Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: San Antonio Spurs Season Preview

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CHARLOTTE, UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 23: Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio Spurs passing the Charlotte Hornets' defense during the NBA match between San Antonio Spurs vs Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum arena in Charlotte, NC, USA on November 23, 2016. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

After finishing 2nd place in the Western Conference and a trip to the Western Conference Finals, the San Antonio Spurs look to build on another successful season. Coming off another MVP caliber season, Kawhi Leonard is back and now has a new face across the wing in Rudy GayYet it has not gotten easier for the Spurs as almost every team in the West has reloaded with weapons to challenge the Warriors. Here is the 2017-18 San Antonio Spurs season preview.

Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: San Antonio Spurs Season Preview

What Worked Last Season

It was another historic season for Spurs but ended in disappointment as Leonard re-injured his ankle in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals after landing on Zaza Pachulia‘s foot. Back to back 60-win seasons from the Spurs could never look easier, considering the talent discrepancy. The Spurs’ offense ranked 14th in the league, but their defense was 2nd behind the Utah Jazz.

The Spurs will go as far as Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge take them and as Leonard improves every year, the latter isn’t. Aldridge had career lows in numerous areas including points per game, rebounds per game and shooting percentage. Leonard on the other hand had career highs in those same areas. The Spurs offense has not changed much in the past few years, still focusing on a slower pace with Aldridge on the floor. Do not expect the Spurs to get faster this year. With the addition of Gay, it will be interesting to see how  Gregg Popovich balances the floor this season.

What Needs Improvement

Coming off a 60-win season and a trip to the Western Conference Finals, there is not a lot you can say as to what needs improvement. Ask any Spurs fan and they will say if Leonard does not get injured in Game 1, they could have beaten the Warriors. Regardless, we are on to a new season and the Spurs will have to assert themselves again. Depth and age is still an issue and they are not getting younger. With Parker injured, Dejounte Murray will need to step up. The Spurs will do what the Spurs do best; win regular season games and put them in a position to succeed in the playoffs. But with four of their key players above 30 and not having health on their side, it can come back to haunt them in the playoffs.

Off-Season Changes

The 2017-18 NBA off-season might be craziest one ever, with superstars jumping from team to team. From Paul George being traded to Gordon Hayward‘s decision, there was not a shortage of news. But without surprise, the Spurs operated low to the ground. That did not mean they refrained from making moves, though. From signing Gay to letting Jonathon Simmons walk, it was a busy off-season.

Signing Gay to a two-year, $17 million contract could be one of the off-season’s best moves. The keyword is “could be,” considering the former Sacramento Kings forward is coming off a ruptured Achilles injury. At 30 years old, the chance of Gay returning to his old self is slim but not impossible. The move is a low-risk, high reward type of deal. If Gay can return to posting 18 and 6 overnight, the tandem of him and Leonard on the floor is scary enough. If not, the contract is only two years and most likely Gay will be healthier for the 2nd year rather then the 1st.

Staying Put with the Backcourt

Starting off in the backcourt, the Spurs re-signed longtime guards Manu Ginobili and Patty MillsGinobili re-signed on a two-year, $5 million deal that is fully guaranteed and brought back Mills for four years, $50 million. With Tony Parker out for the foreseeable future, Popovich will need Mills to handle the offense alongside Murray.

The biggest surprise was letting Simmons leave for the Orlando Magic. In his place, the Spurs signed Brandon Paul, who has spent the last four years bouncing around the G-League to playing overseas. After an impressive Summer League, he was signed to a two-year, $2 million contract.

The Spurs moves in the front court were head-scratching. The biggest move was re-signing 37 year-old forward Pau Gasol to a three-year, $48 million deal. They let Dewayne Dedmon leave for the Atlanta Hawks. While Gasol is a better offensive player then Dedmon, he is a liability on defense and was unplayable in certain games. The team also signed Joffrey Lauvergne to add frontcourt depth.

2017-18 Predictions

The Spurs biggest challengers for the 2-seed in the West are arguably the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Rockets added perhaps one the best Point Guards in NBA history with Chris Paul, while the Thunder added All-Stars George and Carmelo AnthonyNo way the Spurs finish 2nd in the West again, right? Maybe.

Even with Parker out for perhaps half of the year, the Spurs have a system that has been in place for decades. The last time the Spurs finished below 50 wins was 1998. Last year’s team won 61 games and could once again have a 50+ win season. Their placement in the West standings will depend on how quickly it will take for the Rockets and Thunder to mesh. The West could potentially have four teams with 55 wins or more, leaving little room for error.

 

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