The San Antonio Spurs just lost Demar Derozan this offseason. He packed it up for Chicago, leaving after falling short of the playoffs. San Antonio hasn’t made it into the postseason since 2018, and they have been getting farther and farther from the playoffs every year. After the Tim Duncan era of 5 championships, Kawhi Leonard was supposed to take the reins of the dynasty. After an injury against the Warriors in the playoffs, there were disagreements between Leonard and the team that led to him being traded to Toronto in exchange for Derozan. Now the Spurs are losing their veterans, and turning more and more into a rebuild. The sun is setting on one of the top teams in the last decade, but it could rise again.
Kawhi Leonard was the future of the Spurs dynasty. There would be no fall, only a continued legacy. Popovich would get to lead two dynasties, cementing him as one of the best to ever do it. When Kawhi expressed discontent with the Spurs it seemed like a salvageable situation, but the longer the holdout went the worse the situation seemed. Finally, the Spurs traded him to Toronto in 2018 for a package centered around Derozan. Leonard went on to win a championship with the Raptors and the Spurs were destined for playoff mediocrity at best. The Spurs were never going to win the Kawhi trade, but instead of opting for picks that they could build a solid foundation going forward they decided to go for a win now strategy. This has finally backfired on them, as they could be much farther ahead on their rebuild with much more tantalizing prospects then the ones on the Spurs right now. San Antonio wanted to salvage some kind of competitiveness from the Kawhi trade, and that is what ultimately led them to the position they are in now.
The Future Rise
The first part of the rebuild is not falling into the trap of minimal short term success in exchange for their long term future. With the exception of Dejounte Murray and maybe Keldon Johnson, the Spurs have a bunch of guys that might help them get a spot but nothing else. In order to return to their glory days, the Spurs must endure some pain. Perfect examples are the Pistons, Thunder, and Rockets. All three of these teams could probably find some free agents to get a team that can compete for a playoff spot, but instead they embraced the rebuild and already have some tantalizing prospects. Josh Primo is a nice young prospect who the Spurs will be able to develop. With signings of Zach Collins and getting Thaddeus Young and Al-Farouq Aminu from the DeRozan trade does not seem like the moves a rebuilding team would make. That is the inherent flaw that has seemed to be plaguing the Spurs. They want to put a contending team around Pop, and until they realize that isn’t good for either side then they will be doomed to mediocrity.
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