The San Antonio Spurs lost a legend and future Hall of Famer in Tim Duncan, but they did their best to replace him with another future Hall of Famer in Pau Gasol. With Boris Diaw and Boban Marjanovic out the door as well, the Spurs replenished their depth in the frontcourt in the form of Dewayne Dedmon, David Lee and a few youngsters. Oh, yeah, Manu Ginobili is back for what’s likely his last season. Will the Spurs take a step back in 2016-17?
1. Best move of offseason
Michael Erler: At the risk of being obvious, the Spurs’ best move was easily replacing one future Hall of Famer center in Tim Duncan with another in Pau Gasol. The 35-year-old Spaniard will be a sorely-needed offensive upgrade and is someone who can play from the low or high post, pass, shoot, rebound and block shots with his long, gangly arms.
With Duncan and Boris Diaw both gone the Spurs were missing not only a post-up threat but also a frontcourt playmaker with both Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge average or worse at creating looks for others. Gasol has proven that he can play with virtually anyone and in a variety of offensive styles, and I think he’ll be devastating working in concert with Aldridge and am particularly excited about him running screen/rolls with Manu Ginobili.
Jared Johnson: There were two moves that stuck out to me: signing Dewayne Dedmon to a ridiculously cheap deal and drafting Dejounte Murray.
Surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be much bidding going on this summer for Dedmon, who is an athletic defender and a strong rim-runner. Per 36 minutes, his production was actually better than that of Ian Mahinmi and Bismack Biyombo, who both cashed in with monster deals this summer (playing against primarily bench guys does benefit Dedmon, though). He helps fill a huge hole in the Spurs’ depleted big-man rotation and gives them an imposing, bouncy presence near the rim on both ends for the low, low price of $2.9 million.
Murray has the potential to be one of the better starting point guards in the league, and I was expecting him to go several picks earlier than the Spurs at No. 29. With Tony Parker and Patty Mills both unable to consistently get to the basket at this point in their careers, the athletic and crafty Murray could give the offense a jolt when he’s ready to contribute in a rotational role a couple years from now. His 6’5″ size won’t hurt on defense, either.
Jesus Gomez: Pulling the trigger on the stashed prospects. Signing 23-year-old Davis Bertans to the minimum could provide great value. He became arguably the best shooter in Europe last season and at 6’10” he should be able to play both forward spots. Livio Jean-Charles, 22, is more of a project but he has some intriguing physical tools. Both needed to make the jump to develop further. It was the right call to bring them over and go young instead of filling the fringes of the roster with veterans.
Kelly Scaletta: Adding Pau Gasol in the wake of the departing Tim Duncan was a very good move for the Spurs. Sure, he has his defensive issues in the high pick-and-roll, but they have that Kawhi Leonard guy who can help compensate for that. Gasol is actually a good rim protector who can still swat many a shot. And he is better now than Duncan was last year. Throw in the fact that he’s got that cerebral, emotionally stable presence that Duncan brought to the table, and you can do a lot worse. I mean, you can’t replace Duncan, but Gasol does come close.
Jason Patt: I honestly don’t love the Pau Gasol signing, as I think his presence will cause problems for the Spurs in the postseason. Nevertheless, replacing Tim Duncan with another future Hall of Famer who still is productive is a pretty darn good move given the options. Gasol may be a downgrade from Duncan defensively, but he’s an upgrade offensively.
2. Worst move of offseason
Michael: Oh, I hated the signing of David Lee. He’s like a homeless man’s version of David West. He is just terrible in his own end, cannot play the pick-and-roll at all defensively and can’t protect the rim. He couldn’t even crack Rick Carlisle’s playoff rotation in Dallas and it’s not like the Mavericks were overflowing with frontcourt options.
Jared: “The Warriors got Kevin Durant? Quick, let’s sign a slow, old big man who can’t defend pick-and-rolls to a sizable contract!”
The Spurs’ signing of Pau Gasol confused me. He might be better in 2016-17 than Tim Duncan was last year, but he’s a much worse defender despite being a good rim protector. Duncan was also very slow, but he had this special defensive sense (and leadership) about him that made him effective defending in space.
Gasol will help the Spurs win more regular-season games with his versatile offense, but the team will be less of a threat against the Warriors (and probably the Clippers), and that’s all that matters for a title-or-bust squad like San Antonio.
