1. List the biggest reason(s) the Spurs were eliminated by the Thunder
Michael Erler: Like Pop said, they had more players play well than the Spurs did. San Antonio's bench was awful, any way you slice it. Mills had a miserable series, Diaw was a non-factor against their bigs, to the point of being a DNP-CD in Game 6, West was completely ineffective against their size and Ginobili was too subdued, really never looking to get involved. In a typical game the Spurs had 3 or 4 guys playing well, whereas the Thunder had 5-6. Also, the Spurs had to negate their disadvantages on the glass and in free-throw attempts by shooting better from outside, and they couldn't.
Bruno Passos: OKC played a great series. All of the pieces came together: big bench contributions; stars shining; a bit of luck, and a Game 6 that had enough plays made down the stretch to seal the victory.
Jesus Gomez: I would never credit Pop exclusively for success so I won't blame him exclusively for failure, but the way he handled rotations was baffling. The bench's struggles only compounded the problem. I think those are the two biggest reasons why the Spurs lost.
Chris Itz: Pop repeatedly playing West and Diaw together drove me crazy. It seemed very evident that the Spurs couldn't rebound when they were the bigs and Pop just continued to stubbornly trot them out. So, it's Pop and weak bench play for me.
J.R. Wilco: For me it came down to the lack of ball movement on offense and inability to rebound on defense (or at all). San Antonio's offense bogged down and the one-on-one play wasn't effective. Instead of running Durant and Westbrook all over the court trying to defend, OKC's stars got to rest as the Spurs dropped the ball into Aldridge. As Roberson showed that he was up to the challenge of guarding Kawhi, there was no way for the Spurs to generate the easy buckets that have been the team's trademark. And as good as the Spurs' defense was at forcing Thunder misses, you don't get a stop until you grab a rebound. The Adams/Kanter frontcourt dominated the glass and extended far too many of the Thunder's possessions.
2. After a historic 67-win season, what's the biggest positive takeaway for a team that couldn't get out of the second round?
Erler: That no one suffered a catastrophic injury that will impact their ability to play next season? That they won't feel overconfident and flatter themselves about the very real weaknesses they have? It's hard to feel good about the way it ended, to be honest, but if I had to pick something, it's that Leonard took another couple of steps forward to full-fledged superstardom. They know he can carry a team now. They just have to build around him.
Passos: The sustained growth of 2nd-place MVP vote-getter Kawhi Leonard. The guy's ceiling keeps going higher and higher, and that softens the blow of a second-round exit following a year filled with greater expectations.
Gomez: The biggest positive takeaway is that by the end, Leonard and Aldridge started to find ways to coexist on offense. Earlier in the year Aldridge deferred too much and Leonard, enjoying the green light for the first time, was pushing a bit. In the playoffs they were basically taking turns -- which is just how the Spurs might have to play from now on -- but they were both getting shots up, which was good to see.
Itz: LaMarcus settled in, Kawhi is still getting better and they'll be fine going forward.
Wilco: I think we'll look back on the second round of 2016 as our first glances of the Spurs' unstoppable combo of Kawhi and LaMarcus -- with those two working off each other, breaking down defenses, punishing mismatches, and feeding open teammates out of double-teams. There were moments when that happened against the Thunder, and I expect Pop and the coaches to use that as the foundation of the offense going forward.
3. LaMarcus Aldridge's first year has to be considered (fill in the blank).
Erler: A pleasant surprise. He had a rough start for sure, but figured out how to play with his teammates (and they with him) about halfway through the year and he was better as a post scorer and a defender than I thought he was. And there wasn't any drama behind the scenes or chemistry issues with him that we were led to believe there would be.
Passos: An extremely successful transition. The Spurs' adjusted their style of play to suit his skillset while LaMarcus adjusted to a new offensive system, and the fact that it all happened amid the team's most impressive regular season is no small feat.
Gomez: The beginning of a new era. These are not the same Spurs we saw from 2011-2015. Aldridge did his best to adapt but he's still a one-on-one scorer and so is Leonard. That's neither good nor bad, but it took some adjusting. Now that the new identity has been established, it will be interesting to see how R.C. and Pop continue to build on it.
