San Antonio Spurs 2016-17 Season Preview

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The San Antonio Spurs, and the NBA as a whole, said goodbye to future Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan this offseason. Duncan was 39 years old throughout the majority of last season, but he was still one of the more effective defenders in the league for periods. Father Time finally started catching up to Duncan as he struggled to defend effectively against quicker and more athletic teams and it wasn’t apparent that things would improve moving forward.

With Duncan gone, the Spurs acquired Pau Gasol in free agency to pair alongside LaMarcus Aldridge in the frontcourt. Neither Aldridge nor Gasol can defend like Duncan could, but both are talented offensive players who should give other teams trouble on most nights. Other big men such as David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon were added as well. Now, it’s up to Gregg Popovich to do what he does best: take a collection of returning players and incoming players and get them to play like they’ve been teammates for years. If anyone can achieve this, it’s Pop. However, this will be the first time he will be doing so without his franchise big man serving as the focal point on both ends of the court.

Basketball Insiders previews the San Antonio Spurs’ 2016-17 season.


If any team in the Western Conference can challenge the Golden State Warriors in a seven-game series, I’d say it’s the Spurs. Gregg Popovich is one of the best coaches in the history of this sport, Kawhi Leonard is a freak of nature (on both ends of the court now) and LaMarcus Aldridge is a defender’s nightmare. As my colleagues mentioned, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have declined, but they aren’t asked to do nearly as much for this team anymore. One of the most impressive things about San Antonio’s roster, in my opinion, is their depth. In addition to the players mentioned above, they also have Danny Green, Pau Gasol, David Lee, Dewayne Dedmon (a sneaky-good signing), Kyle Anderson, Patty Mills and Jonathon Simmons as well as incoming youngsters Davis Bertans,  Livio Jean-Charles, Dejounte Murray and Patricio Garino. It’s sad to see Tim Duncan retire after his incredible career, especially because he was still capable of producing. But even without the future Hall of Famer, the Spurs are extremely talented, well-coached and deep. It’s also worth noting that Aldridge should be more comfortable and productive this year since he’s no longer getting acclimated to his new situation. His adjustment period wasn’t discussed much last season since he played well and the Spurs won so many games, but it’s very possible that Aldridge will be even better in 2016-17 since he’s more familiar with his teammates, coaches and system.

1st Place – Southwest Division

– Alex Kennedy

Even though Tim Duncan was Kirk-Douglas-old by the end of last season and understandably chose retirement over another 90+ games of the NBA grind, he’s not a guy a team just replaces. Honestly, Pau Gasol was about as good as San Antonio was going to do, and he’ll be a nice fit in the frontcourt alongside LaMarcus Aldridge. Duncan’s send-off also means this is Kawhi Leonard’s show now, but we’ve seen this transition coming for a year or two now. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are still around, and there are plenty of other typical Spurs roster components in the mix for 2016-17. They’ve got a young kid ready to break out in Kyle Anderson, an underrated-yet-universally-adored rookie in Dejounte Murray, a bargain-basement vet in David Lee and a couple of international lottery tickets who just couldn’t wait to give it a go with San Antonio. That sounds like the same recipe for success this team has been using so well for almost 20 years.

1st Place – Southwest Division

– Joel Brigham

Losing Tim Duncan is significant and I’m not sure Pau Gasol, at this stage in his career, addresses the biggest concerns for the Spurs. Gasol is a good passer and an intelligent all-around player, but a lot of his offensive work comes from midrange – an area where the Spurs are arguably generating too much of their offense. While there are concerns, this roster is proven and plays well together. Also, Gregg Popovich is adaptive and knows how to structure his systems to the personnel available to him. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are another year older, so rest throughout the season will be a priority. I’m expecting young players like Kyle Anderson and Jonathon Simmons take on even bigger roles this season. Despite losing Duncan and some other veterans, I expect the Spurs to be competing at the top of the Western Conference with the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers.

1st Place – Southwest Division

– Jesse Blancarte

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Spurs will head to training camp without Tim Duncan on the roster. While Duncan’s physical skills had already begun to erode, the future Hall of Famer marked an era of excellence and stability for the franchise and the transition period could get rough. However, the Spurs have an extremely strong infrastructure in place and forward Kawhi Leonard could be headed for superstardom. The club also signed veteran big man Pau Gasol over the summer and he’ll provide another strong offensive option in the paint alongside forward LaMarcus Aldridge. The talent level in San Antonio is still title contention worthy. Don’t sleep.

