As they do seemingly every year, the San Antonio Spurs just kept things rolling with another postseason appearance. The Spurs have made the playoffs in 39 out of their 43 NBA seasons, including for 22nd straight year in 2019. The Spurs added some panache to their playoff berth this season as it came after an offseason in which they traded Kawhi Leonard and saw their top two point guards suffer injuries in the preseason.
Now as they approach the offseason, it looks like the Spurs will have a very similar roster to start 19-20 as the one that ended their season with a first round Game 7 loss to the Denver Nuggets. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan will return to carry the offense. Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli, Jakob Poeltl and Davis Bertans are there to stabilize the bench. And Derrick White took a major step forward in his second year after he returned from injury.
What will be different, however, is Dejounte Murray will return from a torn ACL to team with White at the point guard spot. If White continues to improve as a shooter, the two could even play together at times in the San Antonio backcourt. A Murray-White backcourt would allow the Spurs to deploy some three-guard looks with Aldridge and DeRozan surrounded by guys who can be playmakers off the bounce.
Overall, Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford are probably a year away from any sort of major changes to the roster. It’s likely they’ll re-sign Rudy Gay, but the team’s other free agents are take it or leave it propositions. The Spurs don’t have enough cap space to do much else. They’ll have the Mid-Level Exception and minimum contracts to fill out the handful of open roster spots.
They’ll be players for some veteran free agents, especially those that can add some additional shooting on the wing. Expect San Antonio to be linked with Wayne Ellington, Reggie Bullock, James Ennis, and possibly Kyle Korver or Avery Bradley, if either of the latter two are waived by the Memphis Grizzlies. With point guards who are still developing as shooters, and DeRozan as only a so-so shooter, it’s imperative that the Spurs add some players who can reliably knock down perimeter shots.
Up front, San Antonio will probably add one more body to the Aldridge, Bertans and Poeltl mix. As it is on the wing, this could be a spot where the team looks for someone who can space the floor. Second-draft guys like Trey Lyles or Dragan Bender would make for good reclamation projects for the Spurs as both would likely come cheap enough.
At the draft, San Antonio added a couple of 19 year olds in Luka Samanic and Keldon Johnson. Samanic projects as a traditional power forward. He’ll need a couple more years of development before he’s ready to make an NBA impact, but the skills are there for the 6’10’’ big man. Johnson could make an impact earlier on, because he’s got a modern offensive skillset for a wing. He can knock down jumpers and also make plays by getting to the rim. Johnson needs some work as a passer and defender, and that will probably keep him mostly on the bench in his rookie season. Eventually, though Johnson should be a long-term fit along the wing.
One other player to keep an eye on for development is last year’s first round pick Lonnie Walker IV. Walker suffered through an injury-plagued rookie season, as he basically lost a year of development. When he was ready to play, he did most of his work in the G League. While with the Austin Spurs, Walker flashed a good scoring game, but did little to allay the concerns that he’s not much of a passer or defender. That said, every team can always use some bench scoring punch and Walker could eventually deliver that. He’ll be battling Johnson for minutes behind some well-established veteran wings.
It’s fairly rare that the Spurs make a splashy move as they did last summer when they traded Leonard. The normal course of action is for San Antonio to find projects, undervalued veterans and unknown players and to develop them into quality rotation pieces. Popovich and his staff are likely to have some work to do on that front once again this summer, as things get back to normal.
One thing is for certain: San Antonio probably won’t take on long-term money this summer in any sort of deal. Their cap sheet cleans up considerably over the next couple of summers. Aldridge and DeRozan each only have one more season after this 19-20. If there is a deal to be made that sets the Spurs up for the future, the front office will make it. But the most likely path is to just keeping doing what they do. Oh…and to make the playoffs once again for a 23rd straight year.
Guaranteed Contracts (12): LaMarcus Aldridge, Marco Belinelli, Davis Bertans, DeMar DeRozan, Drew Eubanks (Two-Way), Bryn Forbes, Chimezie Metu, Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray, Jakob Poeltl, Lonnie Walker IV, Derrick White
Partial/Non-Guaranteed Contracts (0): None
Potential Free Agents (5): Dante Cunningham (UFA), Rudy Gay (UFA), Ben Moore (RFA – Two-Way), Donatas Motiejunas (UFA), Quincy Pondexter (UFA)
“Dead” Money on Cap ($5,074,856): Pau Gasol
First Round Draft Pick(s): Luka Samanic, Keldon Johnson
Maximum Cap Space: $8.9 million
Projected Cap Space: None. $23.7 million over