Like it or not, the San Antonio Spurs have now become a springboard for many former players to go on and have successful careers. While it's usually good to see former players do well, the Spurs previously had a knack of knowing when to cut players loose and were often able to find better and cheaper replacements.
Now, instead of those players going on to have uneventful careers following their time with the team, most are thriving in new environments. Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson, Patty Mills, LaMarcus Aldridge, Davis Bertans, Chimezie Metu, and DeMar DeRozan have all effectively put the team in their rearview.
This situation is more or less the basketball equivalent of the movie Good Luck Chuck, an awful comedy starring Dane Cook. For those unfamiliar, the main character, Chuck, served as a stepping stone for the women he dated, or in the Spurs case, their former players. So what does this mean? Did the Spurs undervalue these players or are other teams getting lucky? Let's examine.
The Spurs' Development Plays a Big Part
Over the years, San Antonio developed a knack for finding underrated players, putting them in their system, and having them excel. Players like Roger Mason Jr, DeJuan Blair, Gary Neal, Boris Diaw, and Jonathon Simmons come to mind, but after they left, none of them had much of a career afterward. However, that trend has begun to change, perhaps a result of the team’s track record for identifying talent.
Much like with other teams being eager to poach San Antonio's assistant coaches, it's possible that opponents are keeping a closer eye on Spurs players too. Detroit, for example, has become a second stop for several Spurs players including Aron Baynes, Boban Marjanović, and Trey Lyles. Moreover, other former Spurs like Danny Green and George Hill have also become sought after since leaving the team.
Green, who was traded with Leonard from the Spurs to the Raptors, had a career season there and even won a championship. He then moved on to the Lakers where he won another and is now starting for the 76ers. Meanwhile, Hill has gone on to become a valuable veteran player years after being traded away from San Antonio.
As for Leonard, he managed to eclipse even his best season with San Antonio while playing for both Toronto and the L.A. Clippers. All of this is to say that it shouldn't come as a surprise that each player found success post-Spurs. After all, Leonard was already one of the best players in the NBA before he forced his way out of San Antonio. Meanwhile, Green and Hill were both young two-way players, which every team covets.
The Spurs' High-Level Drafting Comes Into Play
Previously, San Antonio relied on veterans to fill rotation roles but eventually had to start focusing more on the draft to find future role players. Given San Antonio's record as one of the best drafting teams, it was inevitable that many of those players would eventually move on and find success elsewhere.
Lonnie Walker could be next given his inconsistent play and that Devin Vassell and Joshua Primo could easily absorb his minutes next season. Of course, it would be painful to see Walker figure things out on another team. Though, San Antonio can't wait around for someone like Walker to come around if there are upgrades available on the roster, in the draft, or in free agency.
In fact, as San Antonio progresses in their rebuild, they're going to have to make similar decisions with other players, possibly even Derrick White. When that happens, other teams could pounce, and more current Spurs players will likely join the list of past players who've flourished in new environments.
Overall, it appears that the days of players leaving the Spurs and floundering elsewhere are gone. Instead, many Spurs alumni are thriving in new environments. While it's hard not to be somewhat jealous that so many players are playing well after moving on, it's actually not as bad as it seems. After all, the phenomenon only started when the Spurs began focusing more on developing young players.
Furthermore, San Antonio can't keep every player they develop, so when they become available, teams are snatching them up and are benefitting from getting fully-formed players. Therefore, the Spurs are the Good Luck Chucks of the NBA, but surprisingly enough, it's a sign of how well run the organization is.