San Antonio Spurs: A Complete Offseason Wishlist

12

The San Antonio Spurs’ 2018-2019 campaign was officially ended a week ago at the hands of the surging Denver Nuggets. The Silver and Black put up a resilient fight, but they came up just short in game seven of their first-round series.

Although the playoffs are still in full swing for eight championship hopefuls, the Silver and Black should look ahead towards the impending offseason. Summer will be full of important decisions, and making the right choices could be the difference between competing for titles or being stuck in the limbo of mediocrity for years to come.

Every team has goals they want to reach before the start of next season, but not every box will get checked. With that in mind, what does an ideal Alamo City Summer look like?

A Healthy Dejounte Murray

Well, it starts with the future faces of the franchise and trickles down to the rest of the roster. After all, what is a team without young stars to carry the torch?

Speaking of young stars, getting Dejounte Murray back to pre-injury form should be the first matter of business in San Antonio. The Spurs struggled mightily to stop their opponents from scoring without their 2nd team All-NBA defender, and they sorely missed his contributions on the other end as well.

Though the former Washington Huskie wasn’t an especially dangerous scorer in his first two seasons, he looked poised for a breakout year on offense before he tore his right ACL in preseason play. Between his refined three-point jumper and an improved frame, fans should be excited to see what a healthy Dejounte Murray can bring to the lineup.

Defining Derrick White’s Role

The San Antonio faithful got a taste of Derrick White while Murray was away nursing his injury, and it looks like the Spurs found another late first-round gem. He attacked the rim like Tony, read the floor like Ginobili and locked down like Bowen.

It’s safe to say the second-year combo guard earned significant minutes going forward. The only problem is figuring out how to allocate those minutes with plenty of able bodies in place, and three draft picks on the way.

Murray will surely reprise his role as the starting point guard upon his return, and DeMar DeRozan isn’t losing his spot in the rotation any time soon. So, what are the Spurs to do with White? Is it back to the bench or can they slide him elsewhere to make everything work?

The truth is it really shouldn’t matter where White plays as long as he sees steady minutes. While he could probably start alongside Murray and DeRozan in a small-ball lineup, White would be most useful as the heart and soul of the second unit.

It would be a ‘Manuesque’ sacrifice that could positively impact all parties involved. Not only would it allow the Spurs to stagger minutes to ensure an elite perimeter defender is on the court at all times, but White would have the added benefit of kicking off every game against backups and role players.

Fortunately for San Antonio, White is as versatile as they come and he should mesh seamlessly wherever Head Coach Gregg Popovich sees fit. Whether they need a floor general, off-ball shooter or an undersized forward, Derrick is more than capable of manning multiple positions.

Integrating Lonnie Walker IV

Everything said about White can be applied to Lonnie Walker IV. The rookie didn’t find many opportunities in the NBA last season, but don’t mistake his lack of play for a lack of ability.

Walker has a fluid shooting stroke, can score on all three levels, and possesses the physical traits to become an All-NBA stopper. Pop seldom gives first-year players a chance to shine, and Lonnie was no different.

The University of Miami product spent the majority of his first go-round developing in the G-Leauge. However, he shouldn’t expect to spend much time in Austin next year.

Lonnie is NBA ready right now, and he deserves a chance to play a significant part in what San Antonio does next season. If that wasn’t already apparent, it will be by the time he dominates his 2019 Summer League competition.

An increased role for Walker will mean a decrease in minutes for others across the rotation. It’s time for the Spurs to move on from a handful of players, and the emergence of Lonnie Walker IV should make for a smooth transition.

Spurs Needing New Contracts

Let’s discuss San Antonio’s in-house free agents before we get into any potential signings or trade chatter. The Silver and Black have six players set to hit the open market, but not everyone can return if the Spurs want to contend.

Though Quincy Pondexter, Dante Cunningham, and Donatas Motiejunas made for decent insurance policies, they shouldn’t be in a Spurs jersey next season.

Re-signing Rudy Gay should be a priority, and Coach Pop has made it known he desires to retain the services of the 13-year veteran. Gay took a huge step in improving his efficiency and provided a major spark for an offense that struggled at times to get going.

San Antonio would be wise to steer clear of a lengthy contract for an aging star; just look at what happened with Pau Gasol. Instead, using their Early Bird Rights to negotiate a two-year contract within the ballpark of $20M seems like a reasonable alternative.

As for Drew Eubanks and Ben Moore, because of the nature of two-way contracts, they aren’t exactly in the same boat as the aforementioned free agents. While both guys were important contributors to San Antonio’s G-Leauge affiliate, only Eubanks showed a semblance of legitimate NBA potential.

Considering each team is only allowed a single pair of two-way contracts per season, Moore becomes the obvious roster casualty. The Spurs have three picks in the 2019 draft, and the remaining two-way contract would be better-served fielding their second-round selection.

Shoring up the Roster

Despite the fact San Antonio has the opportunity to add a plethora of fresh talent, it may make more sense for them to pursue a trade or two in the hopes of improving the roster and freeing up some minutes for their young core.

Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills were a part of the Spurs’ last title team in 2014, and both guards are fan favorites throughout the city of San Antonio. There’s no denying they contributed something special to the team over the years, but recently in the playoffs, they both struggled on each end of the court.

Belinelli and Mills are aging shooters with decreasing value, declining athleticism, and a penchant for giving up easy baskets. Patty is owed a grand total of $26.6M over the next two seasons, Marco might still be attractive to contenders in need of shooters, and the Silver and Black should try to unload their contracts.

Of course, getting a deal completed is easier said than done in the NBA. Regardless of real-life obstacles, here are a few scenarios help all teams involved.

Should the first and last trades listed above get the green light, that would leave San Antonio with the 19th pick in the 2019 Draft, three NBA roster openings, and they’d still be an over the cap team able to re-sign Gay. Keep in mind though, the fourth trade proposal would need to be executed before July 1.

They wouldn’t have enough money to sign a big-time superstar, and the home of the River Walk has never been a major free agent destination. Nonetheless, players around the league are bound to be attracted to the idea of playing for Coach Pop before he calls it quits.

Thaddeus Young is one such player who fits the mold of a perfect Spur. Young is a selfless teammate, eager defender, and a serviceable catch-and-shoot threat.

Other teams in the association will almost definitely be able to offer Thaddeus more money. The Spurs, however, can offer Young a place to contend and a Mid-Level Exception worth up to $39.8M over four years.

Do I expect Young to sign with San Antonio? Not really. Even if he does, it’s doubtful the Silver and Black offer him more than a two-year stint.

A more realistic target would be the Spurs’ 2015 first-rounder Nikola Milutinov. The 24-year old put himself in the EuroLeague MVP discussion this season and a buyout would be relatively inexpensive.

Putting a price tag on the Serbian center isn’t a precise science. Even so, you can use an estimation of Tiago Splitter’s first NBA contract to get an idea of his price range.

Drafting Dynamic Players

On the topic of players heading into their first contracts, assuming they hold on to a lone first-round pick, the Spurs must make a smart draft day decision. The talent will be there at 19, but a poor evaluation could lead to wasted potential.

Romeo Langford is the guy San Antonio should be eyeballing, and he should be available. Much like Lonnie Walker IV from last year’s draft, Romeo is a natural scorer with insane measurables and freakish physical tools.

Langford could be an outstanding 3-and-D wing despite wonky shot mechanics and an inconsistent motor. He’ll likely need a dedicated coaching staff and a team-first culture to reach his ceiling. Luckily for him, the Spurs have both.

If San Antonio decides to hold their picks in favor of keeping Patty and Marco around, expect the Spurs to invest in some more do-it-all type of individuals.

The Spurs are rumored to be interested in taking international prospect Luka Samanic with their 29th pick, and UCF shooting guard Aubrey Dawkins has NBA pedigree and two-way upside. In fact, once upon a time, San Antonio drafted his father with the 10th pick of the 1986 Draft.

Making Minor Tweaks

Fantasizing about draft picks and free agents is great, but at the end of the day, the Spurs’ success will be determined by the players who call San Antonio home.

LaMarcus Aldridge, DeRozan, and Jakob Poeltl are the starters right now and for the foreseeable future. Each of them is flawed and none of them are suspected to be on the move this offseason.

From that perspective, the Spurs’ best bet at building upon their success is making minor adjustments to their key players’ weaknesses.

Poeltl was a beast on the boards once the Spurs released Pau and Pop set him free. He banged bodies down low with the league’s best big men and used his soft hands to finish at the rim.

Although he helped San Antonio raise their winning percentage late in the year, Poeltl was far from the reason for their league-best free throw percentage. Jakob shot just 53.3% from the charity stripe in 2018-2019, and that mark kept him from being a reliable player down the stretch in tight games.

Poeltl has all Summer to sharpen his skills at the line. He may never become a serious threat outside of five feet, but knocking down his free throws at a 65% clip isn’t an unrealistic goal.

If working on fundamentals isn’t asking too much of Poeltl, then neither is asking LA and DeRozan to develop an adequate stand-still three-point jumper. The All-Star duo were a pitiful 17-of-87 (19.5%) from long distance during the regular season, and that just won’t fly in today’s pace and space era of basketball.

Although things rarely go according to plan in professional sports, the Spurs and their staff have the power to make the most of their resources. We’ve seen Coach Pop and General Manager R.C. Buford engineer a dynasty from scratch before. Who’s to say they can’t do it again?

12 COMMENTS

  1. Those trades are wishful thinking. Not that they’re bad, except for Mahini, they’re not terrible. What puts them into wishful thinking mode is that if you’re so down on Patty and Marco, what team *doesn’t* have the same concerns?

  2. The difference between the Spurs and the other teams is that playing Patty and Marco hurts the development of their young players. OKC and Utah likely consider themselves contenders and they’re both in need of more shooters and guard depth.

