plus minutes per game. It starts from the next man up in the shooting guard rotation and goes to the end.
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Marco Belinelli, Bryn Forbes, Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Lonnie Walker IV and Derrick White can all play shooting guard. It’s a full group, and none of them may join the starting lineup to open the season.
Will all of them remain on the Opening Night roster? Maybe not. Walker can go to the G League; Ginobili’s status for is not official. So, there are still questions on who the organization keeps with the main squad in October.
If the entire group is in San Antonio to start the season — a possibility — it means someone, or multiple players, sits on the outside, looking in. There’s only so much room, even if DeRozan plays the three spot in certain lineups, to hand out minutes. Let’s see how it’s handled in training camp and the preseason.
Next: LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge (Winner)
LaMarcus Aldridge might be the biggest winner of the offseason, so far, on the San Antonio Spurs. Alluded to earlier, it takes scoring pressure off him, much like Rudy Gay, except as the team’s main option.
Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan can handle the offensive load for the Spurs, rather than just the latter. The team faced scoring droughts without the six-time All-Star, leaving Gay, Pau Gasol and Patty Mills there, and unable to pick up the pieces; all play better as a supporting cast at this stage of their respective careers.
San Antonio no longer needs to rely on Aldridge, who often had the team-high in points, for the main dosage of baskets every night. That can be shared with DeRozan and his ability to rack up totals over 20 points and, sometimes, over 30, which he did 15 times in the 2017-18 season.
Of course, Kawhi Leonard could have solved this all and returned to the Spurs for the 2018-19 season and a five-year, $221 million deal, but that’s obviously no longer the case. DeRozan is here, in San Antonio, and the main player to work with Aldridge, on a team that still won 47 games and made the playoffs.
Who are San Antonio’s biggest “winners” of the offseason? Does anyone fit as a “loser” of what happened this summer?