You and I are not used to seeing the Spurs out of the playoffs, but that happened last year. It came down to a strong Western Conference, and also all the Kawhi Leonard drama. He sat most of the season, which left a hole for the Spurs. The Western Conference is loaded, and LeBron James now on the left side is going to make the run much more difficult for the Spurs. They added DeMar DeRozan in the Kawhi trade, which will help them this year, but how much? The Spurs will be in the race, but a lot of teams will be within the 6-10 range.
It took a long time to overcome, but the Spurs eventually moved on from Kawhi Leonard. This was an unusual scenario because the Spurs rarely have any sort of drama, especially in the Greg Popovich era. The positive for the Spurs is that they were able to send Leonard away from the Western Conference. While this could just be temporary, you don’t want to create any more super teams to go through. The Spurs can now move on, and the addition of DeRozan will help, and also Jakob Poeltl is a terrific depth move, who could actually start ahead of Gasol.
The NBA has changed so much offensively, while the Spurs continue to rely on ball movement and good defense. They are now sitting with a roster that is very limited behind the three point line. DeMar DeRozan started taking more three pointers last season, but just three a game, and at 31%. LaMarcus Aldridge is an old school power forward, so it makes you question if this offense can keep pace with most in their conference. DeRozan is going to carry similar usage in Toronto, which helps, but DeRozan’s offense take a bit of time to get going. It will be a transition for DeRozan and the Spurs.
Dejounte Murray was headed in for a major role for the offense. It was his second year in the league last year, and his minutes were on the rise. Heading into his third season, Murray just tore his ACL which is going to lead to a missed season. The Spurs let Tony Parker go to Charlotte, and Derrick White is going to miss the first month of the season. This is going to lead to a lot of Patty Mills and Bryn Forbes to start the season. The Spurs have been here before, but now all of the veterans are gone.
With Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green now out of San Antonio, this is going to hurt defensively. Now in a conference with Paul George, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant at small forward, you need a lockdown defender, which was Kawhi. Green was also an underrated defender, and losing him against a main guard is going to hurt as well. The Spurs are likely going to slip a bit because of these losses, and it will show with the Western Conference being so dominant. The Spurs still ranked 4th in defensive rating without Kawhi last year, but a few teams could slip ahead.