We’ve gathered the Air Alamo crew to ponder a few talking points regarding the offseason of the San Antonio Spurs.
To kick things off, we asked the staff to simply grade the San Antonio Spurs’ offseason.
Kendall Garriss: All in all, the San Antonio Spurs deserve a well-rounded B for their offseason efforts. The Spurs entered the summer with a few essential needs that had to be addressed, most notably bolstering the wing position to complement their assortment of young guards.
Despite the flashes he showcased during the Summer League, I’m still not completely convinced selecting Luka Samanic was the right choice with the 19th pick in the draft. The jury is still out, but Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke, who took home Summer League MVP honors as well as a Summer League Championship with the Memphis Grizzlies, was one of many prospects still available by the time the Spurs were on the clock.
Although they didn’t completely knock it out of the park, the Spurs addressed nearly all of their major concerns and have positioned themselves in an optimal situation to compete in a loaded Western Conference.
Alan Torres: The San Antonio Spurs’ offseason deserves a solid B-. It may not seem like that in the eyes of other teams, but for this team’s standards, this offseason was a success. The Spurs were able to retain the majority of their active roster and regained Dejounte Murray. Their chemistry was good last year, and now with the roster almost intact, chemistry should grow intensely.
The Spurs tend to have very quiet offseasons, but just because they are quiet does not mean that they are not productive. The team added some good players on great contracts that are low-risk, and the young players are growing up and solidifying themselves into future stars of the league.
Losing key front-row assistants felt hurtful, but the Spurs lost no time and filled those spots, adding a legend in Tim Duncan. A few bigger name signings would have given the Spurs a higher letter grade, but at least we didn’t lose a Kawhi Leonard.
Ethan Farina: I’d give the Spurs’ summer a B. I wasn’t blown away by the free agency moves that the team made, though I think Trey Lyles is a nice little addition. After an underwhelming start to his career, he has all the motivation in the world to get things back on track in San Antonio.
However, I was quite happy with the Spurs’ draft selections. Luka Samanic wasn’t really on my radar going into the draft. He’s raw and won’t be ready to play meaningful minutes for a year at least, but there’s potential for something special there.
Keldon Johnson is a grinder. John Calipari was raving about him post-draft and wondering how he could fall all the way to 29. I’m very excited to see what Johnson becomes.
Dylan Hunter Carter: It wasn’t a complete the total success, but I think the Spurs deserve a B for their offseason efforts. With two picks in the first round of this year’s draft, I think that the team became too focused on Luka Samanic and lost sight of the bigger picture. Samanic has been impressive up to this point and I’m still in on him, but Brandon Clarke is already shining for Memphis and would’ve been a better selection in my humble opinion. Luke, prove me wrong!
However, they made up for it by snagging Keldon Johnson and Quinndary Weatherspoon later in the draft. Those were high-value picks that I can envision becoming legitimate rotation players in San Antonio. Johnson, in particular, is a dog and I strongly believe that he can find an important role within this organization.
As for free agency, I’m not crazy on Trey Lyles but he was a solid pickup in the wake of Marcus Morris’ disappointing decision to ditch San Antonio. The grade would’ve gone to a B+ or A= if he didn’t opt to sign with the Knicks instead, but Lyles was a decent recovery. DeMarre Carroll is a strong addition, but he’s also not going to be the difference between the seventh seed and championship contention.
Melanie James: I give the Spurs a B+. Between their draft picks, free-agent signings and new editions to the coaching staff, the improvements are superb. The Spurs have added more players in the backcourt position, but have also limited their recruiting for the frontcourt, which shows their faith in the guards currently listed on the roster.
Offensively, these changes are beneficial for the players. Defensively, it’s going to impact the stops the Spurs can have to change the close games that they couldn’t close out last season.
