It was yet another uneventful year for the San Antonio Spurs in 2018-19, with the team winning 48 regular-season games, making the playoffs for the 22nd year in a row and surpassing preseason expectations yet again. Ho-hum. Sarcasm aside, after trading away their best player last summer and losing their projected starting point guard Dejounte Murray just before the start of the campaign, many believed this would finally be the year San Antonio fell below the playoff line due to a lack of firepower.
The Spurs dispelled that notion very quickly. LaMarcus Aldridge posted an All-Star season, averaging 21.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game; DeMar DeRozan made up for some of the offensive void left behind by Kawhi Leonard, putting up 21.2 points and 6.2 assists per contest; and Derrick White covered for Murray’s absence admirably, taking over the starting lead-guard role and averaging an impactful 9.9/3.7/3.9 stat line. San Antonio went so far as to push an exciting and young Denver Nuggets to seven games in the first round of the playoffs before finally succumbing to the talent disparity.
Eventually, the Spurs are going to want to change that talent disparity and get back in the hunt for championships. But due to cap restraints, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to get much outside help this summer, so San Antonio will have to rely on continuity, internal development and Gregg Popovich for them to make a jump in 2019-20.
It’s worked out for them before.
GUARANTEED CONTRACTS FOR 2019/20
DeMar DeRozan: $27,739,975
LaMarcus Aldridge: $26,000,000
Patty Mills: $12,428,571
Davis Bertans: $7,000,000
Marco Belinelli: $5,846,154
Jakob Poeltl: $3,754,885
Bryn Forbes: $2,875,000
Lonnie Walker: $2,764,200
Dejounte Murray: $2,321,735
Derrick White: $1,948,080
Chimezie Metu: $1,416,852
San Antonio, as was the norm pre-Kawhi, should have a pretty quiet and drama-free summer. The only major decision they’ll have to make regarding their impending free agents will revolve around Rudy Gay, who is coming off an unheralded but solid campaign where he averaged 13.7 points and 6.8 rebounds, shot 40.2 percent from three and filled the role of stretch power forward very nicely. If the Spurs were to let Gay walk, they would go from being over the cap to having roughly $5.2 million in cap space, but that’s not nearly enough money to make losing the veteran forward worthwhile. The safer course of action for San Antonio, and the smarter one, would be to bring Gay back and use his early Bird Rights to sign him to a longer contract. It’s clear Gay has bounced back from the Achilles injury from a few years ago, and his fit with the Spurs this season was perfect as a complementary piece. This reunion should get done quickly once free agency opens up.
Apart from Gay, San Antonio will have another important decision to make this summer, and that’s whether or not to extend DeRozan. Because the four-time All-Star guard has a player option on the final year of his deal in 2020-21, that makes him eligible to be extended this summer, and judging by how the Spurs usually operate, it’s at least somewhat possible they choose to offer him that extension. He still has his warts as a player, but DeRozan was one of San Antonio’s most reliable bucket-getters this season, so Popovich and Co. will probably at least consider securing him for the long haul this offseason.
Finally, it’ll be interesting to see if San Antonio does anything to clear up the glut of young guards they currently have on the roster. Next year, they’ll have a returning Murray finally healthy, White coming back, Bryn Forbes, who just had a career season shooting from the outside (42.6 percent), and Lonnie Walker, who the team is presumably still high on. Add DeRozan and Marco Belinelli to the mix and that’s a lot of guys fighting for a set amount of nightly playing time. In the past, the Spurs have surprised by trading or letting young guards walk when no one expected them to, as was the case with George Hill and Cory Joseph. Could they be planning to spring another surprise on us this offseason, if they find the right deal?
POTENTIAL FREE AGENT TARGETS
Thaddeus Young: From the midrange game to the defensive versatility and team-first attitude, there might not be a more Spurs player coming available this summer than Young. San Antonio hasn’t hesitated to use their mid-level exception before; trying to do the same with Young would make a lot of sense.
Marcus Morris: The Spurs could use another stretch power forward, especially one with toughness on the defensive end. Morris could be a good fit.
Taj Gibson: Another player who fits the San Antonio mold, Gibson’s backdown game, midrange prowess and defensive intensity would give the Spurs another solid option to back up Aldridge.
POTENTIAL TRADE TARGETS
If the Spurs do pull off a deal this summer it’ll come out of left field, so we feel better not even speculating on specific players they could target on the trade market until there’s actually rumblings of them planning to do so. It should be noted, though, that between owning multiple first-round picks this year and their excess of young, talented guards on rookie-scale deals, San Antonio certainly has the assets necessary to execute a big trade this offseason.
2019 DRAFT ASSETS
San Antonio will select 19th and 29th overall in the upcoming 2019 draft. They also have their own second-round pick to use this summer.