Considering how poorly the San Antonio Spurs have started off with an easy schedule, the team may look very different this time next year.
There’s no denying that it’s been a difficult start for the San Antonio Spurs. Through it’s not too late for the team to turn things around and return to the playoffs, there’s a clear and evident ceiling on this group with virtually no chance of reaching the NBA Finals.
Therefore, newly appointed general manager Brian Wright could opt to shake things up next season with the intention of rejuvenating Gregg Popovich’s desire to coach while transforming the competitive nature of the team. Though they haven’t been forced to revamp many of their teams in the past, it’s time to start looking toward the future in San Antonio.
The Spurs have quality players up and down their roster, but not nearly enough minutes to play them all. That, combined with an exciting young group on the come up, should inspire change in the near future. Popovich started the season without allocating minutes to DeMarre Carroll while sophomore Lonnie Walker IV continues to ride the bench, and yet his group has been one of the worst in the league defensively.
Playoffs are still a real possibility for the Spurs, but their outlook is bleak and change is coming.
Next: Player No. 1
1. DeMar DeRozan
Since joining the Spurs, swingman DeMar DeRozan bought into the culture, learned from Popovich’s intellectual style of coaching, adapted to the system and improved his playmaking. He hasn’t done anything particularly wrong in the Alamo City and continues to give his best effort every time down the floor.
However, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for a team in the modern NBA to compete at the highest level with DeRozan as it’s No. 1 option and the Spurs have suffered because of the limiting nature of his playstyle. He has the second-worst defensive rating on the team due to lackluster effort and mediocre anticipation of opponents’ moves.
As a score-first player, DeRozan’s focus isn’t always where it needs to be and statistics have consistently proven that the team is worse off with him and LaMarcus Aldridge on the floor together. Since the Spurs guaranteed Aldridge’s contract through next season and the California-native has a player option this summer, a breakup between the two parties seems unavoidable.
San Antonio may consider moving DeRozan at some point this year in order to get a return on their marquee player, but the cap space and minutes he’d free up could be enough to help this group turn things around.
With the utmost respect for San Antonio’s leading scorer, this team has a bright future regardless of whether or not DeRozan is a part of it and his presence may actually be to the detriment of the Spurs’ lineup.
Next: Player No. 2
2. Bryn Forbes
For as difficult as it may be to come to terms with, there’s a strong possibility that the Spurs part ways with undrafted shooting guard Bryn Forbes. He’s easily their best three-point shooter, hitting 36% on a career-high seven triples per game, but his shooting doesn’t justify his horrendous defense as a 6-foot-2 two-guard.
Defensively, the Spurs are drastically worse with Forbes on the floor. He has the worst defensive rating of any player on the team and only the tenth-best offensive rating. With a rotation of Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray, Walker and Derrick White under contract for next year, there’s not a whole lot of room for Forbes given his underwhelming impact through this portion of the season.
This isn’t set in stone – Forbes could very well return to the silver and black in the offseason to provide an offensive spark. But if he keeps playing the way he has; it’s going to be difficult justifying a contract greater than what he could get offered elsewhere.
Forbes has ingrained himself in the Spurs culture and recently passed Fabricio Oberto for the third most starts by an undrafted player in franchise history.
His accomplishments are significant and appreciated by the organization, but he’s simply not physically able to stop opposing shooting guards and he’s not a good enough passer to log minutes at the point. He could very well be on his way out this offseason.
Next: Player No. 3
3. Marco Belinelli
In the second half of a two-year deal, veteran wing Marco Belinelli has tested the patience of Spurs fans through the early going of this season with some truly abysmal shooting and ineffective defense. Through the Spurs’ recent four-game road trip, Belinelli started to get back into his groove and hit some tough shots, but could cede minutes to Carroll as the year progresses due to his poor defense.
Many teams would be excited to throw a contract in Belinelli’s direction for his longstanding history as an exceptional shot-maker. He’s not quite the player he used to be at 33-years-old, but he’d be a nice player to tag on the end of someone’s bench.
That role could be his in San Antonio, but the Spurs will be forced to phase him out of the rotation eventually and his experience could earn him some minutes elsewhere in the league next season.
Belinelli’s goodbye could come this season as the Italian Stallion would make a nice throw-in on a trade offer when packaged with someone else. Expiring money is a hot commodity in the NBA and a team going big game hunting in the Summer would be willing to take on his contract as part of a larger deal.
As the Spurs get younger, keeping Belinelli active and playing is making less sense by the day.