Following another first-round exit for the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs last season, it can no longer be denied that they are not anymore the perennial championship contenders they once were just a few years back. The Big 3 era is over, and the team have also moved on from former cornerstone superstar Kawhi Leonard — something that may have proven to be a mistake following the two-time Finals MVP’s recent championship-winning season.
So what now? What will the Spurs need to do in order to not only stay relevant in a ruthless Western Conference, but to once again be considered as legitimate challengers for the title? There’s obviously no instant formula for success in this league, but what is certain is that this summer will definitely be an important one for the team in terms of their immediate future. Below are the three things San Antonio must focus on this summer to give themselves a shot at being relevant again.
Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV — these are the two young players the Spurs have to give attention to this summer. Aside from the returning Dejounte Murray, White and Walker are arguably the two most promising youngsters in the squad, and it would be wise for the San Antonio to try and focus on youth development this offseason.
White already showed what he can bring to the table last season, while Walker was barely able to crack head coach Gregg Popovich’s rotation. Nonetheless, we are expecting big things from both guys, and perhaps it is time that the Spurs give them bigger roles next season. This offseason will obviously be crucial in the development of both youngsters.
Gay is the Way
There’s no getting around it. The Spurs have to re-sign veteran wing Rudy Gay to an extension. The 32-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and given San Antonio’s salary cap situation, it isn’t likely that they will find a like-for-like replacement for Gay at the same price.
The 6-foot-8 forward bagged $10 million last year, and maybe the Spurs can re-sign him to a similar deal this season. 13.7 points (on 50.4 percent shooting), 1.1 three-pointers, 6.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.5 blocks in 69 appearances. This is what Gay put up last season, and San Antonio probably won’t be able to find anyone else in the market that can replicate these numbers for $10 million. Moreover, Gay has proven that he can thrive in Popovich’s system, so this should be a no-brainer for San Antonio.
A Proper Pick
The Spurs will be picking at No. 19, and while there likely won’t be any potentially franchise-altering prospects at this point in the draft, San Antonio will still be in a decent position to fill any void they may have on their side.
At this point, one of the biggest deficiencies the team exhibited last season is on the defensive end — particularly in the wing area. This is probably where a guy like Indiana freshman Romeo Langford will fit in perfectly. He may no longer be available at the 19th pick, but if the Spurs are lucky, they should definitely pounce on the 6-foot-6 wing.
Langford did not exactly have the best year with Indiana last season, and this might just cause his stock to drop. Nonetheless, he has the potential to become a formidable 3-and-D type of specialist for the Spurs. Admittedly, the 19-year-old still has quite a way to go before he reaches his full potential, but who better to aid in the development of a young and promising up-and-comer than the Spurs’ reputable coaching staff?
If San Antonio are able to pull off the three key points outlined above, then this gives them a better shot at having a more significant season next year. However, the truth of the matter is that at this point, there are still so many questions surrounding the franchise that require immediate answers.
How long will coach Pop remain on board? Are the Spurs fully committed to a DeMar DeRozan-LaMarcus Aldridge core? These are just a couple of perhaps the most relevant questions the team will need to ask themselves, and how they respond to these fundamental queries will have a tremendous impact on the direction they’re going to take.
Nonetheless, we’ll leave that for another, more comprehensive write-up. What San Antonio needs to focus on now is what’s right in front of them, and right now, it’s ensuring that they are able to cover all the bases this offseason.