The San Antonio Spurs were searching for a direction after the George Gervin and Artis Gilmore era. They had missed the playoffs just three times in their franchise's history, but San Antonio hadn’t won a playoff series since 1983 when won the lottery and got the first overall pick in 1987. They selected David Robinson and changed the course of the organization.
The Admiral served two years in the military before arriving in 1989. San Antonio had missed the playoffs three times in last six seasons and had not won a playoff series. Things quickly changed with Robinson anchoring their roster. The Spurs made seven straight postseason appearances, including reaching the conference finals in 1995, before one down season that resulted in winning the lottery and getting Tim Duncan.
The San Antonio Spurs won two championships before David Robinson retired in 2003 and missed the postseason just once in his 14 years. Robinson’s career bled right into their Big 3 Era where the franchise was a perennial contender for more than two decades. It did not stop them from having a few questionable starters during the Admiral’s career. A minimum 20 games started requirement was put in place to eliminate one-off openers.
9. Steve Smith
Smith arrived in San Antonio in a 2001 trade that solved the Derek Anderson drama. Both sides felt wronged by the other. Anderson wanted a new contract and got more money from Portland in the sign-and-trade. Smith was an All-Star in 1998 and had a decade of NBA experience before arriving in the Alamo.
Smith was outstanding in year one, including leading the NBA by shooting 47.2 percent from 3-point range. The Spurs were bounced by the Lakers in five games in the second round of the playoffs, but Smith was a key floor spacer before bottom dropped out in year two.
The 6’7 wing could not hit shots, dealt with injuries, and was simply ineffective. Smith still made 18 starts but averaged just 6.8 points and 1.9 rebounds in 19.5 minutes per game. He shot 38.8 percent from the field and departed in free agency in the summer of 2003.
Steve Smith played just two more years in the NBA before retiring in 2005. Looking back, he was already declining before arriving in San Antonio, but the Spurs got one solid year and one forgettable one. Smith should not have started next to David Robinson and Tim Duncan on the championship-winning San Antonio Spurs in 2003. Smith played in just nine postseason games and was limited to 7.3 minutes per contest.