The San Antonio Spurs were never supposed to be here
I fully acknowledge that it would be very sweet to end a team's season and move on for a chance to enter the postseason. It would be even sweeter to do it again to Kawhi Leonard's squad, the LA Clippers. The Spurs are going to try their best to do just that, but it's important to keep things in perspective if they don't.
“I don’t think the Spurs were ever trying to make a run at it; it just came back to them,” one Western Conference official told Bleacher Report last week. “The Spurs were good enough to just keep treading water and the Lakers kept losing.”
All credit to the Spurs, though. While the Lakers fell on their faces and cracked open the door, San Antonio did their part to crash through it. Winning eight of 10, including a four-game road sweep, is no small feat. Still, you can't convince me that the front office was thinking "let's push for the playoffs right now" when they traded away one of their most productive players in Derrick White.
The average age of the starting lineup in the Spurs' final game of the season was 22.6. That lineup included a 19-year-old that many, Coach Popovich included, envision can be a big-time player down the road. San Antonio acquired multiple draft picks with the sole purpose of accelerating their rebuild as soon as this summer, and they now have plenty of ammo to make that happen.
As I'll get into next, the Spurs and Pelicans made it to this point with different approaches, but one side has substantially less pressure than the other.