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What can we expect from the Spurs offseason?

With the San Antonio Spurs commencing training camp, it's the task of coach Gregg Popovich and his coaching staff to determine the rotation heading into next season.


The NBA offseason can be split into three acts.

First is free agency/trade frenzy, during which free agents sign with teams, teams trade for players, and so on. This season, we saw a particularly busy one, as many marquee free agents switched teams (such as Dwight Howard to Houston or Andre Iguodala to Golden State) or trades involving key players like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn.

The second part is the dullest part--the doldrums in between free agency and training camp. It felt shorter last season, largely due to the Olympics. And though the qualifying tournaments for the FIBA World Championships occurred during this time (in case you missed it, Tony Parker led France to a Eurobasket title), it couldn't quite sate the thirst of basketball fans.

With September ending and October (and training camp) around the corner, it's time for part three: when fans can sneak a peek at how their team's offseason translates to their on-court product.

As contenders, the Spurs have barely changed their core rotation. Tiago Splitter and Manu Ginobili were re-signed by the team, using up San Antonio's cap space (though one may note that Ginobili took a pay cut allowing Splitter to sign a big extension). This meant that whatever free agents the team had to attract would have to be content with a mid-level deal at the most.

The Spurs' most notable offseason acquisition is Italian Marco Belinelli, who last played for the Chicago Bulls. However, the Spurs offseason was most active on the coaching front, as Mike Budenholzer and Brett Brown left for head coaching positions in Atlanta and Philadelphia, respectively. To replace them, Jim Boylen was hired from Indiana (more on him later) and Sean Marks was effectively promoted to assistant coach (more astute fans may note he already helps in pre-game workouts and such). Boylen may have had a hand in the signing of Jeff Ayres (né Pendergraph) and getting Sam Young as a training camp invitee. However, these two do not seem likely to be major parts of the Spurs' rotation, assuming health.

Integrating Belinelli into the lineup, as well as finding out which young prospect has the edge in becoming the backup poing guard to Tony Parker (and he'll get a lot of rest this preseason) will likely be the coaching staff's priorities. Although Gary Neal's role could be seen as a precedent to Belinelli's, his playing style and size are distinct enough that the rotations may be subtly changed. The fact, too, that the Spurs have had no "small forward" (a largely useless term in terms of Pop's playbook) since Tracy McGrady's contract expired means that we could see a considerable amount of time seeing Manu play "small forward".

One likely result is that, as usual, Manu will be the first guy off the bench, replacing Danny Green, around the 5-6 minute mark or so. Then around the 3-4 minute mark, Diaw enters for Duncan or Splitter, and Belinelli can enter for Leonard. And a minute or two before the 1st quarter ends, Tony Parker subs out for his substitute, and the Spurs have a more-or-less set 9-man rotation (with situational backups like Bonner and Ayres to get spot minutes).

For that matter, despite Cory Joseph's strong showing last season, he does not have the backup slot on lock (even if I peg him as the favorite). Sophomore French guard Nando de Colo, who comes into camp with a confidence boost due to winning Eurobasket, could challenge him, as well as Australian guard Patrick Mills, who has more experience than either Joseph or De Colo. All three have their strengths and weaknesses (Joseph is the best defender, De Colo shows the most promise as a passer, and Mills can act as a microwave scorer; in contrast, Joseph's offense needs more work, De Colo needs to be able to create off the dribble, and Mills needs to play better within a structured offense) which should make this a pretty interesting battle.

As we move forward through training camp, we'll get a clearer picture of what our 2013-2014 Spurs will look like.