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How the Spurs fare in a simulated end to the 2019-20 season

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NBA 2K20 predicts what lies ahead for the Silver and Black

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders have skewed our daily routines, and the guidelines of social distancing keep us six feet apart even when we venture into shared spaces like grocery stores, public parks, and pharmacies.

Keeping yourself entertained amid the international pandemic that is COVID-19 can be a monotonous task. However, with some creativity, one can discover a variety of activities to pass their newfound abundance of free time.

For me, one burning question has consumed my daily thoughts when my mind begins to wander. What would the rest of the NBA season have looked like for the San Antonio Spurs? A convincing victory over the playoff-bound Dallas Mavericks was their final contest before the league suspended play indefinitely, though the good guys weren’t trending in either direction.

Sure, the Silver and Black appeared primed to miss the postseason for the fifth time in franchise history, but did they have a late-season run left in them to make a final furious playoff push? We can’t possibly know what the rest of the schedule had in store, right? Well, maybe we can.

Since the scare of contracting and spreading Coronavirus contained me to my apartment a little over two weeks ago, playing NBA 2K20 on my PS4 is as close as I’ve come to witnessing live sports. And to be completely honest, it’s easy to let a few games become a few hours of mindlessly mashing buttons.

While it’s just a video game, it got me thinking. Could a simulation of the rest of the year and impending draft give Spurs fans the closure they need to satisfy their basketball craving? Maybe not. Still, I took the incredibly time-consuming liberty of running 50 simulations, and I’m here to share those results with you.

Before you swipe to the next best thing on your phone or whatever device your reading this on, no, I’m not here to bore you with every last mind-numbing detail. Quite the opposite. I’ve whittled all the information down to the most interesting outcomes, as well as a nifty notes section where you can find a couple of fascinating tidbits.

Average Outcome: 35-47 (11th Western Conference)

Lottery Results: 11th Pick

Above is what I consider essential information, and here I’ll fill you in on everything else you need to know about the end of the Spurs season and what transpired through the Draft. Free Agency was the logical stopping point since the game will either make you sign players or randomly sign players for you to meet positional requirements.

As you can see, the average outcome for San Antonio was a losing campaign and their first trip to the Draft Lottery since 1997. More often than not, nothing much happened as I simulated through the remaining schedule, but several surprising events happened with striking consistency.

Head coach Gregg Popovich retired at the end of the season 84% of the time, DeMar DeRozan opted out of his contract in every simulation, and the Spurs selected Jaden McDaniels with their first-round pick 27 times. San Antonio also took a particular liking to Udoka Azubuike, taking him with their second-round selection on 24 occasions.

Least Favorable Outcome: 36-46 (9th Western Conference)

Lottery Results: 14th Pick

The second simulation was by far the worst-case scenario for San Antonio. Not only did the miss the playoffs by two games, but they lost LaMarcus Aldridge to a season-ending Achilles injury suffered in a home loss against the Sacramento Kings.

As if that wasn’t tough enough already, the Silver and Black fell to the end of the lottery and somehow reached for centers Daniel Oturu and Makur Maker with the 14th and 44th picks respectively. Oh, and Gregg Popovich retired, DeMar DeRozan declined his player option, and team chemistry fell below 50% as they lost their last five games.

Thankfully, what happens in 2K20 stays in 2K20. All our players are safe, sound, and in their lovely residences eagerly awaiting the return of the NBA just like the rest of us. Admittedly, I wasn’t betting on situation numero dos to lead to any kind.

Most Favorable Outcome: 34-48 (12th Western Conference)

Lottery Results: 4th Pick

If simulation two was stepping in mud in a new pair of white shoes, then consider simulation forty-five discovering the holy grail. Though San Antonio only won seven games the rest of the season, all that losing was made worth it by the lucky lottery balls gracing the Spurs with the fourth overall pick.

In this perfect scenario, Popovich stays for another go-round, the good guys get Deni Avdija, and everybody escapes without so much as a scratch. The only semblance of negativity is the news of DeMar DeRozan walking and Luka Samanic failing to suit up for an encore to his lackluster debut.

Considering the wealth of good fortune, I have a feeling Spurs fans would gladly welcome this virtual fantasy into the real world. I don’t blame them. Who wouldn’t love seeing Deni Avdija dawn the Silver and Black with coach Pop leading the charge?

Wildest Outcome: 41-41 (8th Western Conference)

Lottery Results: N/A (16th Pick)

The 29th simulation in my extensive experiment turned out way stranger than I could have ever anticipated. The Spurs seemed destined for the lottery, yet a six-game winning streak to cap off the season brought them to 41-41, pulling them ahead of the Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Injuries sidelined Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl for the majority of the remaining schedule, but their return to action helped San Antonio stay competitive with the Lakers. The good guys pushed Los Angeles to seven games, and had Trey Lyles not fractured his right hand, in the penultimate matchup of the series, the Spurs might have pulled off a massive upset.

Popovich calls it quits during the offseason, and Alamo City has to settle for the 16th pick, though they do well given their circumstance by acquiring Paul Reed and Udoka Azubuike through the draft. Overall, it was a rollercoaster ride of a simulation that Spurs fans undoubtedly would have enjoyed.

Notes

  • You may be wondering how I managed to insert prospects into a game in which they don’t yet exist. Also, what made McDaniels and Azubuike so special to San Antonio? The short answer is I downloaded a user-made draft class, edited the player ratings to match my 2020 big board, and set the Spurs preferences to draft based on their positional needs.
  • Here’s something the game unquestionably got wrong. Out of the 50 simulations I ran, DeMar DeRozan was named to the All-NBA Third Team 44 times. The four-time All-Star put together one heck of a season, but come on 2K, there’s no way you bestow that honor to a player on a losing squad.
  • Now, this is a contest I would have paid good money to see. Lonnie Walker IV scored 23 points in 22 minutes in a 144-143 triple-overtime win over the Rockets. This game came in simulation 15 during the Spurs final tilt with Houston, and I have no doubt in the sweet-shooting two-guard’s ability to take over down the stretch. After all, we’ve witnessed this sort of outburst from him before.
  • Simulation 37 had a brilliant breakout game for Derrick White against the Pacers. The third-year combo guard recorded 20 points, 10 assists, and 4 blocks for the first double-double of his career. Better yet, he put on a show on the road in Indiana, going toe-to-toe with Victor Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon.
  • One of the best consequences of this massive simulation was the opportunity the computer gave the young guys. Whereas Pop may have kept them glued to bench in losses, the system granted them plenty of minutes when other players weren’t performing. As a result, Luka Samanic and Keldon Johnson combined for 27 points in a 40 point blowout of the Warriors at home in round 13. A sight that surely would have sent the AT&T Center crowd into a frenzy.