1 - Which of the players that left in free agency will the Spurs miss the most?
Michael Erler: Good question. An argument could certainly be made for any one of three guys, but I'll go with Cory Joseph by a hair just because Tony Parker has been injury prone the past couple of years and we have no proof that Ray McCallum can play with the starting lineup the way Joseph has shown he can. Marco Belinelli's shooting will be missed, but Kyle Anderson and Jonathon Simmons can bring things to the table that the Italian did not. Aron Baynes is a legit backup center who has more mobility than a park bench, but I think the Spurs are gonna play small most of the time anyway with Duncan or Aldridge as their centers.
Bruno Passos: Cory Joseph, but that depends on what Ray McCallum can bring, how quickly he can pick things up in the Spurs system and how Tony looks. Cojo's terrific year was a product of his development coinciding with Parker's down year, and I think the Frenchman has at least one more great year in him.
Jesus Gomez: I never thought I'd say this but Aron Baynes. The Big Banger wasn't a special player but he was a solid backup that was improving on defense and was a good fit on offense. It would have been reassuring to have him coming off the bench instead of undersized or unproven players. Belinelli is a close second simply because there's not enough shooting off the bench. Hopefully, the new guys make us forget about the players that left.
J.R. Wilco: The player they'll miss the most is healthy Tiago Splitter. There's no one on the current roster who's able to be the defensive anchor that the Brazilian was. That means that the Spurs will need to win a different way -- which is fine considering all of the other changes the team will be making. Also, with all the problems Tiago had staying healthy last year, I wondered whether he'd ever be able to fully recover from that mysterious calf injury. Bottom line, the Spurs moved him to make room for LaMarcus Aldridge, but we still don't know whether they wouldn't have missed the old Splitter even if they'd kept him.
2 - The Spurs got a star free agent for the first time in a long time. Did you at any point think they were going to strike out?
Erler: No, not really. As cynical and pessimistic as I usually am, there was no time to be cynical and pessimistic about this. When I woke up on July 1st (granted, I slept in), I checked Twitter to see that they had already traded Tiago Splitter and re-signed Danny Green. Woj had already broken the news that Kawhi Leonard agreed to terms like five minutes after free agency started. I wrote that just keeping Leonard and Green made it a successful off-season in my view, but as I've stated numerous times, I simply refuse to accept that they traded Splitter on a hunch. They're too smart for that. Pop and R.C. Buford and Aldridge himself can deny it til the cows come home, and I won't ever buy it. I think Aldridge made his decision to join the Spurs a considerable time ago, and that's the hill I'm gonna die on.
Passos: I felt about as confident as anyone, but I still tried to not get my hopes up until it came down to the Spurs and Suns. A decade of conditioning has me unnaturally optimistic if it's a toss-up between those two.
Gomez: For about 15 minutes when the Suns made a trade with the Pistons to clear cap space. They moved marginal players but they included Marcus Morris in the package. The lesser of the Morrii is not a big deal on his own but Phoenix traded for him in the first place to appease Markieff. Sign-and-trade scenarios between the Suns and the Blazers rushed to my head until I could regain my composure.
Wilco: It wasn't just "at any point" -- I assumed they wouldn't get Aldridge because I never let myself believe he'd come to San Antonio until he announced his intentions with that wonderful tweet. Over the years, so many free agents have spurned the Spurs' advances and broken my heart (why, Shane Battier, why?) that I wasn't going to go through that again.
3 - David West also decided to join the Spurs, leaving money on the table to do so. How big of an impact do you think he can make?
Erler: Some, but more in the regular season than the playoffs. I'm skeptical, to put it kindly, about Boris Diaw's dedication for regular season games before the All-Star break. My guess is West will be more productive than Diaw and may leapfrog him in the rotation as the third big. In the playoffs though Diaw's passing and versatility will probably be more important than anything West can provide.
Passos: A pretty big one. From a depth standpoint, our second unit gets a guy who could start on nearly any other team, while Timmy will receive the rest he needs throughout the year, at little expense to the win column.
Gomez: I may be the only one thinking this, but if the Spurs knew West was a legitimate option why not trade Diaw instead of Splitter? West is not nearly as versatile as Bobo but he's exclusively a power forward, just like him. Alas, that didn't happen and I think it will limit West's value a bit. Diaw and him will have to be paired with one of Duncan or Aldridge or the Spurs will get killed on defense.
Wilco: Depth is huge. While we don't yet know whether West will be able to be a big part of the rotation in the postseason, having another experienced big man to help carry the bench through the regular season is huge. Keeping the minutes of the starters to a minimum is the name of the game from now until April. If Pop is able to do that while positioning the Spurs into a top playoff seed, then West's impact will be everything it needed to be.
4 - There are some new faces at the end of the bench in Jonathon Simmons, Boban Marjanovic and Ray McCallum. Who do you think will have the biggest impact next season?
Erler: If Marjanovic gets a chance to have an impact, something will have gone disastrously wrong. Simmons can play if/when Ginobili is hurt or being rested or if Anderson falters. McCallum will play if Parker gets hurt or Mills slumps badly. So of all those scenarios, the most realistic one is Simmons.
Passos: McCallum is in the position to be given more responsibility early if Parker or Patty go down, but I'm not sure how short his leash will be. I know next to nothing about Marjanovic, but he's at the end of a deep frontcourt rotation (albeit one lacking at the center position). Of the three, I think the expectations for Simmons are the lowest. If he can rebound well for his position on defense, hustle and knock down the occasional three (something he did well last year), it's easiest to see him surpassing Kyle Anderson and getting meaningful minutes later in the year.
Gomez: It's hard to see any of them cracking the rotation. I think Marjanovic could make the biggest impact simply by being a rotation-caliber center. From what I've seen his offense is good but his defense is suspect. Then again, that would have described Baynes when he first joined the Spurs.
Wilco: I'm most excited about Simmons. If he sees much playing time, it'll be because enough of the skills he showcased in Summer League are able to translate to the NBA -- particularly his defense. Whatever he brings as far as offense and ball handling will be icing on the cake next to what he brings as a defender. And that's some icing that I'm truly looking forward to seeing.
5 - Parker, Green, Leonard and Aldridge are locked up for at least the next three years. Will the window remain open even if Duncan retires after next season?
Erler: They'll be losing not just Duncan but also Ginobili, we should remember, and there's no guarantee that Parker is an asset any more. They'd have to sign another quality free-agent or two when the cap goes up to be legit contenders. Maybe not on the perennial-All-Star-max-contract level, but certainly at Green/Parker's level.
Passos: I definitely wouldn't say the window is shut. Leonard and Aldridge give the Spurs two top-five players for their position, while Green is a super specialist. All three are malleable guys who should mesh well with whatever additions we bring on board.
Gomez: I think so. They won't be favorites unless they land at least a very good defensive center but they would have a shot, not unlike the pre-Leonard Spurs. The 50-win streak will likely live on and that's not something imagined was likely after Duncan (and Manu) had retired.
Wilco: Duncan is irreplaceable, but as long as Pop has Kawhi, Aldridge and Green, he'll be able to find and develop guys to put around them. That said, I'm not going to spend time considering the end of Duncan's career until he says he's done. I know The End is out there. I know his retirement is a possibility. But it's been a possibility for years and he's still motivated and playing at such a high level. I'm not going to bother myself with thoughts of The End when Tim could conceivably stay productive for another two to three years.