The San Antonio Spurs will arrive in Orlando trying to make the playoffs for the 22nd straight year. That includes every season Tim Duncan was in the league as well as the three since he left. But they have an uphill climb to get to that point, four games behind Memphis and with Sacramento, New Orleans and Portland in front of them. On top of that deficit, LaMarcus Aldridge along with his 18.9 points and 7.4 rebounds is done for the rest of the season following shoulder surgery in May.
The Spurs struggle because they’re led by DeMar DeRozan, a good scorer who has never adopted to the more modern game that’s dominated by three-pointers. He’s been an All-Star multiple times and the city of Toronto loves him but I would imagine Raptor fans love the championship they won without him even more.
The Spurs don’t really have anyone else on the team who can light it up from the perimeter. Bryn Forbes and Patty Mills lead the team in attempts and makes but the key to stopping this team has nothing to do with either one of them.
Jakob Poetl will be healthy and he will probably fill in some of the gaps left by Aldridge. The Spurs were excited to get him as part of the Kawhi Leonard deal and he’s only 24 but he’s never averaged more than 7 points per game. He may be great someday, but I don’t expect him to jump to another level in the eight games on their schedule.
Speaking of their schedule, they will have their chances to move up the ladder with games against the Kings, Grizzlies and Pelicans. but without Aldridge, they’re going to need more from DeRozan and more from the perimeter which, as we’ve already mentioned, just isn’t there for the Spurs, they’re third to last in the NBA in three-point attempts.
Gregg Poppovich will have this team be competitive in spite of their talent shortcomings but in the end it won’t be enough to pass up the Pelicans and the 22-year playoff streak will come to an end. Assuming DeRozan opts into his $27M option for next season, the Spurs will pretty much be the same team again next year. If the younger guys like Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker continue to improve, they should be in the mix for a playoff spot again next year. Murray will get a big bump in salary next season when his extension kicks in and White and Walker may get modest extensions as well but the Spurs will need some draft wizardry to become a contender again in the near future.
The Spurs have always timed their down years well, snagging the #1 picks in 1987 and 1997 to pick up David Robinson and Tim Duncan, respectively. They managed to create a dynasty with other great draft moves like finding Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and trading a young George Hill for the rights to Kawhi Leonard. Everything comes off their books after the 2021 season so they may be down once again in 2022 or 2023, either one of which could be the year the next big thing, Emoni Bates, becomes eligible.