Fourth-Quarter implosions have become routine for the San Antonio Spurs this season. Though they went toe-to-toe with the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night, the final frame was a thorn in their side once again. They had zero answers for Anthony Davis or LeBron James once the action slowed down in crunch time, and their offense went silent.
The Silver and Black are 20 games under .500 for the first time since Tim Duncan was a senior at Wake Forest, leaving the franchise with an abundance of questions to consider as the trade deadline draws near. This season was always about player development, and perhaps the time has come to expedite that process with appropriate roster moves.
- Father Time might be losing the battle against LeBron James. But Jeremy Sochan has been particularly impressive against the living legend, putting the clamps on him in their three meetings this season. The rookie forward is one of 25 players that have contested more than ten shots from LeBron this season, and no one from that group has held him to a lower field goal percentage (26.7% on 15 FGA). Sochan gave Spurs fans another peek into his immense defensive potential on Wednesday night, hounding LeBron at the point of attack, walling up his physical drives to the hoop, and forcing the future Hall of Famer into a couple of turnovers. The 19-year-old has a unique combination of length, strength, lateral mobility, footspeed, and IQ that give him all the tools to develop into an elite multi-positional stopper. He hasn’t shied away from an arduous assignment, which only bodes well for his long-term outlook.
- Despite logging his worst game since turning 38 years old almost a month ago, LeBron James still rose to the occasion with the game on the line. He isn’t the same one-percent straight-line and vertical athlete he was at the outset of his career. But he has nullified that inevitable physical decline by adjusting his game to meet whatever demands modern basketball throws his way. In that aspect, LeBron is reminiscent of Tim Duncan, another all-timer that found success across three separate decades. While their skills and demeanors couldn’t be more different, their consistency, dominance, and longevity stand alone in the epochs of the league. Old Man Riverwalk won more championships and never missed the postseason, a feat Spurs fans can reminisce upon fondly during the vexatious times of a rebuild.
- The Spurs are searching for their next franchise linchpin, the Lakers need shooters that can capitalize on the wide-open shots manufactured by the gravitational pull of their superstar tandem, and the longstanding Western Conference foes can help each other. With San Antonio falling under .500 for the first time in more than two decades, there is no justification for the front office not to listen to offers for their veterans. Doug McDermott and Josh Richardson are reportedly available for a second-round pick apiece. With that said, they might be able to finagle a protected first-rounder out of Los Angeles, depending on how desperate their executives are to make a playoff push in the twilight of LeBron James’ career. Trading their crucial second-unit sparkplugs will leave an enormous hole on the roster, but one that can deliver rookies Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley invaluable NBA minutes. Such a transaction would probably result in more losses for head coach Gregg Popovich and company, though if better lottery odds are the goal, that shouldn’t be an issue.