The Spurs have had a rollercoaster of an offseason. The organization lost its long-time point guard Tony Parker, as well as a young, potential-filled piece in Kyle Anderson. Additionally, and most importantly, the Spurs traded away Danny Green—a solid shooting guard— to the Toronto Raptors. Oh, and Kawhi Leonard, too, that 6’7” defensive specialist who missed virtually all of last season with a suspicious quad injury. In return, they received All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, along with Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick.
Some say the Spurs made a great trade, while others have said they made a big mistake. Regardless of how good or bad the trade was, what’s done is done. There’s no going back. So with this new-look Spurs squad, many are questioning how far the Spurs will actually go this year.
ESPN predicts that San Antonio will miss the playoffs, which I completely disagree with. I think the Spurs will be at least a 47-win team, and make the playoffs with ease. Many people underrate LaMarcus Aldridge. The Spurs big-man averaged 23.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game last season. A dominant center like Aldridge is something that DeRozan never really had while playing for the Raptors (raw-talented center Jonas Valanciunas primarily played center throughout his time in Toronto).
This new environment in San Antonio will allow DeRozan to score much more since he’s got Aldridge as another scoring threat. In Toronto, there were no other fierce scorers that teams had to focus on locking down all game, hence they could shut down DeRozan by double-teaming him or assigning its best defender to guard him. Now, as teams worry about Aldridge, DeRozan’s job will be easier. People forget that the 6’7” guard has a nose for the basket. He uses his speed to get to the rim and his strength and athleticism to finish. He’s also deadly from mid-range, and can be a threat from outside the arc.
Under head coach Gregg Popovich, DeRozan will have offensive sets run specifically for him, as he’ll be able to run the offense, and make plays for his team. While I think that DeRozan’s 23 points per game last season will increase to at least 28 points this year, I also think that he’ll become a more unselfish player. Since he won’t be the only scoring option, the Compton-raised star will distribute the ball more. Additionally, DeRozan will serve as a mentor to the Spurs youngsters, including Lonnie Walker IV and Dejounte Murray.
The Spurs’ new leader will take the team to the playoffs, but they are also not to be underestimated in the postseason. San Antonio most likely won’t make it to the championship or even the Western Conference Finals because of the Western Conference powerhouses like the Warriors, Lakers, Rockets, and Thunder. However, what they will do is send a message. Which ever team they face, they’ll put up a fight and make it tough for the opponent to advance. And if they do lose, they’ll at least be showing what this new-look squad is capable of in its first year together. As the team develops and continues to build, San Antonio will for sure be a scary force to look out for in upcoming years. Don’t be surprised if the organization finds itself back in the Finals in the subsequent years of next season.