Missing the playoffs wouldn’t be the worst thing for the San Antonio Spurs
By Ethan Farina
The San Antonio Spurs will be attempting a historic feat this year. But what happens if they come up short?
You know what they say about the lottery, right? You have to buy a ticket to play. Even though the San Antonio Spurs have no intention of heading to the lottery for the first time in over two decades, this year might not be a bad time to play.
Let’s preface everything by saying that the Spurs should unequivocally, under absolutely no circumstances, tank. They should give one hundred percent, right up until the last second runs off the clock in game eighty-two. They have a chance to do something truly special this year.
Setting an NBA record for most consecutive playoff appearances would be a testament to all of the hard work that the organization has put in as well as a tribute to all of the great players who have called San Antonio home over the past twenty-two years.
But what if it doesn’t work out? What if the Spurs are aggressively bitten by the injury bug? What if teams like Sacramento, New Orleans, and Dallas are all vastly better than were predicting? What if, for the first time in over two decades, the Spurs miss the playoffs?
Honestly, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. If the Spurs were to hypothetically miss the playoffs, it would likely be by the slimmest of margins. They aren’t the best team in the Western Conference, but they’re not going to contend with teams like the Phoneix Suns for the top pick. Luckily they don’t have to.
The new lottery odds, which we saw in full effect last year, were designed to decrease the very worst team’s chances at the top pick and restore some balance to the lottery system. We saw the impacts of this last year when the New Orleans Pelicans, despite having only a six percent shot at the number one pick, were able to snag Zion Williamson.
Under the old lottery rules, teams with the sixth – to 14th-worst records had a cumulative 18.8 percent chance of landing the no. 1 pick in the draft. These nine teams have a combined 35 percent chance.
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Let’s say things go wrong for the Spurs this year. For whatever reason, they end up with the 12th worst record in the NBA. They would have an 86.1 percent chance of getting the 12th pick but also a 7.2 percent chance of getting a top-four pick, according to Tankathon. If there were ever a year to get a top-four pick, it would be this one.
It’s still early but this year’s draft class already looks stellar. The top four prospects are all bona fide studs who could do wonders for kickstarting the Spurs path back to perennial title contention.
The top talent is James Wiseman. An uber-athletic seven-footer, Wiseman has the prototypical length, agility, and aggressiveness that NBA GM’s dream about. He can dominate the paint on both ends of the floor and has shown off a developing jump shot. He’s raw, that’s for certain, but he will spend the year under the tutelage of Penny Hardaway at Memphis and could learn behind LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan if he were to end up in San Antonio.
The rest of the top four are all slashing, score first guards. Anthony Edwards from the University of Georgia, Cole Anthony, son of Greg Anthony, at UNC and LaMelo Ball, playing with the Illawarra Hawks of the Australian NBL, all would be excellent compliments to Dejounte Murray.
The odds of the San Antonio Spurs missing the playoffs are slim. The odds of them getting a top-four pick are even slimmer. But if things go bad and then the stars align, San Antonio could cash in on their luck, just like the New Orleans Pelicans did this year, and springboard themselves to another run of twenty-two successful years.
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Hopefully, this is all just an exercise in “what if” thinking and the Spurs end up playing post-season basketball for the twenty-third consecutive year. The journey to the playoffs begins in twelve days.