Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers was recently a guest on the Basketball Insiders podcast on January 24. Michael Scotto interviewed Turner and the Q&A transcription can be found below. To listen to the podcast in its entirety, click the play button above.
Michael Scotto: If you look at the way you’ve played individually in January, you’re shooting 51 percent from the field, you’re shooting 56 percent from three-point range, 80 percent from the foul line thus far. You’ve got about nine rebounds, two blocks a game and 16.6 points. What’s been the biggest factor for that, in terms of your individual play, to start off the new year here in 2017?
Myles Turner: I think the biggest thing is just getting comfortable. I’m more comfortable with the guys on the floor. I’m more comfortable with our system and just playing the right way. I’m really excited to be out here on the floor with these guys, we’re doing a good job.
Scotto: In terms of your own individual development, I know we’ve spoken previously about the level that you want to get to ultimately at some point in your career, where do you feel that you are on that road to becoming the player you ultimately want to be?
Turner: To be honest, I feel like I’m not even close. I feel like I’m just scratching the surface right now and, hopefully, I can get there soon but I’m working hard every day trying to get there.
Scotto: What is that, I don’t want to say ‘ceiling’ because I don’t think that’s the correct word, but where is that type of level that you think that you can be as a player?
Turner: I feel like, one of these days, I can be top five in the league, if not the best. That’s the sights I set for myself, those are the goals that I have and that’s where I’m trying to get to. But, I know I’m a long way from getting there, so I can’t view the long term. I’ve got to take everything day by day.
Scotto: Nothing wrong with striving to reach your full potential, certainly don’t mind that. I’m also curious, you’re one of the few big guys that’s a five, a center, that can shoot the three ball, we’ve seen that with Brook Lopez a little bit more. I’m just curious if you think that, with the way both you guys are transitioning, I don’t want to say a full stretch-five because you guys can both post-up on the block but adding that element to your game with the ability to be a stretch-five, do you think that we could see that as a bit of a trend in the league with the way the floor spacing has been so prevalent?
Turner: Undoubtedly. I think a lot of guys coming in are just working on all aspects of their game. I know that’s what I did and I know that’s what, I think, is being taught throughout a lot of the college programs and even in high school. Guys are just starting to be basketball players, not be just defined to one position. I know that’s what I did with my pops, he really worked hard with me every day after practice and even before practice some mornings just to work on all aspects: dribbling, shooting. He just made it possible for me to get here.
Scotto: Now, I’m going to take you away from yourself, individually, and we’re going to talk a little bit about the Indiana Pacers overall. In the month of January, you guys are six and three thus far. Just curious, what have you seen, so far, since the calendar has flipped to 2017 from the core group, collectively?
Turner: We had that stretch where we won five games in a row and we were just playing well together and the ball was just rolling the right way, but we’ve had a little bit of a downfall these past couple games. There’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to get it back, it’s just, I think, coming back from this London trip and having to go to the West Coast right away messed with our bodies a little bit, but we’re starting to get back in rhythm.
Scotto: Now, I’ve joked with you about this before, but it seems like, with the team, you guys do a little bit of a cha-cha. You guys take a step forward, you guys take a step back. I’m just curious, why do you think it’s been, at least to this point in the season, a little bit inconsistent thus far, almost half-way through, or a little bit over, actually, half-way through the season?
Turner: I think it’s mostly because we’ve got new guys on this team so we’re all trying to figure each other out. We’re at the halfway mark of the season so we need to start figuring it out soon, but, like you said, we have stretches where we look like we’ve finally turned that corner and we just fall back a little bit and a lot of that fall back comes on the road. We really need to figure out what’s going on on the road and get these road wins back up to par and I know we’re at the bottom of the league in that aspect but I still have all the confidence in the world in this team. We have so many great players and so many great playmakers that the sky’s the limit for us once we figure it out.
Scotto: Now, I remember earlier in the season you had mentioned to me when we did an interview for a feature story that you thought the team could be, potentially, a top-four team. As it stands right now, when you look at the Eastern Conference, the number 6-11 seeds are only separated by about 3.5 games. What have you seen just from this conference overall and how clustered it’s been through the halfway mark in the east thus far?
