In a league with an ever-changing dynamic, stability is the most important asset to a team. Historically, small market teams have struggled to sustain long term success. A recent proponent to this trend has been the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs have long championed their philosophy of continuously competing, which is evident by their eighteen straight playoff appearances. For the Spurs, tanking in any manner is not an option because that would ultimately destroy their reputation amongst fans and other competitors.
With such a top heavy league like today’s, how do teams like the Spurs play meaningful, championship worthy basketball? Well, simply, they can’t. There are teams in the NBA that are content with making the playoffs and just selling out the arena. Since a championship is utterly unobtainable, waiting out the already established road block and remaining competitive is a perfect way to remain financially stable and not be slaughtered by the fans.
After last week’s trade bombshell, it is important to realize that the Spurs can’t afford to rebuild. A team with such a reputation cannot simply give up and start over. The departure of Kawhi Leonard reestablishes the theme of stability in the Spurs organization. No longer do they have to deal with speculation on whether their “star” will return or not. Also with Leonard out of the picture, meaningful succession and healing can now commence.
The Spurs have a “reasonable” crop of talent to work with. By securing Derozan, the team now has an option to play through. This past season a lot fell upon LaMarcus Aldridge’s shoulders, but with the addition of Derozan, the Spurs can now incorporate a system where these two players feed off of each other.
This move also provides a necassary mix-up the Spurs have long needed. By retooling the previous regime, San Antonio can now better incorporate their young players, who have previously sat on the bench, forgotten by the public eye. Popovich has a tall task to overcome by finding a way to surround Derozan and Aldridge with a cast of players that mask their flaws: perimeter shooting and playmaking. However, veterans such as Rudy Gay, Pau Gasol and even the youthful Dejounte Murray have already proven to be able to handle meaningful basketball.
With all that being said, the Spurs should at most be expected to make it to the first round of the playoffs as a fifth seed or lower. Through continuous mediocrity, the Spurs can wait out the dominance of the West and eventually surprise us all with their rhythmic and cohesive style of play.