Definitely the biggest week of the summer for the Spurs. The evil empire has been vanquished and the Silver & Black’s roster is taking shape. There are only a few items left to discuss before they all eventually converge to training camp.
This week, PtR contributors Jesus Gomez, Marilyn Dubinski, Mark Barrington, Bruno Pasos, and Jeph Duarte discuss the acquisition of DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl, the roster in its current state, and head coach Gregg Popovich stating he is not retiring after one more season.
How do you like the addition of DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl to the Spurs? What roles do you expect them to fill?
Jesus Gomez: I’m not a huge DeRozan fan. His offensive game is more diverse than it was earlier in his career, but he still lacks a reliable outside shot, which limits his impact and versatility. I expect him to start at shooting guard and overtake Aldridge as the focal point of the offense, since he lacks the tools to play off the ball. He should be good on that role, to his credit. I’m excited about Poeltl. He could be the dive man the Spurs need off the bench to pull the defense towards the paint. I expect him to provide quality minutes as backup center.
Marilyn Dubinski: DeRozan will upgrade the Spurs’ offense from last year by default just by being there. Beyond that, he gives the Spurs another player who can create his own shot, as well as for others. It would help tremendously if he could add a three-pointer to his game, and maybe some time with Chip Engelland will help. If he could hit over 35% from beyond the arc it will be a job well done. I haven’t seen Poeltl enough to form an opinion, but all reports indicate he carries plenty of upside. If J.R. Wilco is correct that Tiago Splitter is his floor, then the Spurs are in good hands at center.
Mark Barrington: Being present is a big upgrade over one of the guys they are replacing, so there’s that. But DeRozan brings buckets, and I think it’s the offensive catalyst the team needs after the painful-to-watch travesty of last season’s stagnant mess on their end. On the other end of the court, DeMar is not good at defending, but hopefully he improves in a silver and black uniform. Poeltl brings youth and athleticism to the center position. I’m excited how he will develop with Gasol as a mentor.
Bruno Passos: DeRozan gives the Spurs the off-the-dribble creator and second high-volume scorer they desperately needed last season. Even if he’s not a good three-point shooter, the efficiency of those around him should improve provided Pop figures out the right spacing lineups. Poeltl can run the floor and set screens and roll, and he seems to have the size and smarts to thrive in the Spurs’ defensive system.
Jeph Duarte: I’m quite excited that the Spurs brought in a young, athletic big into the mix. I had such high hopes for Joffrey Lauvergne and was sad to see him fade to the back of the bench. As for DeMar DeRozan, I think he’s a great fit for the Spurs culture. On offense, he requires more coverage than Danny Green, so this will redefine the offensive strategy. I read initial comments that his defense was a concern, but with Murray, Aldridge, and Poeltl on the floor, the Spurs should have a strong defense.
This week Gregg Popovich addressed his timeline to stay with the Spurs, saying “When I can’t do it anymore, or don’t wanna do it, or people don’t wanna do it with me, then I’ll stop doing it.” How much longer do you expect him to coach?
Gomez: Pop’s contract actually expires after this season, unless he’s signed an extension that was not made public. It shouldn’t be hard to tack another year at the end of it, though, which would take Pop right into 2020, the year in which he’ll coach Team USA in the Olympics. After that, I could see him moving on.
Dubinski: For some reason I’ve never felt like 2020 would be the end for Pop. I just don’t picture him spending the summer coaching Team USA, only for that to be the end without at least one more year in the NBA. I second-guessed that notion a bit after his wife’s passing, but he seems happy to be back at work with his mind on something else (which I can completely relate to). I’m guessing 2021 at the earliest.
Barrington: He certainly will outlast his critics, but then again, his critics are lightweights. I expect him to ride into the sunset after he wins the gold medal with the US Olympic team in 2020. Or 2024, who knows?
Passos: Even at 69, Pop might be in better shape than I am, which doesn’t say much but should speak to the viability of his first point. The third one stretches out into infinity, since working under him is the NBA coaching equivalent to a Rhodes scholarship. It all comes down to when he decides enough is enough, and it’s hard to say how and when a person gets to that decision.
Duarte: I see Pop continuing on as this Big 3 (DeRozan, Gay, and Aldridge) transition into the next Big 3 (Murray, White, and Walker). I really didn’t see him leaving while the team was transitioning through the events of the summer. I imagine he’ll stay on long enough to see Becky Hammon take the torch.
Brandon Paul’s contract becomes guaranteed on August 1st. With so many guards on the roster, should the Spurs lock him in for another season?
Gomez: I have no strong feelings one way or the other. He’s probably not getting minutes, but I doubt anyone else the Spurs could sign to be their 15th man would either.
Dubinski: I love Brandon Paul and won’t be upset if he stays, but I would also like to see the Spurs upgrade other parts of the roster (like small forward). That being said, knowing the Spurs and how much they value a good locker room guy, I can just as easily see them keeping him. Basically, my personal preferences (for basketball reasons) lean towards not picking up his contract, but if I had to guess what the Spurs will do, I’m completely split.