Turner: Well to say it’s competitive is an understatement. Guys are just winning and dropping games but, once we play each other, it’s just like a dogfight. We’re all fighting for those three positions and it’s just interesting to see how it just volleys up and down throughout the season. You’ve got a team that has a bad loss or a really big win like Miami beat Golden State last night, the Pelicans beat Cleveland, stuff like that just happens. It really just messes with the entire thing. You can go from the No. 3 seed to the No. 6 seed just like that. It definitely makes it a lot more interesting and I feel like it makes things a lot more fun, knowing that you have to go out there and win some key games.
Scotto: What do you think is in store for you guys as a team overall and yourself individually for the second half of the season?
Turner: Well, like I said, I’m nowhere where I want to be. I feel like I still have more strides to make and I feel like I can make those strides throughout the rest of this season. I had a decent start to the season, not necessarily where I wanted to be, I wanted to be contributing a little bit more, but I think this team could really make the right steps. Jeff [Teague] is really starting to come into his own, PG [Paul George] has had a pretty good past couple of games and we’re all figuring each other out day by day and that’s just our biggest thing.
Scotto: Now, I’m going to take you off the court for a little bit and, for those who may not know, you’re a pretty active guy within the community and doing charity work. Do you have anything, in terms of that for Indiana specifically, coming up over the next few months?
Turner: Not anything coming up over the next few months here in Indianapolis that I know of right now. I’m still planning that stuff out. It’s hard to just get here, get in and get out, throughout the rest of the season. I know that around All-Star, I’m trying to get out to the community as much as I can. I think I might visit a high school and talk to the kids about giving back to the community, how important that is and how good it’s going to be for their futures. But, anytime I can help out the community, I try. It’s not even necessarily events that I plan, I just try to get out there on my own and make a difference.
Scotto: As a 20-year-old young man, did you ever foresee yourself having that type of impact not only just in the community for yourself individually and trying to help out others but just having that platform?
Turner: To be honest with you I did. I really thought that … with some kind of voice. I think I was that voice in my community growing up in high school. I tried to carry or transition it to Austin, Texas and, bringing it to Indianapolis, it’s just who I am, it’s a part of how I was raised and you’re never too young to have a voice. I encourage any younger guys that listen to this, to be that difference to their community. You’re never too young to start.
Scotto: Now you being a 20-year-old young man, for a lot of people they’re still in college at this point and you’re living a grown man’s life and having a lifestyle of your own off the court. What has that been like for yourself, adjusting into the real world, more or less?
Turner: It’s had its ups and downs. You still want to be that college kid you were, just hang out with your friends and just live the life, but it’s definitely work. Every day, day in and day out, you have something to do, you have certain responsibilities. It’s not college and that’s the biggest thing I had to learn last year. You can’t just do the same stuff you were doing, make the same decisions you were making. Everything you do is now looked at as a business. The organization that drafts you, you’re they’re multi-million dollar investment, that’s how you have to view it. You’ve just got to take care of your business and, obviously, you have fun while you’re doing it, but that’s the biggest thing that I learned.
Scotto: Certainly a good head on your shoulders from that regard and knowing you personally. Before I let you go, obviously, being a guy that went to Texas [the University of Texas at Austin], I’m curious what you think of them adding, I don’t know if you still follow them as much, but they did add a pretty good point guard in Matt Coleman and they’ve got some young pieces there at the program. What do you think of Texas’ future going forward as a program?
Turner: We’re just so young right now. I think we’re the seventh or eighth youngest team in the NCAA. They had such a great win over OU [University of Oklahoma] yesterday and I can see them growing real well. I’m actually really impressed by this Coleman kid. I watched a couple of highlights of him after he committed and I’m really glad that we got him. He’s the kind of guy that can come in and make a difference right away. We’re going to have a lot of sophomores next year, a couple juniors and that’s a young team. The sky’s the limit for them, for sure. I really think they can make a big difference and, hopefully, they play Kansas [the University of Kansas] in the Big 12. I’d love to see for that to happen.
Now What? – Portland Trail Blazers
From Neil Olshey’s top choice to replace Terry Stotts to whether they should trade CJ McCollum and who they might get for him, Bobby Krivitsky examines what’s next for the Portland Trail Blazers as they work to convince Damian Lillard to stay.
The Portland Trail Blazers’ search for a new head coach has not gotten off to a smooth start. Less than 24 hours after Damian Lillard made it known Jason Kidd was his top preference to replace Terry Stotts, Kidd withdrew his name from the running.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Chauncey Billups, San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, University of South Carolina and USA Women’s coach Dawn Staley, Brooklyn Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni, and Spurs executive Brent Barry are among Portland’s top candidates.