Itz: A success! It took me a while to come around to him but now I look forward to watching him the next few seasons.
Wilco: An excellent first look at what he can become on both sides of the ball. Aldridge got to the point where it was obvious how comfortable he was on offense. I expect that to continue, while his defense becomes a national story. In his first year in San Antonio, he showed flashes of being able to defend and a far higher level than I ever expected him to. I think those flashes will happen more frequently to the point where we expect him to be regularly excellent.
4. If Duncan, Ginobili, and Bonner don't return, what realistic roster changes would you like to see made this summer?
Erler: I think they'll replace Duncan with a big-man of note. Maybe Al Horford will be their first target, but I like their odds of "settling" for Pau Gasol. Replacing Ginobili will be a lot trickier, and the best solution may be in house with Jonathon Simmons, but only if he progresses a bunch in the summer. I'd love for them to go hard after Mike Conley, but I don't know how realistic that is, especially with Parker already on the books for a lot of money. Ideally though you surround Aldridge and Big Man X with three downtown threats instead of two. That's what made him effective in Portland. Jeff Teague shot well this year, but historically he's not as good as Conley.
Passos: If the Spurs don't get Mike Conley, an investment in a point guard of the future would be good. As solid a year as Tony had, the need for an upgrade is there and there's an abundance of talent at the position around the league.
Gomez: It was obvious since preseason that the Spurs were lacking size. That was even more noticeable in the postseason. If Duncan doesn't return, getting a quality center is the first priority. I'm assuming Pop wants nothing to do with Hassan Whiteside and Dwight Howard. Kicking the tires on Joakim Noah might be worth a shot. At his best, he could guard both big man spots, which would come in handy. Our old friend Ian Mahinmi had a breakout season. Maybe it's time for a reunion. Aldridge wanted to play with Tyson Chandler last offseason, so giving the Suns a call couldn't hurt. Just please, for the love of all that's holy, no Pau Gasol.
Itz: Mike Conley, Al Horford, LeBron. Any of those guys. A center who can shoot, a guard that can get to the rack, and a sandwich enthusiast.
Wilco: I'd love to welcome players to fill the gaping holes Tim and Manu would leave behind, but we can't expect to immediately add top tier guys in the same spots that we just lost transcendent talent. We need outside shooters who can rebound and defend and I expect PATFO to pursue guys like that regardless of what position they play. Be ready for the next great incarnation of the Spurs to very little like the teams the Big Three led to championships.
5. Now that the playoffs are down to four teams, who do you most want to win it all? And who least?
Erler: Toronto, but that's a pipe dream. I guess I still have to pull for the Warriors after them, because I have friends and family who root for them. Least would have to be OKC. If the Finals was Cavs-Thunder I might just skip it and watch my DVDs of the 2014 Finals instead.
Passos: Most: Since the idea of Bismack Biyombo, Finals MVP, feels unlikely, I'm happy for history to run its course and the Warriors to steamroll their way to a back-to-back, although I'll probably cheer hardest for Toronto until they go down. Least: the Cavs.
Gomez: I want the Cavaliers to win it all. I'd rather see and Eastern team win it and the team has a long suffering fanbase that would really appreciate the title. I don't want the Warriors to win it, mostly because of their owner, Joe "light-years ahead" Lacob. Lakers exceptionalism found a new home in San Francisco.
Itz: Well, if I have to choose, and I don't like any of them, I'd go Cavs. I don't want to see the Warriors get any cockier.
Wilco: My sister's family lives in OKC and my nephew, who grew up cheering for the Thunder, lives in Austin, not too far from me. So a ring for the Thunder would have that fan-by-proxy thing going for it -- where you don't mind a team winning because of the joy it would bring those you're close to. Besides, my dad always told me that the best possible outcome of a non-championship season is to be beaten by the champs. Next preferred is Toronto, because of CoJo. Then Cleveland because of that poor city's history. Finally GSW, although (sorry, Chris) I'm not sure it's possible for them to get any cockier.