What is it about San Antonio, Texas that makes it an attractive destination for NBA free agents? It has everything to do with the Spurs organization, and very little to do with the city. The Spurs have been the steadiest team in the league since Popovich and Duncan joined forces. There is never any drama, and all they do is win. Every small market team in the NBA uses the Spurs as a guide to building a winning basketball team. The Spurs like to develop their own young guys so they don’t have to rely on signing big name free agents. The Spurs are either awesome at developing young guys, or the luckiest team in the history of basketball. I tend to believe that they are the best in the business at player development. Nobody knew who Kawhi Leonard was until he went toe-to-toe with LeBron James in the NBA Finals. This summer Leonard was one of the most sought-after free agents, and he earned himself a long-term deal with San Antonio. Danny Green also just got himself a bigger deal than most people would’ve ever thought possible just two years ago. This past week they proved that they aren’t afraid to make a run at a big name free agent by inking LaMarcus Aldridge to a max contract. They put the rest of the NBA on notice.
The Spurs are absolutely loaded this year, and will easily be one of the three favorites to bring home the title. The Cavs will be the overwhelming favorite to win the Eastern Conference, and San Antonio vs Golden State will be the expected Western Conference Finals match up heading into the season. The Spurs early exit from the playoffs, combined with Golden State’s historical season, showed the Spurs that they needed more pieces if they hope to win a championship anytime soon. Not only did the Spurs accomplish their goal of adding pieces, they also signed their next franchise player in LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Spurs added two key big men in David West and the previously mentioned Aldridge. David West is much older than Aldridge so his potential is lower, but he is extremely important to San Antonio’s short-term success. West proved how much he wanted to win by taking a pay cut of more than 10 million dollars! Many athletes say winning is more important than money, but West put his money where his mouth is and then some. He is nearing the end of his career and is obviously chasing a ring. No matter your opinion on David West as a player, you have to respect his desire to win. Aldridge is a huge get for both now and the future. LMA was brought in to eventually replace Tim Duncan, as well as give Duncan a chance at one last title run. LMA’s outside range will help clear space for their guards to cut to the basket, and it will give West and Duncan more space to work down low. The trio of Duncan, Aldridge, and West puts the Spurs right up there with Memphis as the top combos of bigs in the league.
Bringing back Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green is also important to their potential championship run. Although there was little doubt that San Antonio would let Leonard get away, it is still a big deal that they locked him down for the foreseeable future. Leonard and Aldridge will be the faces of the franchise in the near future, but both are needed for any chance of winning now as well. The ceiling on Leonard is sky-high and many Spurs fans think he can eventually win the MVP trophy. Leonard is an outstanding perimeter defender, but he can also shoot the ball. Leonard is one of the premier three-and-D forwards in the NBA, and will be a huge part of the Spurs rotation next season. Danny Green is a great floor spacer because he is a deadly three point shooter. He can get hot at anytime and just not miss at all. Green isn’t a great defender, but he isn’t a liability either. Many people thought Green was leaving San Antonio, but he probably made the right decision in staying put. He has blossomed as a Spur, and owes his outstanding development to the franchise. If he never ended up in San Antonio I don’t think he would ever be as good as he is now.
Adding the new additions from this summer to the returning of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, plus the longtime core of Ginobli, Parker, and Duncan catapults the Spurs to the top of the contenders list with the Cavs and Warriors. The Spurs certainly have the talent to win the Finals next season, but don’t be shocked if they don’t finish the regular season as a top two seed. Popovich has proven that he would rather rest his players than have the top seed in the playoffs. Expect for his older stars to get more days off this season than last season. Combine that with the fact that the west will be even stronger than last season, and that could change the seeding a little. No matter what seed they end up with, barring injury they should enter the playoffs as one of the favorites to lift the Larry O’brien Trophy.