It’s vital that throughout this process, the Trail Blazers respect Lillard’s opinions. That doesn’t mean they have to hire one of their franchise player’s top choices, but if what he has to say isn’t holding the proper weight, it could fracture the relationship. According to NBA reporter Sean Highkin, Billups, who has a good relationship with Lillard, is Olshey’s preferred candidate.
Speaking of Olshey, in an attempt to deflect blame, he took an unnecessary parting shot at Stotts during his exit interview following the Trail Blazers getting eliminated by a depleted Denver Nuggets team in six games.
Neil Olshey: “This first-round loss was not a product of the roster.”
— Sean Highkin (@highkin) June 7, 2021
He also said not to expect many changes to the Trail Blazers roster.
“For anyone (prospective coaches) to advance in the process they’re going to have to prove they can do that (improve defensively) without a ton of roster changes.” -Olshey
— Danny Marang (@DannyMarang) June 7, 2021
To put it mildly, it’s in poor taste for Olshey to show prospective head coaching candidates they shouldn’t expect him to have their back if the situation turns sour. On top of that and the uncertainty regarding whether Lillard will ask to get traded this summer, those interviewing for this position shouldn’t anticipate many roster changes despite Portland’s first-round exit, which marked the fourth time that’s happened in the last five years.
There’s also the possibility the amount of roster turnover is small but significant. To that effect, it may be time for Portland to break up its potent backcourt of Lillard and CJ McCollum. The latter can still play at a high level, as evidenced by him averaging 23.1 points, 4.7 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and only 1.4 turnovers per game during the regular season. He then produced 20.7 points, six rebounds and 4.3 dimes per contest in the six-game series against the Nuggets.
However, the Trail Blazers have struggled to overcome their lack of balance between their offensive proficiency and defensive shortcomings. McCollum turns 30-years-old in September, and while there may not be a dip in his performance, it’s hard to believe now is when Portland will start experiencing more postseason success, especially if Olshey’s telling the truth about minimal changes to the roster.
Trading McCollum for someone who can help make the team more dynamic while flanking Lillard as the team’s second-best player could lead to lengthier stays in the playoffs. Two names that come to mind are Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. The former is again experiencing postseason struggles, which could prompt Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations, Daryl Morey, to reconstruct the team’s roster around Joel Embiid. The Sixers’ top-two players remain a clunky fit without a more reliable closer. However, Simmons is a three-time All-Star, he recently got named to the All-Defensive First Team for the second time in his career, and he’s an elite floor general when pushing the tempo. Simmons could also form a potent pick-and-roll partnership with Lillard, including when he turns to one of his most reliable scoring methods in the half-court, faking the handoff, then darting to the rim.
As for Ingram, an All-Star in 2020, this season, he averaged 23.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game while converting 38.1 percent of the 6.1 shots he attempted from beyond the arc, which is reflective of his growth as a three-point shooter. He’s far from a lockdown defender, but at 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, he’s more versatile on that end than McCollum.
The other decision the Trail Blazers have to make is much easier; whether to re-sign Norman Powell. The former Toronto Raptor quickly acclimated to his new team after Portland acquired him at the trade deadline in exchange for a package centered around Gary Trent. Powell averaged 17 points per game in 27 regular-season contests with the Trail Blazers and maintained that production during the playoffs. It’s a safe bet he won’t exercise his $11.6 million player option. At his exit interview, Olshey reiterated the franchise’s desire to work out a new contract with Powell, saying they “made the Norman Powell trade hoping that he’d be a part of the future.”
As the Trail Blazers work to make sure one of the most loyal athletes in sports doesn’t decide it’s time for him to take his talents elsewhere, it starts with hiring the right head coach. In regards to their roster, the challenge is figuring out how to add upgrades while handcuffed. Portland doesn’t have a first-round pick this year due to the trade to get Robert Covington. They also lack cap space and players who hold great value on the trade market. Parting with McCollum is a choice that could backfire; it’s also possible Lillard voices his opposition to such a move, in which case, the return would have to be better than expected to go through with that decision. Otherwise, the Trail Blazers’ path to improvement centers around making the difficult choice to trade a fan favorite in the hopes that becoming a better-balanced team translates to more success in the playoffs.