Strategically, the new roster will allow DeMar DeRozan to continue to play his style of basketball so that he too can be more efficient driving to the rim. This also impacts LaMarcus Aldridge being targeted as a big center; it allows him to switch up his pull up jumper and have teammates change their position make him a decoy or be the decoy for his plays. The Spurs have a great mixture of vets, rookies and seasonal players. I’m elated to see the newly assembled roster compete.
Next: What stood out to you in Summer League?
What stood out to you in Summer League?
Garriss: With Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and a host of other top picks sitting out or playing minimally, Lonnie Walker IV had to be one of the most exciting players in all of Summer League. The second-year guard was clearly on an entirely different level compared to many of the other players suiting up in the desert.
Walker attacked the game with noticeable confidence and poise, streaking up and down the court with a full head of steam, stopping on dimes to nail pull-up jumpers and serving as an unselfish facilitator. The former Miami swingman finds himself in good company heading into his second full-season in the Alamo City, following in the footsteps of Bryn Forbes and Derrick White, whose outstanding Summer League performances foreshadowed breakout campaigns.
While Walker was the obvious standout, rookies Luka Samanic, Keldon Johnson and Quinndary Weatherspoon all showed impressive flashes, which bode well for the Spurs’ youth movement. Further, Drew Eubanks was consistently strong all throughout the summer, providing energy and aggressive rebounding on a nightly basis.
Torres: Lonnie Walker is the next in line when it comes to Spurs players making a big leap thanks to the Summer League. Kawhi Leonard grew immensely in the summer league, then we saw Kyle Anderson do it, and recently, Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Bryn Forbes all became important pieces after doing their time in the Summer League.
It is now Walker’s turn to take that step forward and grow into a solid NBA-exclusive player. The main thing that I noticed while watching Walker play this summer, was his hunger to score and to compete.
More than once, he created or helped with the turnover on defense, then quickly hustled with the ball and scored smart points. It is clear he has grown and is more confident in his own game, we all know he can score and is an athletic freak, but his defense will define playing minutes.
Farina: I was impressed with Luka Samanic. Like I said earlier, I didn’t know a lot about him before the San Antonio drafted him. I’d bet a lot of Spurs fans would say the same thing.
He certainly showed what he can do in Las Vegas. Yes, there were a lot of mistakes. He should spend a fair amount of his rookie season in Austin with the G-League team, but he’s got the potential to be something special.
He’s got it all – he can shoot it from deep, attack the rim, he’s got a promising handle, and showed off some rim-protecting ability. Yes, he’s a long way away from cracking the rotation, but he really impressed me with his play in Summer League.
Carter: Besides Lonnie Walker blossoming into a terrifyingly exciting player, I was really impressed by some of the surrounding cast members. Keldon Johnson is a dog and showed it in the Summer League. Many were afraid that he couldn’t be a multidimensional scorer on the next level, but he showed that he can influence the game in a multitude of ways.
I also have become increasingly interested in Drew Eubanks’ potential to be a legitimate rotation guy. This may be due to Chimezie Metu’s injury that kept him out of the Summer League, but I think Eubanks could end up being the superior player and could prove himself worthy of a legitimate roster spot instead of a two-way deal.
James: Keldon Johnson. He played fearlessly, aggressively and went against the rising trend of playing cautiously because of injury possibilities. Johnson had no reservations – he went to the Summer League to play ball. It was obvious that he truly loves this game, he made the Summer League exciting to watch.
Even though he’s on the smaller side of the scale for a forward, he played like he was on the bigger side of the scale. He played with endless energy and even though he wasn’t always a scoring leader, he played for the team in other ways that counted. His transition into the NBA league doesn’t seem like it’ll be an obstacle but will actually be a learning tool he can use to better his game in every dimension.
Next: Did R.C. Buford do enough in the draft and free agency?
Did R.C. Buford do enough in the draft and free agency?
Garriss: Starting with the draft, the Spurs turned a few heads when they decided to select Luka Samanic with the 19th pick, especially while there were several other highly-touted prospects still on the board. However, San Antonio finished off the first-round by drafting Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson, another young player who shows a great deal of promise.
