The Knicks are the Anti-Spurs (and other NBA playoff thoughts)

I will miss you if you leave, Patty - Cary Emondson-US PRESSWIRE

While the Spurs wait for an opponent, let's kill some time talking about how painfully boring the Knicks are, how fan favorites are so hard to let go, how great it is that the Kings are not becoming the Sonics, and how it's OK that the Spurs' long term future looks uncertain.

Sometimes I think of basketball related things that don't lend themselves to becoming stand alone articles. That's why I've grouped them together in this veritable medley of unrelated thoughts.

The anti-Spurs

My countryman Pablo Prigioni plays for the Knicks, so I was naturally predisposed to like them. I've watched a fair amount of Knicks games because of it and let me tell you, the Knicks are BORING. I know most people would disagree with me on this because they have guys like J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony, who are considered fun to watch, and athletic freaks like Iman Shumpert and Tyson Chandler. But there is no ball movement or off ball action at all for long stretches. A lot of their sets are ridiculously simple. Most consist of getting J.R. or Melo the ball and clearing a side or a basic pick and roll set.

Since Anthony and Smith are talented scorers, it works well enough and when they hit off-balance shots, that's fun, I guess. But watching them for a full game kills my soul a bit. That being said, I am spoiled, in a way, by rooting for the Spurs. On one of those annual "the Spurs are boring" articles someone said, and I'm paraphrasing, "team ball is only entertaining for people that like to watch team ball." I agree with that but would also add that ISO ball is only interesting to people that like to watch players dribble or jab step for 15 seconds and then chuck up a contested shot for a whole game.

The problem with fan favorites

I recently wrote about what the Spurs might look like next season, and I mentioned that I thought it was almost a given that Patty Mills wasn't coming back. It really makes no sense for a guy entering his prime to pick up his minuscule player option to fight for minutes against two players the Spurs seem to value over him in De Colo and Joseph.

The problem is I really like Patty Mills, and I want him to stay because the world is a little better when Mills is waving his towel after a made bucket. Mills seems to be a genuinely good guy who likes spending time working for charities and he is fun to watch, especially in garbage time. He obviously has basketball skills --we are not talking about a stiff that steals money -- but at this point, I don't think there's a future for him with the Spurs and that makes me kind of sad.

I know some people went through this with Stephen Jackson being released and some might worry that Matt Bonner, Gary Neal or Tiago Splitter might not be in a Spurs jersey next season. I understand the reasons why those guys could leave or be released and a part of me thinks that it all just sucks and wishes they could all stay. I would make a terrible GM for many reasons, but one of those would be that I'd probably get too attached to players to make the tough, rational decisions.

The Kings are likely staying in Sacramento and that's a great thing

The NBA super committee voted unanimously against relocation after prospective owner Chris Hansen filed to move the Kings to Seattle. That doesn't mean that the board of governors will vote the same way, but considering the two bodies are comprised of some of the same people (owners), it's hard to imagine it going differently. That means the team will probably stay in Sacramento, and the Maloofs will likely sell to a group led by Vivek Ranadive that has come up with a counter offer vowing to keep the team in California's capital.

This is great news for a number of reasons. Chief among them the fact that Sacramento, unlike other franchises that were relocated, can sustain a team and fought for theirs. This is a fan base that was loyal and near the top in attendance before the Maloofs cast a shadow on the entire franchise with their Maloofery. Mayor Kevin Johnson and the Here We Stay grassroots movement have been fighting the good battle for a while, and have come up with the funding plan for a new arena along with commitments from local businesses to support the team if it was sold and stayed in Sacramento. It would have been a tragedy to see a passionate fan base and a willing and cooperative city go empty handed because the team's owners wanted to screw with Johnson and the town after they rightfully turned on them.

It also stinks that Seattle, a city that has proved it can easily sustain a team and deserved better than what they got from Sonics-gate, will not get a franchise now or seemingly any time in the near future. The league has announced it has no plans to expand, and most teams that are reportedly on the market, like the Bucks and Wolves, have owners that are committed to keeping the teams in the cities they are in now. Hopefully, the league revisits the idea of expansion soon and we get the Sonics back without losing any other team.

Projecting the young Spurs' progression is tricky

In the same article I linked to in the fan favorites entry, I listed the options the Spurs will have this off season and how it could shape their future. One of the potential approaches would involve getting a marquee player in his prime to bridge the gap between the older and the younger guys while potentially replacing Duncan when he retires in a couple of years. I mentioned Josh Smith and Al Jefferson, since those two are more realistic than Chris Paul or Dwight Howard.

When trying to project the team's makeup, say, three years down the road with an older Parker, Smith/Jefferson and the rest of the Spurs' youngsters, I get to a point where it gets really, really hard to predict their ceiling. Big Al and Smoove are basically the players they are going to be. I could see them improve at least marginally on their biggest weaknesses (shot selection and BBIQ in Smith's case and pick and roll defense in Jefferson's) but they won't all of a sudden improve in all aspects enough to be the kind of guy that can be the best player on a championship team. Parker is the type of guy that can carry a championship-level offense now but will probably be starting to slow down in a couple of years as well.

So that leaves internal growth. What is Kawhi Leonard's ceiling, exactly? I think he could become a great two way player but are we talking Pippen territory or Iguodala? I don't see Danny Green improving dramatically at this point, to be honest. Cory Joseph shows flashes that he could become an adequate starting point guard, in the realm of Jameer Nelson. De Colo could easily become a J.J. Barea type of relatively-low-minutes/high impact player. I like Baynes but he has "fourth big at best" written all over him. Hanga, Bertans and Richards may make the jump and become contributors or never be heard of again (hi, there, Robertas Javtokas).

Even if we go by best case scenarios, a Parker/Joseph, Green/ De Colo, Leonard/Hanga, Smith-Jefferson/Bertans and Baynes/Richards roster lacks the all-world talent that would allow them to compete against other young teams like OKC, the Dubs, the Wolves or even teams on the middle of their rebuild like the Pelicans. I like the Spurs' "youth movement" but I don't think they are one piece away from making a seamless transition from Duncan and Ginobili, at least not if the goal is to stay a contender. Which is fine. The Spurs have enjoyed lasting success that other franchises and fan bases can only dream of and at some point that is going to stop.

Being a good team that makes the playoffs and has an outside shot at a title is not so bad and with the pieces they have now, and the ones they will likely try to get in the near future, the Spurs could achieve that without having to go through a painful rebuilding process. But any decisions that are made this off-season should probably be done with an aim at improving the team for the next couple of years. Once Duncan and Ginobili are gone, there will be time to figure out the next step and it seems like the Spurs are one of the few contenders that have set themselves up nicely for life without their franchise cornerstones, even if contending doesn't seem to be in the cards immediately after they retire.

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