The San Antonio Spurs finished the 2021-22 regular season with a record of 34-48. As the tenth seed in the Western Conference, the Spurs advanced to the NBA Play-In Tournament but were eliminated following a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Were the Spurs better or worse than you expected?
While the Spurs didn’t match my 38-win prediction, they were better than I expected. San Antonio actually outscored their opponents this season by ten points (9,279-9,269) and had an expected win-loss record of 41-41. That was the Spurs best expected win-loss record since the 2018-19 season.
Would you classify the Spurs season as a success?
Yes. I think it was a major success. The Spurs moved on from the DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge era and didn’t skip a beat. There was a worry that the youngsters would fall flat on their collective face without star-level veterans around to lead the way — and that didn’t happen.
Beyond the wins and losses, Dejounte Murray blossoming into an All-Star was a big deal. Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell took steps forward in their development. Jakob Poeltl proved that he’s capable of being a full-time starter. The Spurs also were able to continue to pile up their future assets along the way.
Shouldn’t the Spurs have tanked to get a better draft pick?
I understand the argument that the Spurs would have been better off tanking since there was no way they could end the season with a championship trophy. However, I think it worked out well. They’re currently in line to get the 9th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. If they would have actively tanked, they might have been able to drop to the 7th pick. In the grand scheme of things, losing two spots in the draft isn’t a huge deal. In fact, two spots in exchange for the youngsters gaining pressure-packed experience in the play-in game was likely a fair trade.
Besides, as it turned out, the young players were too good to end up with a spot at the top of the lottery. Keeping a winning culture (or at least a competitive, non-tanking culture) intact is a positive development in my book.
What were your main takeaways from this Spurs season?
Dejounte Murray becoming a player worthy of an All-Star selection takes top billing. I expected him to have a good season but becoming an All-Star was a surprising turn of events. I don’t believe Murray is the franchise’s next superstar that the Spurs can build around but he’s really good and can be a star player on a playoff team.
Keldon Johnson took some very important steps forward as a player. Specifically, his three-point shooting improvement was a fantastic sign for his future in the league. After a painfully slow start from beyond the arc, Johnson nearly doubled his rate of shooting threes and shot them at almost 40%. If that shooting precision is for real, he’s going to be a very valuable asset going forward.
Vassell and Poeltl both look to be starting quality players, which is great news. As a starter, Vassell averaged 13.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists while knocking down 37.3% of his three-pointers. After the long-distance marksmanship he exhibited in the play-in game, there’s hope that his three-point shooting percentage has room to improve.
Poeltl improved his scoring rate by 43% while upping his already elite true shooting percentage. That alone classifies as a monumental improvement — but he also improved upon his rates of rebounds and assists. That’s worthy of an applause.
What are you looking forward to the most this offseason?
It has to be the draft. The Spurs have three first round picks and, thanks to the Los Angeles Lakers and their futility, four picks in the top 38. San Antonio could also have a ton of cap room but this draft should be one of the most entertaining in Spurs history.
Are you confident the Spurs will make the right moves this summer?
I am. It seems like the Spurs have finally turned the corner and started doing what I’ve wanted them to do for years: stockpile assets. This organization has proven it knows how to draft, so hoarding draft picks was always the best way forward following the conclusion of the championship era.
If the Spurs continue to stack assets and spend wisely, I like where they’re headed. Sure, there likely won’t be a top five draft pick in the foreseeable future, but that’s not the end of the world. Judging by their history, if they keep taking shots in the draft and in free agency, they should be able to unearth a gem sooner than later.
Do you think head coach Gregg Popovich will return for another season?
I don’t know. Pop has his gold medal and he’s the all-time winningest NBA coach so there’s not much left for him to prove and not much left for him to accomplish.
That said, I do hope that Pop returns. He had his best coaching season in years. The way he developed Murray has been masterful. He’s also the best coach to get the most out of Johnson and Vassell.
If Pop wants to retire, that’s obviously understandable. But, personally, after seeing how well he’s still able to coach, I hope he sticks around for a few more seasons.