Barrington: Brandon Paul is the kind of guy you really want on your team, a good teammate who works his ass off and does everything the right way. But he’s just not proficient enough on the offensive end to keep on the roster, in my opinion. There are only 15 available spots, and I don’t see one for him right now.
Passos: The need for someone like Paul is definitely there. He can guard many small forwards with his strength and length, and every roster can do with a player in that mold who can also shoot the three. The Spurs just traded away two of them and lost another wing in free agency who was at least great on the defensive end. They could absolutely do with giving him a proper try, but the same could’ve been said last season, too, so maybe something is lacking in him that we’re not seeing.
Duarte: The Spurs could waive him in search of another small forward, or they can continue to develop him. The logjam at the shooting guard position might have him riding the pine for another season. I really didn’t think the Spurs would keep him after the way Pop seemed to under-utilize him throughout the season. I wouldn’t mind the Spurs grabbing a legit small forward like Luke Babbitt for a season to even the squad out.
Jonathan Sanford, the voice of the Spurs at the AT&T Center, announced this week he will be leaving the organization as he and his family move. How essential is Sanford and the role he plays to the live-game experience?
Dubinski: Nothing against Sanford or any other arena announcer who helps add to the entertainment value, but the Spurs have lost much more ”essential” pieces than him, and his position is not the hardest to fill. As long as the position consists of someone who is quasi-entertaining, has a clear voice, and isn’t super annoying, the job will get done without much thought of who’s behind the microphone.
Barrington: Essential? Nothing about basketball is essential, it’s an entertainment business. But he provided a lot of entertainment for the fans, and he’ll be missed. But there isn’t a lack of talent in the world of announcers, and I feel confident that the Spurs organization will find someone with a distinctive voice and a collection of memorable catchphrases to get the crowd revved up by the time basketball returns. In the mean time, I’ll just recite “TWOOO SHOTS!” at my TV every time a Spurs player goes to the charity stripe as my personal tribute to Mr. Sanford.
Passos: In most instances, unfortunately, someone can be amazing at their job but still mostly replaceable. That isn’t to say that Jonathan didn’t lend a distinct essence and energy to each game or that he won’t be missed, but I also think the Spurs will be able to find a dynamic new voice for 2018-19.
Duarte: Sanford is as essential to the experience as the Coyote or the Hype Crew, which is to say not at all if you are there solely to watch basketball. But the full game attendance experience has been enhanced by Sanford, and it will be strange to hear a different intonation when players are entering and exiting the game. He really hyped up the crowd and got them going, and that’s not as easy as it sounds. His “two shots” resonated with Spurs fans.
If you were sitting with the Spurs brass, who would be your push for a two-way contract this season?
Gomez: Darrun Hilliard can’t be on a two-way contract anymore, since he now has three years of experience. That leaves both two-way slots open. If Chimezie Metu doesn’t get the 15th spot, I’d love for him to get one of the two-way contracts. I think it would be a good thing to have him develop in Austin instead of abroad. Jaron Blossomgame did enough over the summer to deserve a closer look, too.
Dubinski: If he’s not ready for a guaranteed roster spot, I’d like to see Blossomgame get a two-way just so he can start getting some real NBA experience. His offense still needs work, but I feel he has what it takes to make the big leagues. Also, if defense is one of the main concerns on the wings now that Green and Leonard are gone, JB brings it in spades.
Barrington: Everyone is going to say Metu and Blossomgame, and those are the obvious choices. I would love to see Jeff Ledbetter play one quarter in San Antonio, as a reward for all of the time he’s spent in the minors helping the staff develop players and coaches. Just long enough to get a cup of coffee.
Passos: Metu makes the most sense for me. He seems to have more upside than what I’ve seen from Blossomgame.
Duarte: I’m all in on Blossomgame. I feel like Metu might need a year with the G-League before Pop pulls him down I-35. I’d like to see Amida Brimah getting some time with San Antonio. He was impressive in Summer League and could bring his athleticism to some games when Gasol is resting.
The day the Spurs biggest off-season trade was announced, Manu Ginobili tweeted this:
Gut check: is Manu coming back?
Gomez: Yes. Pop said that he wants him back, so I think Manu will be back.
Dubinski: He’s still contemplating it since he hasn’t said no yet, which to me means he’s leaning towards yes. More than anything he wants to feel needed. Tony got to the point that he didn’t feel that way anymore and left, but as Manu showed many times over last season, the Spurs do still need him. He still has the drive to carry the team in crucial spurts, he’s a go-to guy in the clutch, and he’s a bonafide leader. I think he’ll be back.
Barrington: Manu, always changing the game by going one way when he’s expected to do something else. He Eurostepped Twitter. I won’t know what to do if he doesn’t come back this year.
Passos: No news has to be good news, right? The longer La Decision draws out, the more likely I would think it means that we’ll get another season of Manu Magic.
Duarte: No, unfortunately Manu knows that if he comes back he’ll be taking Derrick White’s minutes and will stunt his growth, so he will gracefully bow out. Just kidding! He’s got to come back. UNO MAS!
Got a question for the panel? Be sure and add it to the comments or Tweet it to Jeph Duarte.