I have a confession to make. I really don't like the way things are in the NBA right now. What I mean here is that I honestly don't like this whole inmates-ruling-the-asylum scenario we see on so many NBA teams these days. I'm absolutely sick of the Dwight Howard's and Carmelo Anthony's (and MANY others) of the world who hold their team's hostage unless the club meets their every demand. Even then they wind up stiffing their club to move on to supposedly greener pastures.
I don't like this one bit.
A couple of weeks ago one of my listener's asked, "What will the Spurs look like when Tim Duncan finally retires?"
Unless you have a crystal ball, there isn't an easy answer. But I can't pass up the opportunity to do some speculating, but I'm going to rephrase the question a bit.
What will the NBA look like when Tim Duncan retires and how will it impact the San Antonio Spurs?
Tim Duncan is old school personified, isn't he? He's one of the last Mohicans, one of the things I've really loved about my NBA. He plays hard every night. He seems to do what his coach asks and he loves the city of San Antonio. He seems to respect himself, his teammates, his opponents, the fans and the game itself. When a father is asked by his son, which pro athlete he should emulate, Duncan is the obvious answer.
That's how I see Duncan's departure affecting the NBA. The obvious answer is gone. Of course, that doesn't mean that there will no longer be men of integrity left in the game of basketball. Not by a long shot. But when will we see anyone as high on the list of all-time greats who fits the bill in every area that Duncan has? Will there ever be another certifiable best player in the league at his position who passes the son test? I hope it won't be long, but I'm not going to hold my breath.
Now for the second question: how does Duncan's departure affect the Spurs?
Just about any answer that doesn't include the word catastrophic is going to be an understatement. After losing their franchise player at the end of is contract in 2015, San Antonio will have one tall order in attempting to replace the face of the franchise. To be perfectly honest with you, replacing Duncan in the hearts and minds of Spurs fans isn't gonna happen anytime soon. Nor should it.
But, it won't just be Duncan saying sayonara. Spurs fans and the NBA are expecting to say goodbye to Manu Ginobili as well. He's signed through 2015 as well, and few if any would expect a 38 year old Manu to re-up. That's two out of the Big 3 gone just like that.
So where does all this leave the Spurs?
In my view from the cheap seats the Spurs only have two choices. They can either roll the dice in the Free Agent market and build on what they have left, or pull a tank job and hope for another gift from heaven like when they drafted David Robinson and Duncan. Let's take a closer look at both options.
Rebuilding from the 2015 Free Agent Market
As things currently stand, only Tiago Splitter is signed to a contract for the 2015-2016 season. I would think that at some point, depending on his health, the Spurs will extend Kawhi Leonard as Coach Popovich has openly declared Leonard will be the face of the franchise. It will be interesting to see how much Splitter improves and whether or not Leonard becomes what Popovich and other pundits declare him to be by the time Tim leaves the court for good.
Looking at the current list of possible Free Agents, we see some sure things and a whole bunch of maybes. Paul Millsap, Marc Gasol and LeMarcus Aldridge are intriguing to me, but where will they be health wise and more importantly are they worth the money they will surely demand? No one can be sure about the Millsap and I'm not all that sure about Aldridge. Gasol more than likely will remain with the Grizzlies, but it's fun to think about him in a Spurs uniform.
Tanking and Hoping for a lottery pick
The Spurs are no stranger to NBA draft lotteries drafting David Robinson in 1987, Sean Elliot in 1989, and Tim Duncan in 1997. I can't remember a franchise that has done as well as the Spurs with lottery picks but is tanking to win a lottery pick the route the Spurs should take?
I have a very hard time believing the Spurs would even entertain going into the tank, but in today's NBA anything is possible. Would a 66 year old Coach Greg Popovich stick aroung to coach a team with no shot? I really don't know the answer, but from all I've seen over the years I would think not. For years he's stated that he would be finished when Duncan retired but over the last couple of seasons he has distanced himself from those comments. So what he does will tell us quite a bit about what direction the team will go when Duncan retires.
That leaves Tony Parker. He'll be 33 and if he wants he can easily collect another huge paycheck, probably in San Antonio. I really believe the answer lies with him. He's an uber competitive guy and being on a team in tanking mode isn't likely to interest him at all. A Parker re-signing before Duncan and Ginobili retire would be a good indication the Spurs plan to continue being competitive and I would expect PATFO to be upfront with Parker about their plans.
There is another option the Spurs could entertain and that would be to sign and trade Tony Parker after Ginobili and Duncan retire. Depending on the circumstances, the Spurs could get a few key draft picks and -- armed with a lottery pick -- could have the Spurs back on top within a season or two. Sure, it's unlikely, but it's possible
If it were me, the first thing I'd do is lock in Popovich, then build around Leonard, Parker and a couple of free agents. All the while hoping a few of my international players -- like Adam Hanga, Ryan Richards, Davis Bertans and Livio Jean-Charles -- can start to fill the void left by Duncan and Ginobili.
What do you say, fellow Pounders? How would you keep the Spurs at the top for years to come?
More from Pounding The Rock:
- Ranking the NBA's defensive big men
- Spurs in international action: Eurobasket 2013 - France vs. Latvia
- What the Stephen Jackson-Steve Francis scuffle says about the NBA's changing hip hop image
- Pathology of the Spurs: Part 6 - The part that luck played
- Does Cory Joseph's excellent summer mean anything to the Spurs?