They’re caught in limbo between a top-tier draft pick and the final seed in the playoffs, what should the San Antonio Spurs do?
Time and time again we’ve heard from multiple people on the Spurs roster or coaching staff express how dedicated the team is to making the playoffs. DeMar DeRozan has touched on the topic before and Derrick White recently called for more minutes with Dejounte Murray to help the team win right now.
The Spurs situation isn’t easy. They’re three games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the final playoff spot and while Memphis has one of the toughest schedules to end the season, there’s another team above the Spurs that could relegate them to the lottery. The New Orleans Pelicans are 9-6 since they got Zion Williamson and look like a legitimate threat to steal the eighth seed.
Further complicating the Spurs path to the postseason is the recent loss of Jakob Poeltl to an MCL sprain. Poeltl doesn’t bring much on offense but he’s been one of the Spurs’ most consistent defenders of the course of the season and is one of the few true centers on the team. His absence will force Gregg Popovich to finally get creative with his rotations, something we’ve been calling for for a while now.
Their position in the standings and level of competition makes the Spurs return to the playoffs a slim prospect at best. FiveThirtyEight gives them just a 5 percent chance at making the postseason. Conversely, Tankathon gives San Antonio a 7.2 percent chance of getting a top-four pick. Clearly one of those options is better for the long term success of the franchise than the other.
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We will see what kind of rotations Pop uses tonight but forgive me if I remain skeptical about the Spurs chances of making the playoffs with Drew Eubanks playing heavy minutes. If the Spurs are going to limp to the end of the season with an injury-plagued roster they might as well throw in the towel, commit fully to experimenting with lineups featuring their youngest players, and maybe luck into a top-four pick along the way.
Despite both of them expressing that they’d like to play together, White and Murray have still rarely played together. Can we get some more of that over the final 24 games? Chimezie Metu has been tearing up the G-League all season and has only played 73 NBA minutes all year, will that change anytime soon?
It’s a deep draft but not one that is particularly loaded with top-end talent. The Spurs don’t need another point guard but there are two players that could be going in the top-four that would help them out tremendously. James Wiseman is already drawing David Robinson comparisons and Deni Avdija has had Spurs Twitter losing their minds over the past month.
Would you rather see the young Spurs run wild over the final 24 games and improve the team’s chances for Deni or new-era David Robinson or get Thanos punched out of the first round of the playoffs by LeBron James and company? It’s not quite that simple, but it’s not that far off either.
Don’t call it tanking, call it selective winning, if that makes you feel better about it. But the San Antonio Spurs are in desperate need of a franchise-changing talent. Lowering their chances of landing that in this year’s draft in pursuit of another first-round exit will only hurt them now and down the road.