Yes, the San Antonio Spurs have missed the playoffs for the second year in a row, and yes, it sucks. The last time the Spurs had earned two losing records in a row was in their 1988 and 1989 seasons: over three decades ago. Meanwhile, perennially losing teams like the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks made their way back to the playoffs for the first time in years.
That being said, the Spurs aren't completely devoid of things to look forward to. Dejounte Murray is in the process of blossoming into a very reputable two-way point guard, Keldon Johnson managed to be chosen as a 2021 NBA Rising Star, and Lonnie Walker IV showed some flashes of scary good scoring ability when he was asked to step up this past season.
Unfortunately, though, that doesn't change the fact that the Spurs weren't in the playoffs, and it doesn't change the fact that Spurs fans very well could be seeing the same or similar results next season, barring any huge performance jumps by the Spurs' young players.
The question we should be asking ourselves though is: just how much value would the Spurs have gained from making it to the playoffs this season?
The San Antonio Spurs may have dodged a bullet by missing the 2021 NBA Playoffs
The past couple of NBA seasons have been tumultuous, to say the very least. In the wake of the 2019-20 NBA season being pushed well into the summer due to the COVID-19-related shutdown, this past regular season began much later than usual, and many players that played in the bubble playoffs had particularly short offseasons.
For the Spurs, Derrick White notably had a great deal of trouble with injury this past season, not to mention COVID-19, and only managed to play in 36 of the Spurs' 72 regular-season games. Because the Spurs had several games postponed in the middle of the season due to health and safety protocols, their games became even more condensed in the second half of the season. In case that wasn't enough, their most difficult stretch of games came in May.
In retrospect, the Spurs were likely very lucky that none of their players suffered any serious, debilitating injuries. In contrast, within the eight teams currently left in the playoffs, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, and Mike Conley have all already missed significant time due to injury or will miss significant time in the near future. Joel Embiid is supposedly playing with a partially torn meniscus, and Donovan Mitchell recently tweaked his ankle against the Clippers.
This is not to mention the facts that Anthony Davis' groin injury was likely a huge contributing factor to the Lakers' first-round exit, and that Jamal Murray has not been available at all in the playoffs as he's recovering from his torn ACL. Did I mention that Chris Paul is out indefinitely due to health and safety protocols?
While playoff experience is obviously important in the development of a young team, the level of injury that we've seen throughout the league this season, and particularly in the playoffs, has been disastrous. There's simply no way around that admission, at least in my mind anyway. The data even shows that injuries have been particularly awful this past year compared to seasons past.
Meanwhile, while the Spurs may have been a bit banged up toward the end of the regular season, they managed to make it out without any serious setbacks that will have implications for next season. The Spurs' young core will have a full and healthy offseason to focus on development, the franchise is less than a week away from seeing where they'll land in the lottery, and possibly most importantly, the team will have significant time to practice before the start of the regular season.
Spurs fans, if I were you, given that the postseason has been riddled with injuries and that we're only about a month away from one of the best draft classes in recent memory, I wouldn't be too disappointed that the Spurs made it to the offseason a bit early. Starting soon, the team should have quite a lot to look forward to.