San Antonio Spurs miss no. 3: Marc Gasol
Okay, I'm cheating here, but I don't care. Spurs fans were misled on this one. In 2015, Marc Gasol was allegedly up for grabs. Of course, this never actually happened. Marc ended up only meeting with the Memphis Grizzlies and resigning. But leading up to the free agency, the Spurs were linked to Gasol and supposedly were real contenders to wrestle him away from the Grizzlies. If the Spurs had landed him, boy, things could have been special.
Of course, this means the Spurs would never have signed LaMarcus Aldridge, but honestly, while his numbers were less prolific, Marc Gasol was the far better fit for the team in 2015. Coming off a 2014-15 campaign in which he averaged 17.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game and shot 49% from the field while playing excellent defense, he would likely have better complemented Tim in the frontcourt, muscling with bigger defenders to allow an older Duncan to focus more on rebounding and help defense.
Shifting Duncan, the greatest power forward of all time, back to actually playing power forward would have allowed him to abuse mostly weaker and smaller players down low in the post. And while Gasol's 3-point shot was still several years away, his touch and passing from the high post area would have given not just Duncan, but also Parker, Kawhi, and Ginobili ample opportunity to score inside.
Instead, Duncan ended up with defenders glued to him in the midrange since Popovich often used him at the high post in 2015 to give LaMarcus room to operate down low.
This was all just in year one. Marc Gasol and his brother Pau had always talked about playing with each other following a lot of international success doing just that. If the Spurs signed Marc and then replaced Duncan with Pau the following year as they did in reality, the Gasol tandem flanking a Kawhi Leonard-led Spurs team would have been lethal, probably advancing to the Western Conference Finals at least once as they did with Aldridge.
Unlike LaMarcus, Gasol has shown the ability to age more gracefully, moving into progressively smaller roles while focusing more on shooting, passing, and defense to enable others to shine. It's no wonder he was the missing piece enabling Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to win a championship in Toronto recently.
This was a less sad scenario than the Spurs losing out on Shane and Kidd, but still definitely one worth learning from during this free agency period.