1st Place – Southwest Division

– Lang Greene

Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett all decided to leave us in the same offseason, and that makes me sad. I’m sure fans of the San Antonio Spurs are a bit more sad than I am, but the silver lining is that Pau Gasol will serve as the replacement for Duncan in the lineup. Gasol has always been a team-first guy. Although he’s a bit long in the tooth himself, he still sees the floor well and is a good post defender. I think he will fit right in with the Spurs and along with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, should help Gregg Popovich’s team win their sixth Southwest Division title over the past seven years. The biggest concern I would have for the Spurs would be at the point guard position. If something happens to Tony Parker, they could be sailing down the Riverwalk with no paddle. But since we cannot predict injuries and no other team in the division stacks up better against the Spurs than they did last year, I’d be wiling to bet that Leonard and Aldridge help these guys repeat, especially since they too had a legitimate shot of winning 70 games last year.

1st Place — Southwest Division

– Moke Hamilton


Top Offensive Player: Kawhi Leonard

Leonard was already the Spurs’ best all-around player and he’s now clearly the franchise’s most important player with Duncan out of the picture. Leonard has turned himself into a top-notch offensive player since he’s become a knock-down shooter from three-point range, a creator who can take opponents off the dribble and a strong finisher at the basket. Perhaps the next step for Leonard is turning himself into more of a playmaker from the forward position, but that is being nitpicky considering how good he already is. There are few players in the league who are as effective or efficient on offense as Leonard, who will likely be in the MVP discussion this upcoming season.

Top Defensive Player: Kawhi Leonard

Leonard has won Defensive Player of the Year two years in a row for a reason. With long arms, great footwork, unwavering discipline and solid instincts, Leonard is a menace on defense and makes life difficult for top-level players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant each time he faces them. Defense in the NBA continues to evolve, as players like Leonard and Draymond Green are able to guard players as fast as John Wall and as big as Blake Griffin. Leonard also ranks at the top of the league in most advanced metrics, finishing last season second in Defensive Win Shares and third in Defensive Rating. There was an argument that Duncan was the Spurs’ most important defensive player, but now it’s clear that Leonard is the Spurs’ most effective and important defender.

Top Playmaker: Tony Parker

While Parker may not register double-digit assists each night, he is still an effective playmaker for the Spurs. The Spurs’ movement-based, pass-happy offense is what generates open looks for the Spurs rather than a single ball-dominant playmaker. Parker could possibly average more assists per game if he played for another team, but Parker understands his role on offense and doesn’t try to do more than is required of him. Parker isn’t as quick as he used to be, but he’s still a tough cover when he attacks the rim, which is when he usually finds an open teammate on the perimeter.

Top Clutch Player: LaMarcus Aldridge

It’s not easy to peg any single player as the Spurs’ top clutch player. The Spurs scored 30.5 percent of their points from midrange in clutch situations last season (by far the highest mark in the league), which should come as a surprise considering how much of their offense was geared towards opening up shots from that distance. Whether it was Duncan, Leonard, Aldridge or Parker, the Spurs’ offense generally created opportunities for players to get a nice look at the end of games. While there are several choices here, we are going to go with Aldridge considering his offensive skill set, ability to operate in isolation and pick-and-pop situations, and his ability to get his shot off against just about any defender.

The Unheralded Player: Danny Green

Green had a down season in 2015-16 in just about every way imaginable. Whether it was due to injuries, adapting to playing with new teammates like Aldridge or the pressure of playing on a new contract, Green simply wasn’t himself last year. However, Green is still one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA and he will need to be at his best, along with Leonard, for the Spurs to have a shot at slowing down the Warriors and other teams with talented scorers and shooters on the wings. Green also needs to get his three-point shooting back to his usual 40 percent range to spread the court for Aldridge and Gasol, who occupy the same areas on the court.

Top New Addition: Pau Gasol

With Duncan, Boris Diaw, David West and Boban Marjanović no longer on the team, the Spurs signed Gasol, David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon to shore up the frontcourt. Gasol is the most important player of the three considering the fact that he is effectively replacing Duncan. Gasol still has a good amount of skill left in his game even if the athleticism isn’t quite there anymore. His impact on the defensive end leaves a lot to be desired, so he is going to need to focus in on making the right rotations at the right time to ensure that he is getting proper help when necessary. Gasol and Aldridge are going to be key components for the Spurs this season, so the sooner they can develop chemistry and learn to play off one another, the better off the Spurs will be.

– Jesse Blancarte


1. Gregg Popovich

Popovich is widely regarded as the best coach in the NBA, and his resume backs that up. He has won five championships, three Coach of the Year awards (and he should have more) and 1,089 regular season games throughout his career. In the postseason, he has a 158-98 record. Perhaps most impressive is that Pop can win with various types of personnel and systems. Because of that versatility, he has thrived with grind-it-out, defensive-minded teams as well as fast-paced, offensive juggernauts. As long as Popovich is on the sideline, the Spurs will be a legitimate contender.

