The post-Tim Duncan era San Antonio Spurs look good on paper, but the true test comes when the season begins in October.
Indeed, in the two-plus weeks since Duncan’s retirement–and, some may argue, even before then–the Spurs, in their typical way, have been quietly preparing for the end of the 19-season Duncan Era.
Boris Diaw (*sob*), Boban Marjanovic and David West (and possibly Matt Bonner) are out. Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili and David Lee are in. Dejounte Murray got drafted. Kyle Anderson and Jonathon Simmons are stepping up.
Ryan Arcidiacono and Bryn Forbes were solid in Summer League and are battling for the final roster spot (along with everyone else in September’s training camp).
These offseason roster moves have garnered general praise across the board (especially the drafting of Murray, which was considered to be one of the best steals of the 2016 NBA Draft when he fell to the Spurs’ pick at No. 29).
Still, everyone acknowledges that the departure of Duncan leaves a hole too big to be adequately filled, though the Spurs are trying.Perhaps the brightest beacon of light is the emergence of third-year player Kyle Anderson and second-year player Jonathon Simmons as solid linchpins alongside new franchise face Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Tony Parker and Ginobili are the last two-thirds of the aging former Big Three and thus are not going to be expected to carry the load as they did in previous years.
This may be Ginobili’s last season in the league (which would make sense, given the huge payday he got from the Spurs in the offseason), so expect him and the Spurs to make it count.
Parker, who only showed flashes of his former glory in the past two seasons, will be entering training camp after playing for the French national team in the 2016 Olympics this summer–which included a slew of qualifying games leading up to the main event (and a newborn baby).
Not that it matters: most fans are still trying to figure out who they are (who remembers a player draft-and-stashed from two years ago?), or if they can actually bring something to the table despite the hype (hi, Cady Lalanne).
Murray, for all of his potential, is still very young (he’ll turn 20 by the time training camp rolls around) and will need time to develop. He’ll likely be spending a significant amount of time with the Austin Spurs.
Ditto for whomever makes the final roster, be it Arcidiacono, Forbes or another untested player. The onus will be on the New Big Three (Leonard, Green, and Aldridge), plus Anderson and Simmons, to keep the Silver and Black Train on track.
It remains to be seen if Aldridge will continue the progress he made over the past season, with regard to getting the Spurs system down pat.
The aggression that made him a fan favorite in Portland was streaky this past season, and will need to be resurrected to keep the Spurs in playoff contention (which means: competitive with the Golden State Warriors, who are still the new standard of the new NBA, despite the Cleveland Cavaliers defeating them to win the 2016 NBA championship).
Speaking of playoffs: the Spurs have now succumbed (out of necessity) to the shoot-happy culture that is the new NBA. The new roster has not only added some needed rim protection, but also shooters. Murray is a two-way player in the mold of Leonard and better than advertised.
With contributions from Green and Patrick Mills (and Bonner, if the Spurs keep him), the Spurs should be able to hold their own against the three-point barrages of the Warriors.
Arcidiacono is a pure point guard who could take some of the pressure off Parker. Though his numbers aren’t flashy and he’s not a scorer, he is good at making plays and setting his teammates up to make baskets.
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Another takeaway from the new roster: youth. With the exception of Ginobili (39), Parker (33), Aldridge (31), Lee (33) and Gasol (36), the rest of the roster are younger than age 30.
Andre Miller (40) hasn’t made an official decision yet as to whether or not he’s returning this season but if he did, he’d keep his crown as the oldest active player in the league (he’s only a month and some change older than Duncan).
Hopefully he stays, as the Spurs bench still needs some bolstering.
As a fan, I’m cautiously optimistic about how the Spurs will fare this upcoming season, even as I’m sad about the new faces that have emerged, because of who they’ve replaced (I love me some Borista!).
I’d love to be a fly on the wall in the Spurs’ locker room the first time someone moves into Duncan’s old locker. Anyway, I’m ready for the reports from training camp in September.