It turns out we may have been a little ambitious when trying to predict the San Antonio Spurs' win total before the season. In his estimation before the season began, our writer Kyle Forson figured this team could get to 39 wins on the season and return to the postseason.
Of course, we can't really fault this guess, as the Spurs have been just about the most unpredictable team in the Association this season. They've managed huge wins over elite teams in the league while dropping ones to rosters full of G League replacement players. COVID-19 protocols and other injuries have hit San Antonio hard once again as well, costing the team at least a handful of games they otherwise might've had.
Through 54 games, San Antonio now sits at 20-34 and is on pace to finish with a record of 30-52. It would be the team's worst finish since 1996-97, when they had a 20-62 record and went on to win the NBA Draft Lottery and select Tim Duncan.
With 66% of the season now in the books, we know by now what to expect from this year's Spurs and what we should be hoping for in the future. In determining the ideal win total they should have to finish their rebuilding season, I'm factoring in things like long-term success, the short-term product for the benefit of fans, the competitiveness of the players, and pride.
The Ideal Target Win Total to Maximize the Spurs' Future
When coming up with a number, I had to be realistic about the chances of this particular team. This version of the Spurs is nowhere near a team with the consistency to pull off four wins in a seven-game series. They'd be fortunate to even leapfrog three other teams in a play-in tournament scenario to even get that chance in the first place.
Although I feel a play-in tournament appearance would benefit the growth of numerous guys on the team and spark the competitive fire inside of them, I'm not convinced it would be worth the sacrifice of missing out on a lottery pick at this point. While I'm a believer that purposely tanking fails more than it works, this roster with someone like Jabari Smith or Paolo Banchero is very appealing.
I don't think the Spurs need to try losing games on purpose to have a chance at a high lottery pick -- after all, they're finding creative ways to lose games all on their own. That said, a nice middle ground for having something to play for while also keeping those high pick odds is 29 wins.
In finishing with a 29-53 record, the Spurs would accomplish a few things: Give Coach Popovich the NBA all-time coaching wins record, surpass the Las Vegas pre-season projection that we all thought was insulting at first (oops), and give San Antonio excellent position in the 2022 NBA Draft.
It wouldn't be fun, as it would mean San Antonio wins just 9 of their next 28 games, but hey, that's pretty much the pace they're on anyway.