It was a roller coaster 2018-19 season for the San Antonio Spurs. They made the playoffs despite losing their former franchise player Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors. There were times when the Spurs looked like championship contenders (9-0 from late February to mid-March) and there were times when they looked like a lottery team (1-8 prior to the 9-game winning streak).
This was one of the most unpredictable Spurs teams we’ve witnessed in recent years. After an early exit in the postseason, management will be hard at work to get this team back to being title worthy. General Manager R.C. Buford and coach Gregg Popovich have plenty late nights this summer.
It’s going to take a lot of salary-cap maneuvering for the Spurs to make a big splash in the offseason as they are projected to have roughly $104 million in committed salaries aside from their two first-round picks this June. A big free-agent signing is practically out of the question unless they can work on a trade or two to get themselves under the cap.
So what are Buford and Pop going to do this offseason? Here are three bold offseason predictions for the Spurs:
3. Spurs will keep Rudy Gay but…
The capped-out Spurs have very little choice but to re-sign Rudy Gay using his Ealy Bird Rights since there are few small forwards with his combination of skill, length and size that they can afford. He’s a key player who plays major minutes (26.7 per game) for a team in transition.
He was inconsistent but necessary. That’s to be expected after the multi-talented forward played in his 12th season in the league. Expect him to re-sign for a cool $17.7 million this offseason.
However, don’t think that the Spurs are content to rely on Gay for the future of this franchise. They have a good mix of youth and veterans but will look for younger legs as the season progresses. If a team decides that it wants to acquire the multi-talented forward’s services, San Antonio won’t hesitate to take the opportunity if it’s in exchange for a younger but developing player with comparable skills.
2. Dejounte Murray will get an extension offer
After Dejounte Murray went down with a season-ending ACL injury last October, the Spurs will be happy to welcome back their starting point guard. Prior to the injury, he was projected to have a career year in San Antonio with the departure of Tony Parker to the Charlotte Hornets.
Murray is an excellent defender and at 6-foot-5, one of the biggest point guards in the league. His offensive game is also improving and he has the potential to become an elite playmaker but doubts will remain until he can prove that his injury didn’t rob him of his explosiveness.
The Spurs are wary of giving him an extension before the start of the season. Then again, if they can lock him into a team-friendly deal that won’t keep them from imploding financially, expect the Spurs to offer Murray a contract-extension this offseason and for the young guard to remain a Spur for the next few years.
1. Pop will get DeMar DeRozan to work on his threes
The Spurs were just happy to get rid of an unhappy camper on their roster when they shipped Leonard off to Toronto. But after an entire season to evaluate the trade, it’s clear that San Antonio got the short end of the stick.
DeRozan is a terrific mid-range shooter who took great strides in his 3-point shooting the previous three seasons. But he regressed this season as he shot the least number of threes he’s taken since his rookie season as he shot 7-of-45 from beyond the arc for a 15.6 percent shooting clip. That’s not good enough for a shooting guard in this era. Though he still averaged 21.2 points per game, DeRozan has to evolve and diversify his repertoire if he wants to stay relevant in today’s game. He has no excuse.
On a positive note, the rest of his game improved as DeRozan shot 48.1 percent from the field, his second-best career mark, and set career highs with 6.2 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game. That’s a testament to Pop’s influence on the All-Star guard. This offseason, the future Hall-of-Fame coach can be a bigger influence on DeRozan by imploring him to work on his 3-point shooting this summer.
DeRozan is due for an extension this summer at $149.1 million for four years. The Spurs are likely going for a wait-and-see approach before committing that much money.