For the better part of two and a half decades, the Spurs offseasons have had a metronome-like quality. We knew they were going to try to find diamonds in the rough in the late first round of the draft, take a swing on an international prospect in the second round, use their mid-level exception to fill a hole in free agency and then find someone literally out of nowhere. No trades, very few splashy free agency signings (hello LaMarcus Aldridge), not many bad contracts handed out (they were really two years too late on getting good Pau Gasol).
For a lot of reasons, this year feels different. It started with the Bubble Spurs looking nothing like the regular season Spurs and has now spilled over into NBA Draft Season. For a variety of reasons a full rebuild may never happen, but what if we’re on the way to a two-year reload project?
Because the rumors are now out there let’s quickly discuss why a “blow it up” style rebuild may never be in the cards. First, much of the infrastructure from the extended dynasty is still in place. The Holt family remains principle owners, R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich remain in charge of basketball operations and Pop, as far as we know, remains the head coach for at least one more season. It’s hard to come up with an example of a group that is very accustomed to winning pivoting to intentional losing without an extended stretch of losing. The Miami HEAT, for example, have missed the playoffs a handful of times since the Big 3 broke up, but they never stopped trying to make the postseason. There are probably also business concerns. This is, after all, a small market franchise with a fanbase unaccustomed to losing. How long would Spurs fans continue to support a team designed to not compete?
The HEAT actually feel like a good model for the Spurs to follow. Don’t do anything crazy contract wise but show players (and their agents) you’re intent on keeping a winning culture in place even if title contention doesn’t seem plausible. That could start this summer, er-fall. We know the Spurs are working out players who are projected to go before the 11th pick. Deni Avdija and Onyeka Okongwu are not making it to 11 barring some sort of medical red flag. They’ve also interviewed Isaac Okoro and Tyrese Haliburton. Both might be there at 11, but you’re more likely to have to move up at least a couple of spots to land either. This is the year where moving up makes sense. The draft is considered light on elite talent. In theory, that should make trading up less costly.