The San Antonio Spurs have not been relevant in the NBA title conversation since winning 61 games back in 2016-17. Since then, they have been disposed of in the first round of the playoffs in two consecutive seasons. Now on a downward spiral without a clear direction to move forward, it’s time for San Antonio to start over with a rebuild that does not include one Gregg Popovich.
The big picture: This is not about Pop and the success he’s had. It’s not about the Association somehow moving on from his old-school ways. Instead, it’s all about the Spurs finding a new model and a new philosophy moving forward.
Let us explain.
San Antonio heads into this week’s action with a 5-8 record. It ranks 23rd in the NBA in scoring defense and 24th in defensive rating. This is not how Popovich built his five championship teams with the Spurs.
We’re not attempting to overreact to a slow start to one season. Instead, it’s all about looking to the future in San Antonio. And it’s bleak right now.
Western Conference: Even if the Spurs were to grab a bottom-two playoff spot out west, they are looking at yet another early postseason exit.
- Given what we’ve seen from the Lakers, Clippers, Rockets, Jazz and Nuggets thus far this season, there’s absolutely zero reason to believe San Antonio is looking at even a mildly deep playoff run.
- As of right now, San Antonio’s top two scorers, DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, are averaging a combined 38 points per game.
- Western Conference contenders have elite defensive players that can shut down either one of these players in a moment’s notice.
- As it relates to DeRozan, that includes the likes of LeBron James, Avery Bradley, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard Paul George and Patrick Beverley from the Lakers and Clippers alone.
The roster dynamic: As currently formed, there’s very little upside on San Antonio’s roster. At the very least, not enough upside for this team to be a contender.
- DeRozan and Aldridge are tapped out in terms of the upside they bring to the table. We’re not talking about young rising stars such as Pascal Siakam and the likes here.
- That’s the biggest issue for San Antonio. The roster we see today is likely to be the best version of this team short of dramatic changes moving forward.
- If you’re not getting better, you are declining as a team. That’s the motto in today’s ever-evolving NBA, especially in the Western Conference. The Spurs are not going to get better with this current core.
Blowing it up: With all of that said, the Spurs have enough proven veteran pieces to start anew with a rebuild.
- There’s good news on this front. Both DeRozan and Aldridge can provide San Antonio with assets to start anew with a rebuild.
- DeRozan has a player option of $27.7 million next season. He’s unlikely to exercise it. Meanwhile, Aldridge is on the hook for a cap hit of just $24 million next season. That’s decent.
- San Antonio could move these two players in separate trades and bring in a combination of young players and draft pick assets for a rebuild.
- In turn, the Spurs could start a rebuild around the young group of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker as well as they assets they acquire in these hypothetical trades.
Pop’s age and the Spurs’ coaching dynamic: San Antonio would not have to look outside of the organization to find a replacement.
- As has been the case throughout his historical run in San Antonio, Popovich has built up one heck of a coaching staff.
- This season, that includes head-coaching candidate Becky Hammon and NBA legend Tim Duncan. Either one would be a great option to replace the longtime head coach.
- At 70 years old, we’re not even sure Popovich would want to go through a rebuild.
That leads us to our final point: Would San Antonio be forced to keep up with this charade that includes a faux hope of contention to pacify Popovich?
It sounds harsh. But this is the professional sports world.
The bottom line: The Spurs are 5-8 on the season. They are going nowhere fast. It’s quickly becoming a bad fit with Popovich. Move on with someone like Hammon and potentially let Pop finish out his career coaching a contender or ride off into the sunset.
It really would be the best of both worlds.