Now What? – Golden State Warriors
The past two seasons have been incredibly difficult for the Golden State Warriors. While they are eager to return to their winning ways, their path back to championship contention could take some time – if it happens at all.
For the better part of a decade, the Golden State Warriors were the darling of the league. After three championships and five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, the Warriors fell off the horse. Injuries to their star players and the departure of Kevin Durant left the franchise in a state of despair. Now that they have picked up the pieces, they are ready to get back to being championship contenders.
Nothing in life is that easy though, especially when so many other teams have improved and accumulated their own star power. With another brutal injury to Klay Thompson, an aging Stephen Curry and a devastating injury to their prized rookie James Wiseman, the path back to greatness doesn’t look so golden after all.
The Curry show was in full effect this past season, as the two-time MVP dazzled fans with his play on the way to winning the scoring title. The 33-year old is ready to share the load with his teammates but it could be a rocky start for them as they try to shake the rust off as they battle in the loaded Western Conference.
Several key items must be examined before the Warriors can go back to being a championship-caliber team.
Everything the Warriors do rests on the shoulders of Curry, who was spectacular once again this season. The seven-time All-Star earned his second scoring title this year in an epic duel with Bradley Beal. The first time he did so was the 2015-16 season when Golden State won a record 73 games in the regular season but fell short in Game 7 of the Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. This year was quite different, as they finished 9th in the Western Conference with a 39-33 record.
A healthy Curry is incredibly important but a healthy Thompson is crucial to their success. After missing two full seasons due to two significant injuries, his return to the court is everything to this team. When at 100 percent, the Warriors have the best backcourt in the league but it will take Thompson some time to ease into things and to clear the mental and physical hurdles associated with his return to play.
Draymond Green reminded everyone of his value and his impact on the game. The former Defensive Player of the Year demonstrated that he is still arguably the best defender in the league, capable of guarding multiple positions. His passing and ability to get guys open have always been his greatest strengths. His impact might not be the same if he were playing for the Orlando Magic but he is the perfect fit alongside Curry and Thompson.
Outside of their core three players, one other person to keep in mind is head coach Steve Kerr. With Rick Carlisle’s resignation yesterday, Kerr now becomes the third-longest tenured head coach in the league behind Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra.
Even with a constantly changing roster, Kerr was able to guide this team to the Play-In Tournament. They were able to finish the regular season with the fifth-best defensive rating in the league, and while much of the credit goes to Kerr and Green, Andrew Wiggins deserves some praise as well.
Known as a defensive liability for most of his career, Wiggins finally took pride in his defense this season. He has always had the tools with his length and quickness, but his energy and effort always seemed to be lacking. Whether or not Kerr and the staff challenged him before the season, the fact is he made a major stride in that area, which ultimately helped the team win many close games. If he continues that heading into next season, it will go a long way in getting them back into the mix.
One major weakness for Golden State this year was rebounding. They ranked 22nd in the league overall and dead last in the offensive variety of that category. This is not a product of playing small ball or just a lack of size in general. The Warriors were notorious for not boxing out and being out-hustled on the glass. The second-chance opportunities for their opponents to score often killed them in close games. This is something that must be addressed both in free agency and with the current players on the roster.
Steve Kerr said it was the rebounding that cost the Warriors tonight:
"This is the modern NBA. Guys don't box out. It's just the way it is. Players let guys come in from the weak side. It's a disease that's rampant in the NBA."
— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) April 30, 2021
Another area of weakness that can be solved this offseason is the lack of veterans on the roster. Aside from their top four players, nearly everyone on the roster has three years or less of experience. The good news is that many of these guys seem to have some potential. Damion Lee, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Jordan Poole, Eric Paschall and Mychal Mulder all played a lot of minutes for the Warriors. Sharing the floor with Curry and Green will ultimately help them achieve their goal of becoming a key contributor for this team.
Turnovers were another trouble spot for this team, as they committed 15 per game during the regular season. Only four teams averaged more per game but the Warriors were often dealing with new young players that didn’t have the experience to negate many of those. They also committed 21.6 fouls per game, which was the second-most in the league trailing only the Washington Wizards. Those are two areas that will need to be cleaned up, regardless of who is or isn’t on the floor.
The Warriors will be back in the lottery for next month’s NBA Draft but they likely won’t have a top pick as they did a year ago. They should still be able to acquire some talent that can help them right now, either on the floor or in a future deal. With Thompson and Wiseman still easing their way back, and impending free agents of their own, it will be important for whomever Golden State selects to be ready to contribute immediately.
