San Antonio Spurs: Criteria for a good 2019-20 season

Photos by Chris Covatta/NBAE via Getty Images
Photos by Chris Covatta/NBAE via Getty Images /

The San Antonio Spurs are going to have to make some improvements and keep old ideas in place in the 2019-20 season. This year is going to be pivotal.

It’s October, the leaves are starting to change and there is NBA basketball on at night. That means the San Antonio Spurs can start playing meaningful basketball right in front of your eyes. It sparks joy, you might not know what to do with yourself until the Spurs tip-off against the New York Knicks on the 23rd.

What is it going to take for this Spurs team to put out a good season? Where’s the ceiling and where is the floor? Certainly, the Spurs are not in the same spot as the Charlotte Hornets, who’s ceiling is somehow lower than the roof. But they also can’t be the LA Clippers, whose offseason splashes brought them from the middle to the top of the league. Instead, like any other year, the Spurs are simply that, the Spurs.

An identity shaped for two decades shows them to be fundamental-oriented, ball-sharing, glass-crashing forces of nature that rarely make mistakes. This rendition of the Spurs gets to assign themselves to most of that.

Last season, they turned the ball over on average less than any other team. They had the best 3-point percentage in the league and finished on top of the league in free throw percentage.

Yet they played last season with some injury problems. These were issues that led to their future franchise piece Dejounte Murray sitting out for the year, and issues that led to poor defensive statistics as a team. They simply did not get enough production. All in all, it was a decent regular season as the team won 48 games and then took the second seed Denver Nuggets to seven games in the opening round of the postseason.

Solid fringe All-Star seasons from DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge helped allow a breakout season from guard Derrick White.

This year, the Spurs will have to continue their efficiency while upping the production. Murray is coming back, Lonnie Walker IV will get a chance at a full season under his belt and the team is as deep as any team in the league.

That efficiency is a key part of the Spurs’ history. Their success will depend on repeating previous years’ positives and closing out tough games. The Spurs have an interesting place in the Western Conference and they have to elevate to the top teams in the conference and handle the worse teams.

They have to avoid the NBA purgatory of winning enough games to be a fringe playoff team but not being a competitor. I do not think we see a world where the Spurs tank under Gregg Popovich, but they need to start accumulating more talent as their All-Stars age.

There are about 11 playoff-caliber teams other than the Spurs out west. They can be separated into tiers. The “Multiple All-Stars” teams with the elite firepower: The Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, and the LA Clippers. The “Elite personnel” in the Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, and Denver Nuggets and then it is the “We should be better, right?” teams in the Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Sacramento Kings.

San Antonio probably belongs in the “Elite personnel” group, but I chose to leave them out right now because they just feel harder to assess. There is this battle of old vs. new we see so often in the league and I think the Spurs are always adapting in their specific ways.

The Spurs have to come out and dominate teams like Minnesota and Dallas. They have to dismantle them and outclass them on both sides of the court. The Spurs match up well against a couple of those teams. San Antonio has starters who can close out games and a bench that can take over.

By doing this, the Spurs will establish confidence and give the fans some ground to work off of when assessing them. It is not about finding an identity in the offense or defense, it is about their place in the conference and the league as a whole. Come April and May, they will be in the top tier of the west again.

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This season is about getting healthy, staying efficient, and finding a place in the Western Conference. Those are all symptoms of getting guys like Dejounte Murray back into the system and establishing a young core. More importantly, they are symptoms of a good team that will destroy preseason analytics and predictions.