The Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas released the over/under for NBA win totals for the upcoming season. One of the surprises was the San Antonio Spurs. The over/under for the Spurs sit at 43.5, which would leave them out of the playoffs entirely. Not only can the Spurs expectations can be exceeded from last season, but they can certainly jump to a third or fourth seed and make a Conference Finals run this season.
San Antonio Spurs Will Exceed Expectations This Season
Reflecting on Last Season
Last season, the Spurs seemed to have a lot go wrong. Their franchise player Kawhi Leonard battled injuries the entire year. As a result he appeared in only nine games, in which he averaged only 23.3 minutes per game and was not fully healthy. The media coverage and uncertainty surrounding his status were large distractions throughout the season. Leonard’s unavailability and the constant speculation seemed to create tension in the locker room as well.
As the season went on, rumors began to heat up that Leonard wanted to leave San Antonio. Various injuries to rotation players did not leave the Spurs with much depth. In addition, their free agent acquisition Rudy Gay missed 25 games. This put the pressure on LaMarcus Aldridge to carry the offense. Despite the obstacles, San Antonio still managed to get the seventh seed in the Western Conference and win 47 games without an All-Star to pair with Aldridge.
The DeMar DeRozan Trade
On July 18, the Spurs traded Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a 2019 first round pick. DeRozan averaged 23 points per game and was on the All-NBA second team last season. Gregg Popovich and the Spurs system could take DeRozan’s game to even greater heights. Aldridge and DeRozan give San Antonio two star players who score over 20 points every night. Poeltl was the ninth pick in the 2016 NBA Draft by Toronto. Although he only played in 18.6 minutes per game last season, Poeltl was a reliable big off the bench that flashed some upside. He shot 65.9% from the field and averaged 1.2 blocks per game. Entering his third season, there is a reason to believe that his game can take a leap with the Spurs.
Newfound Strength and Continuing Development
The Spurs backcourt will be a major strength for them this season. Parker departed to Charlotte, but that should open up more minutes for Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker and Derrick White. Murray, who is entering year three, should continue to improve with his expanding role. He played extremely well after replacing Tony Parker in the starting lineup and was a bright spot for the Spurs. Murray averaged 10.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2 steals after the All-Star break and should take another step forward this upcoming season.
DeRozan most likely will be an All-Star again, and will certainly be a major improvement over Green at shooting guard. Manu Ginobili provides a veteran presence and is still a solid player. Patty Mills provides depth and is still a good three-point shooter. He shot 37.2% from deep last season and is only one year removed from shooting 41.4% from three. During the NBA Draft, the Spurs selected Walker 18th overall. Walker was one of the best athletes in the draft and has a great deal of potential. He is still raw and I do not expect him to contribute much in year one, but I would never underestimate what Popovich can do for a player’s development.
The San Antonio Spurs are coming off of a season that was filled with uncertainty and that forced them to use a diluted version of their roster. The Leonard trade allowed to Spurs to add an All-NBA player in DeRozan to a 47 win team. It also freed the team from distractions. It is reasonable to expect third-year leaps from Poeltl and Murray, and they are still coached by the best coach in the NBA. The Spurs expectations should be in the mid-tier of the Western Conference and to extend their playoff streak to 22 straight seasons.