  3. Trade Patty Mills and Toronto’s 2019 first round pick. That will attract a suitor. Patty is the odd man out with DeJounte, DeMarr, Derrick, Lonnie, and Bryn at the guard position. Gotta free up that money. This draft is super deep. Spurs will find value where ever they pick. Spurs have got to get out of Pattys contract. That’s number one priority.

  4. Ithink the market is better than what people think for Patty and Belinelli. I could see the Spurs moving either Patty or Belinelli to a team in need of veterans to teach the youth, such as the Suns, kings, Orlando or teams needing to develop a winning attitude such as Pistons. It just depends on what the spurs get in return or give up in addition to our own players. Does the cost outweigh the gain.

  5. Remember guys George hill was traded for the 15th pick and a player overseas.
    Ideally we would trade the 29th pick and Marco for a top 20 pick. Teams might be interested because they will be receiving a nba ready 3pt shooter in exchange for a pick that might be a role player in a year.

  6. I thought this was a really interesting and intelligent piece. And I don’t disagree, except for Biyombo (unless he only has another year on his contract). But I think maybe we could expand trade possibilities to include Demar. I think he’s great, but not a good fit with LA. On some other teams, he may be able to play a more important role and be the second superstar. And so I think for example Demar to Minnesota for Dieng, Covington, and Saric. Or Demar to Charlotte for Batum and Hernangomez, and the right to swap first round draft picks. These kinds of trades, which I think are realistic, would improve three point shooting and defense, open up the lane, give LA more room to operate, and help fix the logjam in the backcourt. The one thing we would lose is a second dynamic scorer.

  7. I doubt Romeo Langford is who we should be looking at, since
    a) hes a shooting guard
    b) doesn’t defend
    c) cant shoot from even college 3
    d) not good playing off the ball
    e) we have 6 guards

    Unless you know something we dont… idk, I’d take a sf who is 3 & D.

    • Langford may not be your prototypical SF, but he’s intriguing because he is 6-6 with a 6-10 wingspan so he could be a bit of a tweener. Not sure why you say he can’t defend. I think he’s an excellent defender and that’s one of the best parts of his game. He certainly doesn’t have great range, but if he works on that area, he could be a 3 and D type player. i honestly think he’ll be gone by 19 though. Thybulle might be a good option at the late first round pick to feel that need for a 3.

  8. I’ll give you credit for the wingspan, that’s def a plus.. but as far as him being an excellent defender, his defensive win shares is .059, which is literally one of worst scores for a shooting guard in the whole draft (2nd or 3rd worst)

    Hes still very young so who knows, he could develop into a decent team defender down the road

  9. Some interesting trades. The only problem is Exum is never, every healthy, so that is a waste. Also, no team will take Marco and Patty together. And then Mahini is very meh. And John Henson is more meh. And then Jerami Grant is long, too long to play up front with LMA and Poeltl, which is why DeRozan ran so much at SF. Nobody is going to want Ben Moore since he is beyond the roster type of guy. As in no chance he makes the roster. Gotta remember Spurs were afraid to play Bertans vs. Denver, so up front they ran Poeltl, LMA and Gay and got beaten up by Jokic and Millsap.

    Other than that, those trades look good. Well, not really. Not at all.

    The draft is super deep and there are lots of potential steals: at #18: PJ Wash; Langford,; Bassey and then at #29: Thybulle; Grant W; Cam J; and other guys you simply cannot predict, only speculate. Second round, Admiral Schofield has the physical toughness to allow Spurs to match up with Torrey Craig, who pushed several Spurs around at SF, in the series.

    Guys the Spurs should look at: Marcus Morris (toughness), Thomas Bryant, Beverley (toughness), Rozier, Javale McGee (you laugh, but he plays big in the playoffs) and a few other guys.

  10. “While both guys [Eubanks and Ben Moore] were important contributors to San Antonio’s G-Leauge affiliate, only Eubanks showed a semblance of legitimate NBA potential.”

    I beg to disagree. Coach Ben Gundy of Team USA and the Mad Ants coach also disagree with your low view of Ben Moore.

    From “Jeff Van Gundy drops endless praise on Ben Moore” at https://247sports.com/college/smu/Article/Mustangs-Basketball-NBA-analyst-Jeff-Van-Gundy-praises-Ben-Moore-Indiana-Pacers-124087110/

    “[Moore is] a straight winner. He can be on any team in the NBA. Energy, passion, enthusiasm, defense, tenacity, rebounding, he’s working diligently on his shooting. Tough, hard nosed, nasty competitor.”

    From “Mad Ants’ Moore could be commodity” at http://www.journalgazette.net/blog/mad-antics/20181109/mad-ants-moore-could-be-commodity

    “I don’t know how much longer we’ll have Ben, to be honest with you,” Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey said. “He’s a great player. He just makes things happen. He can attack. He can go off the bounce. He made a 3 for us tonight. He just does a lot of things and he’s a winner, and you just want winners on the floor. He just makes things happen.”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

five × five =