The Spurs have surpassed Vegas expectations and could end up with around 35 wins. Are you surprised by it? Are they ahead of schedule?
Marilyn Dubinski: I’m not surprised at all. I have believed from day 1 that this team’s floor was about 30 wins with a ceiling of a .500 team, and that’s exactly what’s playing out (if unconventionally). Those who are surprised probably weren’t looking past DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge and the other vets for the last few years and therefore didn’t see the promise and talent that existed within the young Spurs who hadn’t been unleashed. As a result, I believe they’re more on schedule rather than ahead — although I’ll readily admit Dejounte Murray turning into an All Star this soon (if at all) wasn’t on my radar.
Mark Barrington: I think they’re ending up about where I expected them to be, although, not exactly in the way I expected them to. I said before the season that they would not be good, but there were enough bad teams in the west for them to possibly make it into the play-in tournament, and that’s playing out as expected. But they were worse than I expected early in the season, and they’ve been exceeding expectations after the All Star break, mostly because of improved offense with a more balanced starting lineup, and Dejounte Murray’s improvement as a floor general. The defense has been bad, but it’s showing signs of improvement. I think they are on a good path, so I think they’re going to be much, much, much better next season. Maybe another much.
Bruno Passos: The Vegas expectations felt low to me at the time, so I can’t say I’m too surprised. They’re collectively more or less within the range many imagined, which was staying in the mix for the play-in while still hitting their heads against a pretty real ceiling capped by a lack of high-end talent. That said, I think individual strides by Murray, Johnson and Poeltl, plus the additional seasoning for other young players probably puts them on a faster track to wherever they were headed than before.
Jesus Gomez: I’m a little surprised, but not shocked. My prediction for the season was 30 wins, but Murray made a bigger leap than I anticipated and having something to play for in March, when most teams slow down, probably has helped them exceed expectations a little. I’d say they are slightly ahead of schedule, mostly because they have looked competitive even in a lot of losses, but they are still the inexperienced team that plays hard but is missing a few pieces that I think most of us expected them to be.
If the Spurs actually make the play-in, should that change their offseason plans? Should they add veterans and make a run at the playoffs next season?
Dubinski: Making the play-in was always a decent possibility for this team, and their goal is already to build back up to a playoff team, so there’s no reason for them to change any plans over a relatively small accomplishment (in the grand scheme of things). Barring possibly getting a franchise player via trade — there’s otherwise no one on the free agent market they should sell the house for — they should just keep doing what they’ve been doing: draft diligently, determine which young talents are worth keeping, and fill in the holes through free agency. (Forwards, please!)
Barrington: The Spurs surprised me by going all-in on rebuilding this year, but I don’t think next year is going to be a rebuilding year because the team has made so much progress already. I don’t think that’s a change in plans, the Spurs are just returning to their default setting, which is contending in the playoffs.
Hopefully, they can keep Josh Richardson on the team as a long term piece (currently under contract for next season, but the Spurs should think about keeping him longer), and add another power forward through free agency or the draft. We’ve seen how successful the Spurs have been using lineups with Jock Landale as the second big, so imagine how good they could be with a tall forward who was also a good defender. I mean, we should keep Landale as a backup, but we need more size in the starting lineup.
Passos: God no. Making the play-in, for better or worse, would have a lot to do with a softer West and an incredibly, hilariously underwhelming Lakers team, despite meaningful growth within the team through the year. The team still has significant positional and skills gaps and a need to bring more difference makers in. However they were planning on doing that a month or two ago should remain the same, even if they’re selecting 9th or whatever in this draft instead of 6th. I assume that’s what will happen, with the team using the long view with its assortment of future assets, although that likely won’t preclude a some level of veteran presence to balance out all of the youth.
Gomez: I really hope they won’t. The White trade showed that the front office is focusing on the big picture and still prioritizing asset acquisition, and that’s the best way forward. Depending on what they do with their draft picks, adding a power forward could make sense. Similarly, if Lonnie Walker IV leaves in free agency, keeping Josh Richardson should be on the table. But any addition made to get the eighth best record instead of the 10th next year would be foolish. The young core has showed progress. Guys like Keldon Johnsons and Devin Vassell should get one more season to prove they can be a long-term answer at the wing before someone else if brought in.