This is the difficult truth: the San Antonio Spurs are rebuilding. Rebuilding started the moment Kawhi Leonard decided he would go into hiding last season. When your best player basically disappears, holds out and demands a trade, you’re officially in rebuilding mode. The question is not whether they have to rebuild, it’s what kind of rebuild they will undergo.
There are various types of rebuilding. For some fans, the word is synonymous with tanking or giving up. I’m not a proponent of tanking. History has shown that rebuilding is an inevitable fact that no team in any sport has escaped. Rebuilding can, for some teams, mean unapologetically tanking. That is not what’s happening in San Antonio.
Rebuilding can also be, for some teams, a ongoing process with little to no progress when it’s combined with bad drafts and dumb personnel moves year after year. As long as R.C. Buford is here, that won’t happen.
Rebuilding can be shorter for teams that draft and trade and pick up free agents wisely. There is usually a period without contending, but in time the team is back in the thick of things. Rebuilding can also be a transition from one era to another without going through long droughts of futility. Such a rebuild is more a reload and re -calibration. It is much more difficult to pull off, but not impossible — and that’s what the Spurs are attempting right now.
Here are reasons for optimism and why the Spurs might pull this off:
The young point guard could be special if his developmental trajectory continues. Second Team All NBA Defense is no small thing. His length, explosiveness, fearlessness and confidence are essential qualities for any would-be superstar. Being a gym rat only adds to the likelihood that he will achieve All-Star status in time.
Yes, his offensive game lags behind his defense. Chip Engelland exists for this reason. Murray may never average 20 points a night, but 15 could be reachable. He must also grow as a distributor and floor general. This will come with time and reps and he’ll get plenty of both this season.
Assuming the Spurs don’t choose that nuclear option I previously wrote about, Aldridge can score the ball, works hard on D and is an All Star. (I do not believe the nuclear option is the most likely option. Nor do I hope PATFO goes nuclear.)
We caught glimpses of a healthy Rudy in the playoffs. If he stays healthy, he is capable of creating his own shot and scoring the ball, and he’s not one to back down. It’s huge that he is returning.
Speaking of a huge return: The Spurs need his shooting. He will fit seamlessly into the culture and provide much needed three point shooting along with steady, veteran leadership.
Whomever the Spurs get in a Leonard trade (assuming there’s a trade) will be high level. If there is reconciliation, the Spurs get Leonard back. If not, they’ll get a player or two (along with picks) who will contribute in meaningful ways immediately. That fast-tracks rebuilding considerably.
This year he gets minutes and consistency. The sharpshooter with limitless range will have the green light to let it fly, and there will be nights he simply goes off.
Forbes is also a shooter. Like Bertans, he shows little in the way of fear when it comes to taking big shots. He has potential to be a reliable small ball scoring option.
Summer league guys
He’s not the same guy who played for the Spurs G-League team last year. He played with confidence. His shot looked very nice. His handle impressed and he made some Ginobili-esque passes and played solid D as well. There’s a reason Will Hardy raved about his growth from last year. He looks ready for prime time — as in backup point guard ready.
Lonnie Walker IV
Except for his first outing, he played well for a 19-year-old. Not only did his athleticism stand out, his aggressiveness and ball handling impressed along with his defense. He’ll go through normal rookie growing pains, but he may contribute sooner than anticipated. NBA execs spoke glowingly about his game. The kid is special.
The physical young forward played efficient, physical, smart basketball. He can play the three and the four. He’s a grinder and he’s consistent. Teams need guys like him.
That’s a lot of young guns in the mix. More (with a Leonard trade) could be added. The Spurs need to get younger and more athletic. This is no longer a team of ‘old guys.’
There are of course the vets, starting with Manu Ginobili. His leadership and presence are priceless. The kids could learn a lot from him. Uno mas, por favor.
Mills, Green and Gasol, Solid veterans with championship pedigrees. All could be in other uniforms by the trade deadline. That, however, is another post. I’ll simply say this: Pop and Buford see the same needs and holes we fans see on the roster. They’ll see to them as best as the market allows.
Take it all in and what you see is a team that is rebuilding — not tanking, but reinventing itself on the fly. This is a team that is younger and more athletic. This is a team that is built to be competitive now and over the long haul.