When San Antonio missed the postseason in 2019-20 for the first time since the year prior to drafting Tim Duncan (1997), it felt like the Spurs might come roaring back into the playoffs in no time. Now, the club seems even further away, finishing 33-39 in 2020-21 in addition to losing key veterans DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay in the offseason, after buying out LaMarcus Aldridge last March.
San Antonio significantly tweaked the roster over the offseason, flipping the switch full bore into rebuild mode after two seasons of fighting to remain in contention, while simultaneously developing its young, promising talent. That’s not to say San Antonio won’t work to compete this season. The Spurs added veterans Doug McDermott, Thaddeus Young, Zach Collins, Bryn Forbes and Al-Farouq Aminu in the offseason and selected Josh Primo (12th) and Joe Wieskamp (41st) in the NBA Draft. Looking for extra help in developing this young roster, the Spurs convinced former franchise superstar Manu Ginobili to take on the role as a special adviser to basketball operations. Ginobili will help coach Gregg Popovich speed up the Spurs rebuild, along with assists from Hall of Fame power forward Tim Duncan, who frequently visits the team’s practice facility — where he keeps a locker in the coaches’ dressing room — to work with its young players.
With USA Basketball reportedly looking to replace Popovich as its coach before the start of the NBA season, the 72-year-old can turn his focus entirely back to the Spurs, but for how long? Popovich became the third coach to reach 1,300 wins last March, and he’s just 26 victories away from passing Don Nelson (1,335 career wins) in all-time career wins. Popovich insists the competitiveness of the game keeps him in it, and once said “if that diminished or disappeared, then I wouldn’t be doing this.” Luckily for Spurs fans, Popovich also relishes the challenge of developing this new generation of young players. “Those two factors, more than anything, keep me in it,” Popovich said last season. But again, for how long?
The Popovich factor means San Antonio likely captures more wins than we all expect because he’ll make sure this young team competes hard. But you can’t overlook the expected growing pains that inevitably come with one of the NBA’s youngest rosters. Just two players (Aminu and Young) on the roster are in their 30s, while 13 are age 25 or younger. Predicted finish: 33-49.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
Dejounte Murray: Defensive stopper continues to improve as a shooter and logged four triple-doubles last season.
Derrick White.: Played just 36 games last season, but when healthy White is one of the league’s better shot-blocking guards.
Doug McDermott: Team desperately needed vet’s shooting after finishing at or near the bottom of the NBA in every 3-point shooting category.
Keldon Johnson: After winning a gold medal in Tokyo, the 21-year-old is on the verge of a serious breakout season.
Jakob Poeltl: Averaged career-high 8.6 points last season, but the Spurs want even more from him on offense.
Bryn Forbes: Fresh off his first NBA title, Forbes reunites with the squad that originally took a chance on him as an undrafted rookie.
Lonnie Walker IV: Athletic playmaker is poised for an expanded role this season.
Zach Collins: If he stays healthy, the team’s gamble on the 10th pick of 2017 could pay off in a major way.
LAST 5 SEASONS
How the Spurs have fared stats-wise over the last 5 seasons …
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
STAT TO KNOW
0.485 — Bryn Forbes (0.507) and Doug McDermott (0.468) ranked first and third in points per touch among 325 players with at least 1,000 touches last season.
— John Schuhmann
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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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