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San Antonio Spurs: What if the 2018-19 team doesn’t make the playoffs?

By Rob Wolkenbrod
CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 25: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 celebrates with Bryn Forbes #11 of the San Antonio Spurs after Aldridge was fouled during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on February 25, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 25: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 celebrates with Bryn Forbes #11 of the San Antonio Spurs after Aldridge was fouled during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on February 25, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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After offseason changes, what if the 2018-19 San Antonio Spurs miss the postseason?

The 2018-19 San Antonio Spurs will only resemble the 2017-18 squad in pieces, as LaMarcus Aldridge, Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills return. There’s no Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Danny Green and Kyle Anderson, and Manu Ginobili might retire before August ends, too.

To replace these pieces, the Spurs acquired the likes of DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, Marco Belinelli, Dante Cunningham and drafted Lonnie Walker.

How far can these new additions push the Silver and Black, though? In a crowded Western Conference, their expectations are not playoff-bound, unlike the previous 21 seasons of postseason appearances. A No. 6, 7 or even 8 seed would mean success, and that’s a possibility, but one that will take until the season’s final weeks to confirm.

If the Spurs fall out of the top eight, even by one game, it becomes a franchise-changing event. They have not missed the playoffs since the 1996-97 season, when David Robinson missed most of the season with injuries, and the team won 20 games. While the 2018-19 roster should not face this, barring catastrophic injuries to Aldridge and DeRozan, there’s still a chance they miss out on a chance to reach the NBA Finals.

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If that happens, the Spurs would not go into a position to make significant changes; they already have $108 million in salaries for 2019-20, including team options for Murray, Poeltl and Derrick White, but could free up a handful of space with the waive and stretch of Pau Gasol‘s contract (guaranteed $6.7 million of $16 million in 2019-20).

With a Spurs organization that rarely makes changes at the top unless forced (see the Kawhi Leonard trade), Aldridge and DeRozan may stay through another retooling offseason. That potentially means trades further down the roster, but does two years, $25 million on Patty Mills’ contract appeal to anyone? What about Davis Bertans‘ $7 million?

San Antonio will have multiple players on expiring deals before the 2019-20 season, most of whom do not have high priced salaries, so the trade route can become an option. Would they actually aggressively pursue this, however? Or stand pat and make minor changes to the middle or bottom of the roster via free agency, as in past years?

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The Spurs have the flexibility in 2020 to make changes, but their 2019 summer might not result in much, whether they make the postseason or not. There are still 82 games to play in 2018-19, so let’s see what kind of push this group makes.

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