Now sitting at the 14th seed in the Western Conference, it’s time to have a serious conversation about the logistics of a San Antonio Spurs rebuild.
After years atop the hierarchy of NBA dynasties, the San Antonio Spurs have been subjected to the same thing they’ve spent so long avoiding — the reality of losing. An early-season push gave fans a glimpse of what this team could do when performing at the best of their ability, but the Spurs have dropped three of their last 10 games and are two games below .500 for the first time in nine years.
Over the course of the last 20 seasons, most teams have had to endure some kind of a rebuilding or retooling phase. It’s only natural with the league’s increased player mobility and fluctuating salary cap for teams to scrap a lineup and aim for a lottery pick. Now that things have gone south in the Alamo City, it may be time for a rebuilding of their own.
The 2019 Draft Class looks to have a loaded lottery with boom-or-bust pieces scattered throughout college and international basketball. It’s been quite some time since San Antonio selected from the lottery and the idea of adding another high-potential piece to their pre-established core of young players is enticing to say the least.
With two first-rounders in this year’s draft, the Spurs could focus their attention on grooming young players and acquiring draft capital from the current lineup.
General manager R.C. Buford hasn’t been forced to make many moves mid-season during his tenure with the Spurs but times are changing. Between the recovering Dejounte Murray, rookies Lonnie Walker IV and Chimezie Metu, sophomore Derrick White and center Jakob Poeltl, the Spurs sneakily have a nice group of talented players all under 25 years of age.
Entering tonight the San Antonio Spurs were 10-11. This is the first time they've been under .500 at the quarter pole of the season since 1996-97.
The good news so Spurs fans? They won the NBA Draft Lottery following that season and selected Tim Duncan first overall.
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) December 1, 2018
Many contributors throughout the locker room may be worth picks and potential pieces as teams look to improve their rotations to make a playoff push. Sharpshooter Marco Belinelli, for example, has been wildly underperforming up to this point in the season, but his floor spacing and playmaking abilities could draw attention from opposing GMs.
The most difficult piece of this puzzle comes from the last year’s All-NBA Second Team selections in DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. As skilled and well-respected as the tandem may be, it would be difficult to acquire equal value for either of the two.
DeRozan is putting up monster numbers this season but his inability to space the floor and mediocre defense make him one of the least appealing superstars around the NBA.
Aldridge was one of the league’s standout performers from last season but hasn’t been able to capitalize on his chances this year. The 33-year-old is shooting the lowest field goal percentage of his career and will remain under contract until 2021. Buford would return pennies on the dollar on the big man and Aldridge has become a staple in San Antonio, so chances are that he’s in it for the long haul.
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For a random middling franchise desperate to do something meaningful with their season, either of these players could prove appealing. With that in mind, Buford and the front office need to approach the rest of this season without restraint.
Competitive spirit is a crucial aspect of the Spurs’ legendary system of play but this team has shown very little heart over the last month. Pride seems secondary as a seemingly outdated squad watches as the opposition hails three-pointer and pounds points in the paint from start to finish.
The prospect of scrapping the season and rebuilding from the bottom is ugly and disturbing for Spurs fans, but it could prove to be exciting in the long haul. Losing games because of poor effort and lackadaisical execution is painful to watch, but losing games with the intention of drafting a franchise star transforms the outlook of a fanbase.
For the first time, this conversation can actually be taken seriously, which is a surreal thought for those who’ve witnessed San Antonio’s legendary run firsthand. There’s still an honest possibility that this team elevates their play and reaches the postseason, since the Western Conference playoff picture is so tight.
Things will become clearer as the year progresses the reality of the situation is that the Spurs could abandon ship and truly enter a new era for the organization.