This has been the quietest Spurs offseason since the summer of 2014, when they chose to run back the exact same 14-player squad that had just won the championship, plus a newly-drafted Kyle Anderson. And why not? There was no reason to think this team couldn’t make a third straight finals run.
While ultimately health (and luck) was not on their side during the 2014-15 season, this would still mark the last time the Spurs had a truly “Spursy” offseason, which can be defined as drama-free and simply doing what needs to be done, no more and no less. Since then, each offseason has ranged anywhere from un-Spurslike to downright chaotic, and here’s a quick recap of how they all down.
2015 — The Spurs sign LaMarcus Aldridge
A new age was on the horizon, and everyone knew it. The Big Three would retire any time now (although Tim Duncan semi-surprisingly re-signed), and the Spurs were looking for a star sidekick to help Kawhi Leonard kick off a new era of Spurs basketball. They got their guy in Texas native/All-Star big man LaMarcus Aldridge, although it required trading or letting go of staples from the championship squad, like Tiago Splitter. This marked the first time PATFO was able to lure an in-his-prime star to San Antonio (although in fairness, they hadn’t really needed to before that), making for the most exciting and non-Spursy offseason fans of the era had experienced to date.
2016 — LaMarcus Aldridge drama, Tim Duncan retires
The Spurs were a few unlucky bounces (and a bizarre noncall) away from returning to the Conference Finals in their first season with Aldridge, but otherwise everything seemed fine going forward — until it was reported that he was unhappy with the Spurs and had requested a trade. All sides initially denied this report, but Aldridge and Pop would eventually admit that a heart-to-heart talk had been required to smooth things over. Although everything ultimately worked out, a star’s unhappiness making it to the national media was something the Spurs had previously seemed immune to and created quite a shockwave. The other “drama” that summer was the inevitable retirement of Duncan (who reportedly planned to retire a year earlier but stayed at the behest of Aldridge).
2017 — Beginning of the end of Kawhi
Spurs fans were not happy heading into the summer of 2017 after the way the season had ended. Amidst a thrilling playoff run, everything was ruined when Zaza Pachulia slid under Leonard while the Spurs were surprisingly throttling the Warriors during Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. He was lost of the remainder of the series, and the Spurs would go on to get swept. Little did we know, this was the least of our concerns. While outside parties didn’t know it then, the timeline of drama and behind-the-scenes shenanigans from Leonard and Uncle Dennis that would lead to his exit from the franchise was just beginning.
2018 — Summer of Kawhi, Manu Ginobili retires, Tony Parker leaves
The 2017-18 season was arguably the most challenging of the Spurs’ 22-year playoff run. Leonard only appeared in 9 games, spent most of his time rehabbing away from the team, and caused plenty of locker room tension (at least for the Spurs) when he was there. The entire thing doesn’t need rehashing, but needless to say losing both of their remaining Big Three players along with having to pull off the biggest trade in franchise history to get something in return for Leonard and end the saga made for one of the biggest roster overhauls in franchise history.
2019 — Marcus Morris drama
This really wasn’t as dramatic an offseason as the previous few, but the Spurs just couldn’t buy a saga-free summer at this point. Looking to boost their depth and defense, the Spurs had reached an agreement with free agent forward Marcus Morris. In need of cap space to sign him, they traded Davis Bertans to the Wizards as part of a three-team deal. Unfortunately, in the timeframe between the trade and Morris signing on the dotted line, he reneged on the deal and signed with the New York Knicks instead, blaming the entire situation on a miscommunication with his agent. The Spurs would go on to sign Trey Lyles, which worked out, but the damage was done, and a beloved Spur was lost in the process. On the bright side, Duncan returned for a season as an assistant coach!
Now, it’s 2020: one of the most chaotic years in many of our lifetimes, but one thing has seemingly returned to normal: the Spurs offseason. No upset players, no trade demands, big moves or backfires: just the Spurs being the Spurs. There was initially a lot of smoke about them looking to move Aldridge and/or DeMar DeRozan for a higher draft pick, but nothing came of it. (This is a good place to remind everyone that there’s still over half a season to make any trades, and to take note that rumors ran amuck throughout draft night that more lottery teams than not were interested in trading picks, some even taking it down to the wire, but no one succeeded. This was an awkward draft devoid of star talent, and it wasn’t just the Spurs who struggled to make a move.)
Beyond that, this has been the Spursiest offseason since 2014. Whether or not what they haven’t done is a good thing is up to the interpreter, but there is certainly nothing wrong with what they have done. They drafted the best available player at their spot while also fulfilling a roster need (possibly even getting the steal of the draft along the way), re-signed all the players they wanted to keep for reasonable deals, and let go of the players they didn’t want anymore.
This is not to say there isn’t room in the future for a big move (again: the trade deadline is still months away), but it’s a reminder that this offseason hasn’t been as disappointing as fans who wanted to see fireworks have made it out to be. With more minutes available for Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV and Keldon Johnson, the addition of Devin Vassell, and Gregg Popovich likely leaning more towards the super-small ball style we saw in the Bubble, there’s plenty of reason to believe this team will at a minimum be more enjoyable to watch, and quite possibly improved.
The Spurs are likely not done with this offseason yet. They still have two roster spots left, and all signs — like revealing his jersey number — are pointing to them giving one of them to second-round pick Tre Jones, but after all the chaos fans have endured over the last five summers, there’s something satisfying about being away from the drama. Next offseason may not be so quiet, with plenty of players coming off the books and the cap space available to chase big-name free agents if they so choose, but it’s nice to know the Spurs way still exists, and maybe chaos isn’t the new norm after all.