2. Kawhi Leonard

Leonard is one of the best overall players in the league, despite what Jason Terry may think about his game. Some have tried to peg him as a system player or the beneficiary of having so much talent around him, but it’s all nonsense. Leonard has kept his head down and worked hard to become one of the best overall players in the game. At age 25, Leonard is barely entering his prime and figures to keep improving.

3. LaMarcus Aldridge

Aldridge did a pretty solid job of integrating himself into the Spurs’ system last season. With Duncan gone, it will be up to him and Leonard to put this team on their collective shoulders and lead them to a deep playoff run. Aldridge may be 31 years old now, but his methodical game is still as sharp as ever. The real test for Aldridge will be trying to step into Duncan’s role on defense, which is something he may not be equipped to do (not many players are).

4. Manu Ginobili

Ginobili, 39, is entering his 14th NBA season. He has a ton of miles on his body and is not able to make some of the acrobatic and wild plays he used to when he was younger. But Ginobili goes all out and doesn’t care about age; he still plays with the same intensity and fearlessness as he did when he first entered the league.

– Jesse Blancarte


The Spurs opened up space under the NBA’s $94.1 million salary cap – trading Boris Diaw to the Utah Jazz – to ink Pau Gasol.  The team also used its $2.9 million Room Exception on Dewayne Dedmon, and re-signed Manu Ginobili via his Bird Rights.  Now over the cap, San Antonio has 14 guaranteed players, with four players vying for one open roster spot (Patricio Garino, Ryan Arcidiacono, Bryn Forbes and Ryan Richards.  Tim Duncan retired with $5.6 million in guaranteed salary, which the Spurs will pay out over the next three years at $1.9 million a season.

Next summer, San Antonio could near $26 million in space under a $102 million projected salary cap.  That assumes the team picks up the rookie-scale option on Kyle Anderson.  David Lee, who signed a two-year minimum contract, Gasol and Dedmon can all opt out of the second years on their respective deals.  If Gasol does not opt out, he’ll take up $16.2 million of that potential cap space.

– Eric Pincus


Defensive and offensive efficiency, coaching and chemistry are this team’s strengths. I know, that’s a lot of strengths. Last year, the Spurs held opponents to just 96.6 points per 100 possessions (best in the NBA) and scored 108.4 points per 100 possessions (third-best in the NBA). They were seventh in assist percentage, second in assist-to-turnover ratio, fourth in rebound percentage, second in effective field goal percentage and third in true shooting percentage. Simply put, this team was destructive last season and that doesn’t figure to change even with the loss of Duncan. There will be some drop off in a few areas, but Duncan’s role had already significantly diminished last year, so it shouldn’t be too big of a dip. It doesn’t seem to matter who happens to be playing for the Spurs in any given season, as Coach Popovich always manages to maximize his roster.

– Jesse Blancarte


There aren’t many major weaknesses for this team; if anything, the team could struggle with injuries considering the age of their core players. Parker is 34, Ginobili is 39, Gasol is 36 and even Aldridge is now 31. The Spurs take an aggressive approach with resting players to avoid wearing them down before the postseason, but that doesn’t guarantee it won’t be an issue for this team. In addition to age and the risk of injuries, I think the loss of Boris Diaw will be felt more than some people expect. Diaw was a perfect fit for the Spurs, providing both underrated playmaking and defense. Gasol is the better player, but that doesn’t mean Diaw won’t be missed. Lastly, the loss of Duncan could be felt in the locker room as much as on the court. Duncan was the heart and soul of the franchise for two decades. Losing that shouldn’t be taken lightly. This team has an excellent foundation and other experienced veterans to help stabilize the team after the loss of Duncan, but it’s impossible to completely replace a legend.

– Jesse Blancarte


Can the Spurs overcome the juggernauts in the Bay Area?

If you haven’t heard, the Golden State Warriors won 73 regular season games last season and then added Kevin Durant this summer. Any team in the West that has hopes of making it to the NBA Finals has to get through the Warriors first and that includes the almighty Spurs. The Warriors were favored over the Spurs by many last season when Durant was still in Oklahoma City and Duncan was still in town.

The Spurs could conceivably take a step forward thanks to internal development from Leonard and improved chemistry from Aldridge, who enters his second season with the team. And if there’s any team that can push the Warriors in the West, it’s likely the Spurs considering their talent, the fact that Leonard is the perfect defender to guard Durant and since Popovich is one of the few coaches in the league savvy enough to find some schemes that could stunt the Warriors. It may look like a long shot at the moment, but the Spurs will have as good a shot as any team to put some pressure on the Warriors next season.

– Jesse Blancarte