Offseason Grades: San Antonio Spurs
The Point Forward will grade every team’s offseason over the next few weeks. Click here for the complete archive.
Additions: Marco Belinelli, Jeff Pendergraph, Deshaun Thomas (No. 58 in 2013 draft)
Losses: Gary Neal, DeJuan Blair
Other Moves: Re-signed Tiago Splitter and Manu Ginobili, drafted Livio Jean-Charles (No. 28; expected to remain overseas)
What Went Right: The Western Conference champions have stayed largely intact. Neal is the only member of the Spurs’ playoff rotation who has departed. Belinelli, another streak-shooting guard who can create a bit off the dribble, closely mirrors Neal’s contributions.
No one knows how another season of wear might pare the effectiveness of Tim Duncan, 37, and Ginobili, 36, but San Antonio figures to be a top contender if the two can hold relatively steady. Alternatively, Kawhi Leonard could be in a position to make up for any age-related dip. The 22-year-old forward amped up his production at particularly apt times throughout San Antonio’s run to the NBA Finals, and Leonard could elevate the Spurs in general if he’s capable of reaching those heights on a more consistent basis.
San Antonio preserved its continuity because Splitter (who signed a four-year, $36 million deal) and Ginobili (two years, $14.5 million) are back in the fold, both at fair market-value prices. Ginobili’s return was a foregone conclusion, provided he wanted to keep playing; the thought of him in any uniform but San Antonio’s and Argentina’s is foreign at this point. Splitter, though, was coveted by a handful of teams in free agency for his pick-and-roll ability and work as a help defender. That the 28-year-old center will continue to showcase those skills in San Antonio is crucial.
It’s easy to underestimate Splitter after his struggles against Miami in the Finals, but overall the Spurs were 6.2 points better per 100 possessions defensively with him in the game. More specific, San Antonio was better than the league’s best defense (Indiana) with Splitter on the floor and roughly average without him, to say nothing of what he offered as a pick-and-roll finisher and occasional post-up threat. The Spurs are a better team when they have a player such as Splitter to rely on defensively and work off of offensively, no matter what horrible things LeBron James did to him in the championship series.
What Went Wrong: Completing a sign-and-trade for free agent Andrei Kirilenko would have put fear into the hearts of the West’s other contenders. According to Yahoo! Sports, San Antonio looked to acquire the versatile forward on a multiyear deal but couldn’t entice the Timberwolves, who would have needed to re-sign Kirilenko in order to trade him to the Spurs. It was an avenue worth exploring, but a dead end for the Spurs. (Kirilenko, who opted out of a $10.2 million contract for this season with Minnesota, signed a two-year, $6.5 million deal with Brooklyn.)
Even that missed opportunity is hardly some deal breaker for San Antonio, though, as a team that was seconds away from winning the title will get another shot this season. There’s no evidence to suggest that the Spurs’ window is shut. San Antonio is, at the very least, set to be awfully good this season, in part because it retained key pieces and replaced low-level contributors.
Grade: B. The Spurs didn’t do anything flashy, but they were a good enough team to hold course.