Re-signing Rudy Gay was virtually a no-brainer for the Spurs but inking veteran wing DeMarre Carroll to a two-year deal helped fill a void the team struggled with all of last season. R.C. Buford nearly pulled off the perfect offseason when it appeared the team had come to an agreement with coveted forward Marcus Morris. However, the two sides walked back on the deal and Morris ended up subsequently signing with the New York Knicks.
Unfortunately, the Spurs had to backtrack and reassess their front court options, ultimately finalizing a deal with former Denver Nugget Trey Lyles. While not a bad signing on the surface, coming on the heels of losing Morris, who was fresh off of a career year with the Celtics, it’s hard to not look at Lyles deal without a recurring twinge of disappointment.
Farina: R.C Buford and the rest of the front office did enough this summer to set the team up for future success. The two first-round picks show promise. Trey Lyles is a nice addition, I think he’s going to come to San Antonio with a chip on his shoulder. DeMarre Carrol fits in well and fills a position of need.
What I really like about this summer’s signings is that, for the most part, they come off the books in the summer of 2021. That lines them up with quite a few other players on the Spurs’ roster.
There is a ton of talent on the market that summer and the league could be flipped on its head yet again. San Antonio doesn’t typically go big game hunting in free agency, but it’s shaping up to look like they could.
Carter: Is a simple “eh” efficient? He tried to do enough, but I don’t think he took this team into the next level of competitiveness the way a team like Utah or the L.A. teams did – it’s not his style and it’s not Spur-like. Unfortunately for him, I think we’re getting to a point with this league where that’ll be necessary to actually compete for a title.
Spurs values are the most important thing to this organization, and he stuck to them, but the team still isn’t poised to contend for a title barring some unforeseen circumstances and the competition is getting steeper. Maybe he did enough, but not quite as much as he could’ve.
James: R.C. has a vision that not many GMs have. His resume speaks for itself, so yes, he’s done enough in the draft and free agency. His actions weren’t unusual, it takes Summer League to understand some of his draft pick choices.
As for the free agents, it’s too soon to tell. On paper, they can be outstanding, but playing in the regular season in order to get to the postseason, we’d have to see them all play in their different units and different plays in order to say so. R.C. is the Picasso of GMs, so he understands how well the progression in a player can be molded by the Spurs Staff.
Next: Presenting hypothetical trade scenarios
Present one hypothetical trade that you’d be interested to see come true
Garriss: I recently broke down the potential of a trade proposal with the Indiana Pacers that would ship Derrick White and Chimezie Metu to Indy in exchange for Domantas Sabonis. Although the Pacers agreed to a sign-and-trade deal for Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon, a timetable for Victor Oladipo is still unclear heading into the season. As such, a deal for White would provide Indiana with a starting point guard who demonstrated his ability to play effectively on or off the ball last season.
Although the Spurs would hate to lose White coming off of an excellent sophomore campaign, the prospect of snagging an energetic and athletic big like Sabonis would be too good of a deal for San Antonio to pass up on.
Sabonis is a spark plug who can provide juice off the bench, nearly averaging a double-double. The third-year pro out of Gonzaga tallied 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game on 59 percent shooting from the floor, which ranked seventh-best in the NBA in just 24.8 minutes of action.
He’s entering a contract year, but at the young age of 23, locking up Sabonis for the foreseeable future doesn’t seem like the worst option as the Spurs attempt to remain competitive while simultaneously getting younger.
Farina: There’s been quite a bit floating around the rumor mill about DeMar DeRozan being on the trade market. Earlier in the summer, the talk was about a DeRozan for Bojan Bogdanovic swap. I don’t like that deal in particular, but I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing the Spurs move DeRozan for the right price.
I just don’t think you can win a championship with him as your best player. Unless he suddenly takes his game to another level, he is who he is. I’d like to see how the season plays out, but then for the Spurs to start asking around closer to the trade deadline.
Teams will have a better idea of who they are and what they need to separate themselves from the pack. San Antonio can flip DeRozan to a contender who’s just looking for that one extra bit of firepower to take them over the top.