Though David Lee is also very good on offense, his signing only compounded the damage. He and Gasol will be an unplayable combination against any halfway-decent offensive team. Thankfully, Lee’s deal was only for two years and $3.2 million.
Jesus: Signing Pau Gasol is far from a terrible move, especially considering there were not a lot of better alternatives to replace Tim Duncan. Unfortunately, Pau is a huge downgrade from even the 2016 version of Big Fun on defense and there’s not a lot of proven depth behind him, as San Antonio had to give up Boris Diaw to make room for him. It’s a move that screams “we are treading water,” as Pau is obviously not a long-term solution at center and he doesn’t give the Spurs a better chance of beating the Warriors this season. Getting a more athletic, if less heralded, player would have been a bolder and likely better decision.
Kelly: Choosing Gasol over Boban Marjanovic could come back to haunt them, but probably not. I’ll be intrigued to see how Boban’s career develops, especially with that massive 27.7 PER, but how often do the Spurs say, “Yeah, we missed out on developing that guy.”
Jason: I don’t really understand the David Lee signing. Lee still may have a bit left in the tank, but he’s not exactly the kind of guy the Spurs needed with Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge as the starting frontcourt. But maybe Pop will magically get Lee to play some defense.
3. Offseason grade
Michael: Considering that the best player in the history of their franchise retired, the Spurs handled it as best could be expected. They’re a bit hampered by the reality that Ginobili is 39 and Tony Parker is an old 33, but they took steps to find their point guard of the future by drafting Dejounte Murray and took a flyer on Dewayne Dedmon as a backup center. I give them a “B.”
Jared: B. Losing the best player in franchise history sucks, but it was Duncan’s time to go. The Spurs have the stars to replace him in Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, and they did a solid job continuing to construct a potential team of the future around them by adding guys like Dedmon, Murray, Livio Jean-Charles and Davis Bertans. Gasol and Lee will make me cringe on defense nightly next season, but both have player options next summer. The offseason was slightly more good than bad, though, as they filled in the frontcourt holes with a mixture of crafty vets and younger guys with potential. The team’s future outlook remains rosy.
Jesus: C. Duncan retired and Kevin Durant didn’t really consider the Spurs, so the offseason can’t be considered a great one. The Pau signing is uninspiring but should keep San Antonio relevant. Whether this summer will be considered a success years from now will depend on the smaller signings panning out and Dejounte Murray proving those who consider him the steal of the draft right.
Kelly: The Spurs did what they always seem to do: adjust and adapt without “rebuilding.” Players come and players go, but the 50 wins stay in San Antonio. No spectacular moves but a solid B+.
Jason: B-. The Spurs had a perfectly fine offseason despite losing Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw and Boban Marjanovic. While I don’t get the David Lee signing, San Antonio adequately stocked up on frontcourt depth to help make up for the losses…for the most part. The Dejounte Murray pick could also turn out to be a steal.
4. Early prediction for 2016-17
Michael: Either they’ll win 57 games, earn a two seed and lose in five games to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, or everyone will coincidentally get injured at the same time, the Spurs will finish 18-64 and they’ll win the lottery next year to draft their next superstar center.
Jared: I think the Spurs are due for some regression after last year’s 67-win season, plus their defense will go from one of the best in recent memory to merely strong. However, Danny Green will probably shoot better in 2016-17 after an ugly offensive performance in 2015-16.
I’ll say 54-58 wins, the No. 2 seed in the West and a really close second-round battle with the Clippers that could go either way. With Leonard’s continued ascendance into a truly special player, though, I don’t think the Clippers have a guy who can go step for step with him on both ends. He’ll be the difference in a seven-game series.
The Spurs’ old warhorses will be worn down for their matchup in the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors. Golden State will probably take them down in five games.
Jesus: The Spurs will once again be really good, like they have been for the better part of two decades. No Duncan means the defense will take a dip, but it was historically good last year. The offense might actually be improved, especially if Danny Green goes back to being a knockdown shooter. A 60-22 record and the second seed in the West seem attainable, provided there are no major injuries.
Kelly: Another No. 2 seed and a loss to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Cue up the “Can Kawhi win without Duncan” talk.
Jason: I do think the Spurs will take a slight step back in 2016-17, although they should still be really, really good. I think they’ll get either the No. 2 or 3 seed, but I’m also thinking they get bounced by the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round.