2015-16 NBA Record: 67-15
Additions: Pau Gasol (Chicago Bulls), David Lee (Dallas Mavericks), Dewayne Dedmon (Orlando Magic)
Subtractions: Tim Duncan (retired), David West (Golden State Warriors), Boban Marjanovic (Detroit Pistons), Boris Diaw (traded to Utah Jazz)
Projected Starting Line-up:
PG – Tony Parker
SG – Danny Green
SF – Kawhi Leonard
PF – LaMarcus Aldridge
C – Pau Gasol
The heart, soul and franchise cornerstone of the Spurs retired this offseason, with Tim Duncan calling it a career. It’s the first time Gregg Popovich won’t have Duncan with him, which leaves Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge to fill the void left behind. The team is now firmly Kawhi Leonard’s and despite having a new-look team, Popovich is probably the only coach in the league who can make things work. The Spurs are still expected to compete with the Golden State Warriors this season.
Kawhi Leonard’s come a long way to become the new face of the Spurs. He was a strong defensive player coming into the league, where he’s won the Defensive Player of the Year award for 2 years in a row, but it’s his improvement on offense that has amazed everyone. Leonard’s ability to knock down threes, to shoot off the dribble and to finish at the rim makes him one of the most efficient and effective players in the league. Of course, his long arms, great footwork and instinct makes him a menace on defense when taking on the likes of Lebron James and Kevin Durant and he’ll have to take on a leadership role with Tim Duncan out of the picture. Tony Parker is the initiator of a pass-happy system and despite getting slower with age, he can still attack the rim and draw defenders in the paint. LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the best post players in the league with his ability to shoot over anyone, his ability to operate in isolation and his strong skill set. Danny Green will be looking to bounce back from a down year, where he struggled with injuries and new teammates. Green is a strong perimeter defender, but will need to increase his three point shooting accuracy to help with spacing. Pau Gasol comes in to replace Tim Duncan. He’s not a great defender like Duncan, but he’s still skillful in the post. He and LaMarcus Aldridge will need to develop chemistry and be tougher on defense to help the Spurs. Manu Ginobili is 39 years of age, but still plays with the same intensity and toughness that he came into the league with.
The reason Gregg Popovich is one of the best coaches in the NBA is his ability to adapt to any line-up. This year will have to be one of his biggest challenges without Tim Duncan and with Parker and Ginobili declining, Popovich will have to help guys like Kyle Anderson and Jonathan Simmons break out, as well as get Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge to get a strong frontcourt partnership going. Injuries and fatigue may be a concern this year with the main core well in their 30s, including Gasol and Aldridge, who are 36 and 31 respectively. The loss of a guy like Boris Diaw, who was perfect for Popovich’s system, will hurt this side. But of course the biggest loss is Duncan, who emotionally was the leader of the Spurs locker room. New leaders will have to step up and replace the heart and soul of the franchise. Regardless, you can’t bet against this Spurs team, which is why they’ll make the playoffs again this year as the #2 seed.
Prediction: 1st in Southwest Division