Trying to explain what’s going wrong with this year’s San Antonio Spurs has been a season-long effort. From coaching decisions to issues with the roster and from incompatible stars to lack of defensive effort, most of us are at a loss about why this team is struggling so much compared to last season’s squad.
It’s hard to imagine a world without the Silver and Black in the playoffs, but with each passing game, that’s looking more and more likely to happen. The fact is, while the Spurs used to be the masters at adapting to varying styles of play, that’s simply not the case anymore.
For the better part of two decades, head coach Gregg Popovich has been able to keep up with the drastic changes in the game. This year, however, the NBA has completely lapped San Antonio to the point where their best option should be to blow it all up this summer.
What Needs the Most Immediate Attention?
There are two ways to approach next season if you’re the Spurs: Simply try to be relevant or work to become a legitimate championship threat.
As currently constructed, it’s hard to see this team as a championship threat any time soon. What the Spurs need to focus on the most this summer is simply catching up to the league’s current style of play.
A running theme all season long has been how the Spurs don’t shoot enough threes, but their issues with the trifecta go deeper than that. After giving up 11.7 made threes per game last season, San Antonio is giving up 13 per game this season, which has them in the bottom five in the league.
While the Spurs have still been managing to keep games close all year, the inevitable three-point barrages from even the lesser teams in the NBA have been breaking games wide open time and time again.
How the Spurs Can Fix This
The front office first needs to address three-point defense, both in terms of enhancing quickness on the perimeter and composing a roster capable of contesting those attempts. Starting someone like Bryn Forbes, who loses his man often and is too undersized to heavily contest even when he doesn’t, just won’t work.
Guys like Derrick White, Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV should have primary roles in containing the opposing team’s most dangerous sharpshooting threats, and similar 3-and-D players need to be brought in to help solve this problem.
Marco Belinelli is in the same boat as Forbes, in that he provides shooting on occasion but gives up way too many open looks on the perimeter. Forbes is likely to get a decent offer from a few teams that need outside shooting, and the Spurs should let him and Belinelli walk.
Even though LaMarcus Aldridge has recently started to nail his three-point attempts with regularity, the pairing of him and DeMar DeRozan has run its course in the Alamo City. The mid-range game is officially dying, and having a duo that both use that as their specialty will only be even less effective in 2021.
The Spurs must see what they can get for either one of them in the offseason and even settle for less if they have to. At the very least, they should manage to get some commodities that will help them build for the future.
Is a Coaching Change Necessary?
Popovich has been maligned by the Spurs fanbase all season long — and I can’t say I blame them. He’s been overusing guys he shouldn’t, under-using guys he should and has overall been making some strange decisions all season long.
The overarching issue with Pop this season, however, has not been with the Xs and Os of the game, but more his stubbornness. The game isn’t how it used to be in even 2014, and the team’s record this season is reflecting just how behind he and the Spurs are right now.
Given this is the first time San Antonio might miss the playoffs since the late 90s, I’d say the job should remain Pop’s next season if he wants it, but he needs to be willing to adjust and adapt.
No matter who’s leading this team when late October comes around, let’s hope the roster looks vastly different for a change, or the Spurs could be looking at a new kind of streak — one that doesn’t involve the playoffs.