Following a Game 4 loss and a series sweep at the hands of the powerhouse that is the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio must now begin to plan for next season. Getting swept in the Western Conference finals is not something Greg Popovich is accustomed to. With injuries to MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard and franchise point guard Tony Parker coming at the worst possible time, the dirt was metaphorically piled over the Spurs season and possibly their franchise as well.
We all know the Spurs have been a model of consistency ever since they selected Wake Forest big man Tim Duncan back in the 1997 draft. Since adding Duncan, San Antonio went on to add five NBA titles and not having one season (excluding the lockout-shortened 1998-1999 season) with fewer than 50 wins. Greg Popovich vouched for the Spurs to take Duncan in the draft and create a twin tower frontcourt alongside “The Admiral” David Robinson. That was a decision that set this franchise onto its eventual dynasty in the Western Conference.
Popovich was able to dip into the foreign market to piece together a team that he had wanted. He was able to find gems overseas in Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, to which he would mold into title contenders. Popovich is often known for his straight shooting personalities and blink-of-an-eye long courtside interviews. However, his on-court success as a head coach will slingshot him into the basketball hall of fame without a shadow of a doubt. Popovich became the head coach of San Antonio 19 games into the 1996-1997 season following the firing of head coach Bob Hill. In his first full season as the coach, he made the playoffs. Popovich then went on to make the playoffs in every year as the Spurs head coach.
So what is in store for the Spurs next season?
It is unclear if Manu Ginobili will return for one more season. At the age of 39, Manu Ginobili has poured his heart and soul into building this franchise to a championship contender each season. However, father time catches up to everybody and it looks like he has found his newest victim. Ginobili may also be joined on his way out by fellow backcourt member Tony Parker. Tony Parker exited out of the Western Conference semi-finals against the Houston Rockets in game 2 after he came down with a ruptured quadricep tendon. An injury like this may hint at Parker considering retirement as well.
It is clear there is help needed at the guard position for this current Spurs team. Even if Ginobili and Parker choose to stay, the future of this franchise must be carefully planned out. Kawhi Leonard ends up with a lot of the decision making plays in the fourth quarter. This is not a detriment to Leonard, he is more than capable of making the right basketball play. However, it should not be ignored that the amount of responsibility that he already has to endure both on offense and defense for this team to stay relevant. Adding a guard that can take the ball out of his hands and help with the load on defense is a major priority.
The perfect scenario would be to add Chris Paul. Paul is known to work extremely hard on defense and create chaos for the guards in the Western Conference. His ability to take over games in the fourth quarter not only with his decision making but his clutch shot-making ability makes this a very logical fit. LeMarcus Aldridge may not have thrived as well as some were expecting him to, but adding Chris Paul who is a wizard of the pick and roll will get him easy buckets and get his confidence to soar. Paul’s time with Clippers may very well be numbered after another early exit in the playoffs. Combining the two basketball minds as strong as Paul’s and Popovich’s creates intrigue and can’t help but offer great on-court production.
In the draft, the Spurs may want to look at a potential replacement for Danny Green who has two years remaining on his contract. Green provides a perimeter threat as well as a defensive presence that the Spurs will need for the next few years. However, Green will be 31 when his contract expires in 2019, and given the depth of this year’s draft class, it makes logical sense to find his replacement. A player like Villanova’s Josh Hart or Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell may be players that could logically fill that void.
The Spurs will need to add a big in the second round. They will look to do so with the hopes that their scouting department can unearth another potential gem late in the draft. Similar to how Manu Ginobili fell to them with the 57th overall selection in the 1999 draft.
With the Western Conference getting better each year, the Spurs have always found a way to stay relevant and always in contention. In order to do so in the present, Chris Paul must be a huge blip on their radar in the offseason. If they cannot land Paul, the chances of getting past the Western Conference finals are very bleak. Drafting has always been a strong point for the Spurs, and why should it change now? If they are able to land contributing rookies who can develop like Parker and Ginobili did, the resurgence of the San Antonio Spurs dynasty could be in full effect.