This offseason has been deeply weird for the San Antonio Spurs. Everything about it is reminiscent of when Krusty the Clown lost the rights to broadcast episodes of Itchy and Scratchy to that SOB Gabbo.
Left to broadcast weird Eastern European cartoons, fifteen seconds of nonsense is followed by a cut back to a bemused Krusty. All he can do is puff on his cigarette and blurt an obvious question.
“What the hell was that?”
Fortunately for San Antonio, their fans are a bit more loyal to them than Krusty’s, but they have some work to do to stay relevant in 2019. A lot of work. That cap sheet is not a pretty picture.
Pau Gasol. Patty Mills. LaMarcus Aldridge. The Spurs probably didn’t get enough credit for winning as many games as they did last season, but feasting on bad teams won’t come as easily now.
The Dallas Mavericks have invested a lot in Luka Doncic, DeAndre Jordan, and Harrison Barnes. They won’t be aiming for the bottom come October. Same goes for the Memphis Grizzlies, who should welcome Mike Conley back to the lineup and also did well to draft Jaren Jackson Jr.
LeBron James is in Los Angeles – no more need be said about that one. The Clippers have retained a gamut of good, if not necessarily great players. Denver won’t settle for anything less than a playoff appearance.
And it’s hard to see any of last season’s post-season players taking a step back. (Although just quietly, the groundwork for a major catastrophe has been laid out in Minnesota.)
So what do the Spurs need to do to stay competitive in the short time, while also re-tooling to stay relevant in the seasons to come? First of all, they need to get the most out of Pau Gasol – and that value will come off the court.
Gasol’s contract is rough. There’s no getting around that. But they at least have not one, but two promising European big men on the roster after the trade.
Davis Bertans has been in San Antonio for two years now and is joined by Jakob Poetl, who was taken 9th overall in the 2016 draft. Statistically, the two are fairly similar. That makes lineups with Aldridge and Gasol interesting.
Bertans played more at the four and played second fiddle to LaMarcus Aldridge, while Poetl had more opportunities in his second year.
The Spurs ought to be developing both big men to be reliable fourth or fifth starters. Neither are stars, but both are good value complementary players.
Bertans’ ability to step out and hit threes is valuable, and something worth testing out with Poetl in the pre-season.
Aldridge will still be the leading man in the middle for the Spurs. Gasol’s contract isn’t movable, and he’s getting older, but he hasn’t been awful on the court either.
But the big theme of the summer for the Spurs is that it’s the end of an era.
Gregg Popovich was famous for saying the Spurs zagged while the rest of the league zigged. It’s time to see if he can set the trend once again.