The Warriors only have two hitting free agency players this summer, in Kelly Oubre Jr and Kent Bazemore. Despite his roller-coaster season, Oubre is seeking around $20 million annually, which the Warriors simply cannot afford. He won’t be needed as much this season with Thompson eventually reclaiming his starting role. Golden State won’t have much to spend but they should be able to find what they are looking for in free agency.
Only six players are under contract after next season, which could open the door for some of the younger players should they carve out a role for themselves. Seven players are set to be on expiring contracts heading into next season. Curry is one of them, as his salary for next season is just under $46 million. The other six players have a combined salary of around $14 million. This will give Golden State some flexibility in terms of trades next season.
Obviously, the largest threat that looms over this franchise is another setback for Thompson or another injury to one of their other stars. The same can be said for every organization but the way things have transpired for this team over the last two years makes it even more critical. Curry is not getting any younger and while he has reaffirmed his desire to stay with the Warriors, he will be a free agent after next season. If the future looks cloudy at all, it could be in his best interest to explore other options.
Thompson will turn 32 next season and his comeback will be closely monitored around the league. While being a prolific shooter himself, he has much more to offer on the defensive side of the ball than Curry. Earning All-Defensive honors during the 2018-19 season, Thompson has always been an elite-level defender, especially on the perimeter. He uses his feet well to stay in front of his man while not getting his hands in the danger zone against crafty offensive players like James Harden and Trae Young.
While the focus from the outside will be on his offensive game, the key to Golden State’s return to the top-tier will depend on how well he plays on the other side of the ball. Coming off of two devastating injuries, will he still be able to lock down players on the perimeter at his age? Only time will tell, but everyone in this organization will be holding their breath every time he is on the floor.
Watch this Klay Thompson defense against Kyrie Irving. Sheesh pic.twitter.com/1ZmRU1VLAu
— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) March 27, 2020
One thing that Golden State has going for them is the culture they have created. The environment between the players, coaching staff and the front office is a good one. Everyone appears to be on the same page and there is never any panic. The continuity and chemistry they have with each other can be utilized to their advantage over less tenured teams.
The other thing that threatens their future is out of their hands. The Western Conference is oozing with talent. That is nothing new, but the way they are set up doesn’t bode well for Golden State. Playoff teams are loaded with young star players, who will only get better as time marches on.
Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr, Jamal Murray, Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr, Zion Williamson, De’Aaron Fox, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. These are just a handful of names that reside in the Western Conference.
A return to glory would be a wonderful story for this organization, but it won’t be easy. Knowing how this group is wired, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now What? – San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are down right now. Matt John examines how out they are and how they can get back in in the latest installment of Now What?
Welcome back to Basketball Insiders’ Now What? Series. If you aren’t fully caught up, feel free to read some of our most recent installments such as Indiana and Minnesota first. Today, we take a look at the San Antonio Spurs. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The Spurs have missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season, which sounds inconceivable after all they’ve accomplished.
It’s not like the Spurs routinely won the championship year after year, but they were always in the title discussion for what seemed like an eternity. To know that they’re currently not there anymore blows the mind. Granted this large infusion of talented youth has overshadowed San Antonio’s fall from grace, but the postseason doesn’t feel the same without them. So, where are the Spurs at now if they’re not among the NBA’s titans?
This comes when you have DeMar DeRozan as the offensive focal point, but, the Spurs drew free throws at a pretty excellent rate this season. They averaged 22 a game, which was good enough to tie for 11th overall in the league according to Basketball-Reference. Admittingly, that’s grasping at straws because not a whole lot about their offense was impressive this season. But this is the strengths section so we won’t dwell on that just yet.
Another strength is that their youth is coming along somewhat. Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, and Lonnie Walker IV all took a step forward scoring-wise with bigger roles.
2019-20: 10.9 points a game
That came at the expense of their field goal efficiency but, again, we’re not going to dwell on weaknesses here. Better yet, progress in all areas takes time.
Lastly, among all that went wrong with the Kawhi trade, Jakob Poeltl has evolved into one of the league’s most effective rim protectors. Opponents’ field goal percentage around the rim dropped by 11.6 percent when he protected the rim this year. So it made sense when they started him at the five full-time over LaMarcus Aldridge.
