Death, taxes, and the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs. That’s what fans of the NBA have come to expect from one of the league’s best franchises. They have made the postseason every year for the last 20 years, a NBA record. But after Kawhi Leonard was sidelined by an ankle injury and the Spurs were swept by the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, the team has some questions to answer. Kawhi Leonard is a bonafide superstar and the new centerpiece of the team but after that, there is a bit of grey area.
Tuesday night’s loss at the hands of the Warriors may have been the last game of Manu Ginobili’s hall-of-fame career. Even if he decides to return for one more season, he is not the player he once was in his prime and the Spurs are aware of that. They must also address the point guard position, with Tony Parker being 35 and having to come back from a ruptured quadriceps tendon injury he suffered in the second round of the playoffs. Backup point guard Patty Mills is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so the Spurs will have to make a decision on their backcourt. The Spurs could elect to dip into this year’s free agency pool and target proven veterans like Chris Paul or Kyle Lowry. However, they have a bevy of young talent at the guard position, like Dejounte Murray, Jonathon Simmons, and Kyle Anderson. All played well following Parker’s injury, especially Simmons, who filled in for Leonard when he went down with his injury. Each player provided energy and quickness that Parker lacked at times. They are sure to improve over the following years under Coach Gregg Popovich’s system.
The Spurs must also decide on if they want to include power forward LaMarcus Aldridge in their future plans. Aldridge, who was seen as the heir apparent to Tim Duncan, has two years left on a 4-year, approximately $84 million deal, but struggled throughout the playoffs and has reportedly been on the trade block in the past. With 11 years in the league under his belt, it’s safe to question whether Aldridge’s best basketball has passed him. Power forward Paul Gasol has a player option for the next year but is past his prime at age 36. David Lee came off the bench this year, but is 34 and partially tore his patellar tendon in his left knee in Game 3 of the Conference Finals. The Spurs must inject some youth into their frontcourt this offseason.
The Spurs have a history of continuity and consistency and should have no problem making the necessary changes they need to compete for a championship again next season. With a few shrewd business decisions and some better injury luck, they could very well be in a position to dethrone the Warriors and retake supremacy in the Western Conference next year.