The San Antonio Spurs haven’t missed the playoffs in 21 seasons and and will continue while building a team that can win a championship with young players.
In 1997 the San Antonio Spurs had zero championships, a franchise player in David Robinson who suffered a severe injury and was forced to sit out the season and a unproven head coach in Gregg Popovich. The state of the franchise would change once they won the lottery and drafted Tim Duncan.
During Duncan’s tenure from 1998-2016, the Spurs won win five NBA Championships and made the playoffs every season since. That playoff streak continues after Duncan’s retirement as Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs to the Western Conference Finals in 2017. It looked like Leonard would be the one to carry the franchise for the next ten years and beyond, the same way Duncan did for 18 years prior. However, a devastating ankle injury kept him out of the conference finals and a thigh injury kept him out of most of the following season.
Rumors about whether Kawhi was actually ready to play or not were circulating around the franchise, which ultimately led to players questioning the severity of his injury. These speculations pushed Kawhi into wanting out of San Antonio and the Spurs traded him, along with Danny Green to Toronto for DeMar Derozan, Jakob Poeltl and the draft pick that became Keldon Johnson.
Kawhi went on to lead Toronto to a championship for the 2018-19 season while the Spurs suffered their second consecutive first round exit in the playoffs. After seeing Kawhi go on to win a championship, there are questions whether the Spurs will ever return to their glory championship days.
As the Spurs head into the off-season, they still have two players in DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge that have been proven All-Stars throughout their career. However, there are many analysts who don’t believe the Spurs can win with them, especially after their first round lost to Denver.
DeRozan is entering his final year of his contract and recently was speculated about in trade rumors about cap-clearing moves. Aldridge, coming off another All-Star season, will turn 34 this summer. Despite the questions marks regarding these two cornerstones, there is still a lot of excitement around the organization due to the young talent they are looking to build around.
Both Derrick White and Bryn Forbes showed tremendous growth this season. White is an upcoming two-way player and Forbes is an excellent outside shooter with a Patty Mills-style of play. Sophomore wing Lonnie Walker IV, who was selected in the first round in 2018 for San Antonio, spent most of the year injured, but showed promise playing in the G-League and playing sparingly for the Spurs. Most people around the organization are really high on his potential.
Out of all the young talent the Spurs have, the one that may have the most upside is Dejounte Murray. The 22-year-old suffered a Torn ACL injury in the preseason of last year, keeping him out all of last season.
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Many people predicted Murray to have a breakout season and make a run for the league’s Most Improved Player before his injury. He was the youngest player in NBA history to make the NBA’s All-Defensive first team for the 2017-18 season.
It will be a difficult task for the Spurs to return to the glory of their championship days, especially with all of the big moves that has happened in the West. The balance of power may shift in the conference depending on the free agent moves that have taken place this summer, but the Spurs believe in their young talent and will continue to develop them.
They also selected two first-round picks in this year’s draft, and Popovich just recently signed a three-year extension.
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San Antonio has not missed the playoffs in 21 seasons and would like to keep the streak going, while building a team that can eventually win a championship around the young players that they have.