The Spurs Are Not Tanking, Are They?
Catching up after a long while
It has been a while. If you ain’t know, I have been relocating HQ to the midwest. About a month ago I gave up sun and low taxes to apparently add three levels of taxation of my earnings. I kid. Sort of.
Meanwhile, the Spurs have been losing, and trading, and feeling good about themselves. I was particularly sports sad about Derrick White moving on to Boston. As most analysis stated, it was good for everyone. DW was peaking, and the Spurs had a glut of young guys behind him that need time. White is and was, a good player, but he looks more like a complimentary piece. Compared to Dejounte Murray, a guy who this newsletter/blog loved when he was drafted, there was barely a choice to make in purely basketball terms.
Good teams are not always made with purely basketball terms, however. The Spurs gave up value, but got value in return. The picks — and whether or not they are perfectly schemed to be first-rounders is a another issue — are more in line with the Spurs’ timeline than White was going to be.
Losing DeRozan meant the Spurs lost a closer, but one that only took them so far. His move to Chicago allowed him to shine with teammates that fit his timeline, and his skillset. The Spurs could not build a complimentary roster around DDR, but *can* build one around new All Star Dejounte Murray. More time, more experience, more opportunities have allowed him to grow into the Spurs’ best player. He isn’t putting up five-straight 35-point games like DeMar, but he had a nice little two-game streak of 30+.
In order to become an experienced professional scorer, you have to do it for a while. Murray went from a guy we hoped could build a shot, to a guy that gets the ball and works his way into his shot. I like it.
That said, tonight, our old favorite put up 40-points and closed things out like an MVP. I was high on DeRozan when he came here and was hopeful we would see something like this version when he was in silver-and-black. I rewatched1 the home Chicago game from January 28th and while DeRozan was good-to-great, it was a classic DDR game where he played well in a team loss.
Tonight, that was not the case and the Spurs looked like the team they are: losing record filled with young guys.
When I was a kid, and the Spurs were in the midst of that losing season in 96-97, my dad was saying I should be happy every time they lost as it meant that we would get a high pick. My Sports Illustrated for Kids said that Tim Duncan was the best guy. “Are we going to get him?” My dad said “No, that’s probably too high but someone good.”
Everyone thinks the Spurs tanked hard for that pick, and they did insofar as they simply asked David Robinson and Sean Elliott to rehab their injuries. Twenty wins is about all you can squeeze out of 37-year old Nique and Monty Williams. It was not hard to tank. This time? Well the Spurs will benefit from losing a bit, but developing a winning culture is how you prepare yourselves for competing for championships. For all the hype the Process got during its era, the Sixers are not close to winning much. Yes, I am saying I do not believe a guy who complained his way out of two teams (and a history of choking in the playoffs) is going to make much of a difference.
That said, the trade deadline brought the squad a nice haul of picks. The Spurs have been great at hitting on late draft selections and it will be nice to see the evaluation/development team work their magic on higher-ceiling guys. Be prepared for more Primo-style picks, dudes whom the entire draft hype industry questions, but turn out to look real nice under the lights.
The Spurs are in a good place, even if one of their former guys put them in the loss column tonight.
I have NBA League Pass now that I am out of San Antonio. I do watch a lot of NBA but I never sprung for it in the past. Now, it makes sense.