Carter: If I were newly appointed general manager Brian Wright, I’d keep an eye on the Minnesota Timberwolves for a handful of reasons. First and foremost, Robert Covington and Dejounte Murray on the same team would be insanely versatile on defense and I’d love to see it. If the Timberwolves end up dropping in the standings once again, packing picks and salary dumps together in a deal for RoCo could help them solidify their identity.
Also, if Karl-Anthony Towns ends up asking out this season, I’d jump all over that. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest and there’s nothing I’d like to see more than Tim Duncan coaching KAT.
The different unit slots can’t be filled with all forwards/centers, the best solution to keep it balanced on both ends of the court is exchanging forwards for guards. It keeps the momentum, changes the floor and sets the Spurs up to be balanced. Their style of play would mesh well with Popovich’s system.
Next: What seeding would you project for next season’s group?
As of now, what seeding would you project for next season’s group
Garriss: After a historically crazy offseason, the Western Conference is as loaded as it’s been in recent memory. The Clippers, Lakers, Rockets, Jazz, and Nuggets all seem to be near locks for the top five teams in the West, leaving the final three playoff spots up for grabs.
Realistically, there are about six other teams in the West that will be vying for those final few spots and it’s entirely possible that the playoff seeding is not clearly defined until the final night of the regular season. However, despite the competitiveness that will no doubt ensue next season, the Spurs should be right in the thick of it, as they have been for the past 20-plus years.
Due to the unfortunate ACL injury that befell Dejounte Murray during the preseason last year, the Spurs never got to see what this roster was supposed to look like. Fresh off of his first season as the starting point guard and an All-Defensive Team selection, Murray was poised for a breakout year before his injury. With a fully loaded squad, the Spurs should look far different from the Jekyll and Hyde season that plagued the team last season.
Although I’m optimistic about the Spurs’ prospects next season, I’m not sure I see them finishing any higher than a 6th seed.
Farina: Right now, I have San Antonio penciled in as the 8th seed. The West is absolutely brutal this year. So many teams got drastically better. Both Los Angeles teams, Portland, Utah, and Houston all improved. Denver didn’t do too much, but they were neck-and-neck with the Warriors at the top of the West for most of the season.
Golden State will miss Klay and KD, but they still have Steph and D’Angelo Russel – they’re a playoff team. So that leaves just one spot left. By my count, there are three teams that can compete for it: Sacramento, San Antonio, and New Orleans. Surprise, surprise, the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs will likely come down to the final few games.
Maybe San Antonio does miss the playoffs, would that be so bad? The 2020 NBA Draft is filled with talented big men. Ending up in the lottery wouldn’t be terrible. It could be just what the Spurs need.
Carter: I usually tend to have a good feel for how things will play out once the dust clears and rosters are settled in the postseason, but I genuinely have no idea how this will play out. San Antonio, barring a catastrophic string of injuries, is a playoff lock in my humble opinion. The injury bug was real last season and they still managed to make the seventh seed without much opportunity to fall out later in the year.
My best guess would be the sixth seed with some combination of Denver, the two L.A. teams (whose regular season records have the potential to drop between growing pains and load management), Utah and Houston all set to have better regular seasons, on paper, than the Spurs. Portland was excellent last season, but they lost some of their firepower and could potentially slip in the standings from last season. Same with Golden State, but they filled out their roster pretty nicely in the wake of KD’s departure and Klay’s injury.
James: Between all of the changes, the free agency surprises, expectations and draft picks, I project the Spurs to be No. 6. Moving up from last season, they will be slightly better than they were last because of the roster additions and the elite coaching staff.
The true challenge that lies ahead of the Spurs is the always competitive level in the western conference. After free agency, it’s going to be a tough stretch, especially after the All-Star break. Last season, that was a difficult stretch for the Spurs.
If they can manage, it’s definitely an easy walk into the sixth seed in the Western conference.