The Spurs are currently walking a very fine line. After yet another opportunity to gain ground in the standings was missed by blowing a 25-point lead in Houston, they are sitting back at 12th in the West with a 10-16 record, and yet remain just 2 games behind the 8th seed thanks to a relatively down year for the league’s perennially-superior conference. In other words, a little winning streak would go a very long way.
This team knows what it takes if they want to reach a record 23rd-straight postseason, but the insistent question that’s being increasingly asked is: Can they actually do it? They should be able to based on talent and experience, but they continue to be excruciatingly inconsistent through games — and from game to game — with their losing record proof that the bad stretches far outweigh the good.
If they can’t get going, there are even more questions to answer, such as where do they go from here? Is it time to make changes to the squad with the hopes of turning this season around, or should they just go all-out Rebuild Mode?
A lot of that depends on what they can get on the trade market. If two of ESPN’s more knowledgeable talking heads are any indication, the answer is not a whole lot, at least in terms of star power that can pay dividends immediately, which could mean it’s probably rebuilding time if things don’t turnaround soon.
Zach Lowe has long been one of the Spurs staunchest defenders in the national media: a big believer in the “never count out Pop and Spurs” mantra. It’s easy to brush aside what the media has to say — Spurs fans have been doing it forever — but hearing him of all people finally say it’s time for the Spurs to rebuild means quite a bit more than usual.
Of course, the Spurs have technically been “rebuilding” behind the scenes for several years now. The youth movement more or less began with the drafting of Dejounte Murray, who usurped Tony Parker’s role and became an All-NBA defender in just his second season. Although his offensive game is a work in progress, it’s coming along. Derrick White has shown he can be a steadying presence on both ends of court, whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, and Lonnie Walker IV might be the most exciting young prospect Spurs fans have seen since the Big Three.
Rookies Luka Samanic and Keldon Johnson are currently developing in Austin but also fit nicely into future plans, as does Jakob Poeltl if the Spurs can retain him in restricted free agency this summer. Whether any of those players project to be actual “franchise players” by the Spurs’ definition remains to be seen, but the reality is none are likely the answer to this season’s problems. (Although you could vouch for Walker, and I wouldn’t argue.)
That issue lies more with the veterans, especially LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan. They aren’t playing at the level they attained last season, and although either could fetch a decent haul on the trade market, it would likely not be an equal return in terms of talent. DeRozan is complicated since he can opt out this summer and will likely demand more than most teams are willing to pay to sign an extension. Aldridge and Rudy Gay have one and two years (respectively) remaining on their contracts after this season, so they might be easier to move, but they are also both finally looking like they’re past their primes.
If the Spurs are interested in trading any of them, the other question is: For what purpose? Do they go for young pieces and picks (i.e. full rebuild) and keep developing for the future, or do they try to get as much talent as possible in return, maintaining the original goal of reaching the playoffs while rebuilding behind the scenes?
The trade deadline is still two months away, so the time to act is soon for this Spurs squad regardless of what the ultimate goal may be. The Spurs have not usually been very active on the trade market, but this year could be different. Time will tell.
What do you want the Spurs to do from here?
This poll is closed
Stay the course and try to make the playoffs
Try to get better now via trade
Get younger and start rebuilding, even if it costs them the playoffs