What’s Next for the Spurs?

The San Antonio Spurs have been one of the most dominant forces in the NBA since the beginning of the 21st century. They are second only to the Lakers in championships won since 2000, capturing the title four times. They were led by future first-ballot Hall of Famers in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. To top it all off, they even have an elite two-way superstar in Kawhi Leonard to guide the team into future generations of Spurs basketball. The only question is: how will that future look?

Don’t get me wrong: Kawhi can carry this Spurs team into a top-four seed in the Western Conference. But for how long?

9 of the 15 active players on the Spurs’ roster are over 30 years old. Tony Parker is long past his prime, LaMarcus Aldridge always seems to disappear come playoff time, and their sixth man Manu Ginobili may not even be returning next season. Rudy Gay, their newest recruit, hasn’t played more than 70 games in a single season since 2009. There should be a lot of concern when regarding the Spurs future. But if there’s one thing we have learned over the last 20 years in the NBA, it’s this:

Never. Count. Out. Popovich.

The second most important member of the Spurs doesn’t even play on the court. Gregg Popovich, who, in my opinion, is the greatest coach of all time, is the only reason the Spurs haven’t gone into a total rebuild mode yet. Every season, just when the Spurs’ age seems to be catching up with them, Pop seems to snap his fingers and 35-year-old Tony Parker plays like 25-year-old Tony Parker, or Manu Ginobili, or whoever.

But even Popovich can’t do it forever. Eventually, the magic will run out, or Popovich will retire, along with Ginobili and Parker. Who will lead the Spurs into the future, especially after Kawhi Leonard?

The Spurs just made their future even more unsettling by letting go of the player that could have been their next star. Jonathon Simmons signed a three-year, 20 million dollar deal with the Orlando Magic two days ago. Simmons played a huge role in the Spurs rotation in the playoffs when they were plagued by injuries, averaging 10.6 points in 20.4 minutes. I truly believed Simmons had the work ethic and the talent to become a Paul George type player. Instead, the Spurs chose a washed-up Rudy Gay over him, even though most of Gay’s potential is long gone.

Who knows? Maybe the Spurs will do it again and draft another star in the second round. Maybe rookie Dejounte Murray will develop into the point guard for the future. Maybe Kawhi will turn into a player like Lebron where no matter who’s on the team, it will be successful. The fact that all of these sentences start with “maybe” is bad news for the Spurs. It all used to be guaranteed. “Pop and the Spurs will be contenders again this year.” But now, with the West getting stronger than it has ever been, the window for Kawhi and the gang is closing for the first time in over two decades.

Don’t get me wrong: I really do hope the Spurs find Kawhi some actual help (because let’s face it, Aldridge isn’t working). I really do hope they draft a new star and pave the way for the future. I really do hope Pop wins one more chip. I hope this because the way the Spurs play is beautiful. Realistically, though, I know it won’t happen. And it’s going to be a sad day for all that love basketball when the Spurs find themselves at the bottom of the Western Conference.