As you can probably tell, the Spurs don’t boast any notable strengths. Fortunately for them, they don’t boast any glaring weaknesses either.
Despite NBA offenses being centered around the three, the Spurs still refuse to fully embrace this. According to Basketball-Reference, they ranked dead-last in threes attempted on a nightly basis (28.4) which has been the case for the last few years. This will probably change *if* DeMar DeRozan changes teams this summer. Should that be the case, San Antonio will probably have to be more reliant on taking threes.
Unfortunately, the days of Davis Bertans and Danny Green are long gone. In the past, the Spurs’ made up for their lack of three-point attempts with incredible efficiency. Not anymore. Of all their rotation players, only two of them shot over 36 percent from three – Patty Mills and Rudy Gay – both of whom, much like DeRozan, are best-suited playing for teams competing right now.
The lack of attempts and efficiency in that department played a major role in the Spurs’ 21st-ranked offensive rating this season. If the defense held its own, maybe the Spurs’ issues offensively could have been mitigated a tad, but nope. San Antonio’s defense fell all the way that they tied for 17th overall in defensive rating (112.8) according to Basketball-Reference. That’s not bad enough to be considered a weakness – it’s average – but these are such off-putting numbers for a team coached by Gregg Popovich.
Whether DeRozan stays or not, the Spurs must become more inventive to boost their offense again.
San Antonio’s opportunities are limited, to say the least. Unless they shock the world with their low lottery odds, they probably won’t get an upfront special talent.
So where does that leave them? Well, reading the tea leaves, DeMar DeRozan seemingly has no interest in spending the rest of his prime with the Spurs. In the grand scheme of things, that’s probably what’s best for both sides. All of San Antonio’s best players are 26 and younger. At 31 years old, DeRozan’s talents are probably best used on a team that’s ready to win now.
Besides, with him gone, that gives their youngsters more room to stretch their legs. Dejounte Murray is a jack-of-all-trades oversized point guard who made NBA All-defense his rookie year. Derrick White’s scoring went up once he saw an increase in minutes and usage. Lonnie Walker IV has had his promising stretches. Then there’s Keldon Johnson.
Johnson was a bubble boy wonder last year. Even if it was brief, he showed a promising three-ball, a bag of tricks in iso, and energetic defense. Many thought perhaps the Spurs had another bright star in their midst. That played a role in giving him some unfair expectations coming in. Much like other individual players this season, Johnson may have benefited enough from the bubble’s atmosphere that not taking another step forward in a COVID-shortened should have been foreseeable.
That doesn’t mean his potential does not intrigue anymore. Much like Murray and White, all it may take is time for him to reach it. If taking two steps forward requires taking one step back first, why not?
Usually, when writing these, we’re required to highlight each team’s strengths and weaknesses. In San Antonio’s case, that’s precisely their problem right now. Nothing about them, good or bad, is truly remarkable. They’ve been reduced to being the NBA’s quintessentially average ball club. They’ve entered the paradox of being too good to be “bad” and too bad to be “good”.
A core of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, Keldon Johnson, and Jakob Poeltl is a solid one to have. No one’s denying the raw potential that some of them have. At the same time, do any of these guys project to be anything special? For years, a Kawhi-type or a Duncan-type or a Robinson-type led the charge on the Spurs’ title hopes. As of right now, none of the players on this roster has that trajectory.
What they have to ask themselves is how do they, at the very least, get back to owning a timeshare in the postseason as they did for over two decades? Sadly, there’s no quick fix for them. They metaphorically won the lottery when they traded for Kawhi Leonard on draft night and literally won the lottery when they drafted Tim Duncan and David Robinson.
The threat to San Antonio is not the lack of talent itself. It’s how they can get more.
To some, San Antonio’s downfall is a welcome change of pace seeing how long they were at the top. Honestly, it’s sad that their reign ended as prematurely as it did because Kawhi wanted other things. It only got worse the following year when they sacrificed Davis Bertans to make room for Marcus Morris before Morris reneged on their agreement.
They’re not completely bankrupt of young talent. But when you compare any of their young players to the likes of Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, or Zion Williamson, do any of them bring the same excitement as those three? Coach Pops has worked too many miracles to count, but much like any elite player, he needs help.
So their options are to either see how their young core turns out or start from scratch for the first time since the eighties. They’re good enough to give this young team a shot for now, but their immediate future is uncertain in the Alamo.