Hoo boy…something is rotten in the state of Texas, and the smell seems to be coming from the Alamo.
The Spurs have their worst roster since 1996, when they spent a year tanking to get Tim Duncan, and speaking of 1996, this is the most Scott/Hollins Syndrome roster in the league, full of guys who can’t space the floor, can’t shoot threes, and who…well, OK, at least they play defense like a ’90s team.
San Antonio was 26th in the league in eFG%, 20th in two-point percentage, 26th in three-point percentage, 17th in Offensive Rating, and made the playoffs on the strength of the league’s third-best defense.
This year? Even Vegas doesn’t like ’em; the Spurs are marked for 43.5 wins.
Is that over-optimistic? Are the Spurs headed for their first losing record they didn’t post on purpose since 1989, the year before David Robinson came into the league?
2017-18 record: 47-35
2018-19 over/under: 43.5
The 2002 All-Stars
Aldridge and DeRozan would’ve been great players 15 or 20 years ago. You want a shooting guard who gets his points without being effective from the 3-point line, one of those played on the Bulls in the ’80s and ’90s. He was pretty good. Mike Gatorade, I think his name was.
Aldridge is one of those guys who would’ve been Horace Grant in 1992. In 2018 he’s a midrange jump shooter in a league where the Worst Shot In Basketball™ is a relic for guys who can’t attack the basket but can’t make long-range shots. Not for nothing were the Spurs fifth up from the bottom in eFG% last year.
Both guys rack up the counting stats and wow the barbershop. Neither guy is as effective as other guys with similar ability to score with volume.
But then again, we don’t deal in counting stats here, so what about the nitty gritty dirt stats?
DeRozan posted a 21.0 PER, .170 WS/48, 1.8 BPM (as a wretched minus defender, it should be noted), and a 2.6 VORP.
Aldridge posted a much better 25.0 PER, .209 WS/48, 3.3 BPM (as a barely-average defender) and a 3.3 VORP. But then again, he’s the center and can’t rebound (17.3 DRB%), so take that for whatever it’s good for.
It’s not that these guys suck. They don’t suck. They’re just not the two guys you go to in a loaded Western Conference if you want to get much higher than the 7 seed. In a conference with “Steph and KD” or “Harden and CP3” or “Russ and PG13”, LaMarcus and DeMar ain’t gonna cut it.
This ain’t 2002 anymore.
Old Dogs, New Tricks
This is a great team for an era that’s gone. It’s really that simple.
The Next Big Things
Lonnie Walker IV is generating a ton of buzz as a guy who could, if he gets some run on the court, end up as a dark horse Rookie of the Year candidate, the biggest late first-round steal since that guy—OK, fine, I’ll name him, Kawhi Leonard—showed up (and man, what if the Pacers had kept him?)
As for the rest of the “next big things”…well, this is the Spurs. Never send a young man to do an old man’s job.
And Therein Lies the Problem
The Spurs haven’t been able to attract and keep the kinds of players that make mercenary veteran teams possible. They’re not the 2011 Heat. They’re not the Lakers.
They’re a team whose mystique is gone, and no amount of hype for Gregg Popovich can change that fact.
Does that mean the Spurs will be 43-win or worse bad?
Well, Pop dragged that lousy roster last year to 47 wins and the third-best defense in the league.
But DeRozan can’t make threes, he’s lousy defensively, and it’s hard to see him meshing with a Spurs offense that will struggle to score.
The West got stronger. The Spurs got weaker. And at some point, the same thing that happened to the Mavericks will happen to them.
Are they good? It’s Plausible. But I’m betting the under. Pop retires after the season, the Becky Hammon era begins, and we’re all celebrating the first woman coach of an NBA champion in five years.