If the Spurs make the playoffs this year, they will stand alone at the top. But their blind pursuit of the postseason might entrench them at the bottom of the NBA for years to come.
The San Antonio Spurs have made the NBA playoffs every year since Gregg Popovich took over as full-time head coach in 1997-98. They’re tied for a record 22-straight playoff appearances. If they make the playoffs this year, they will stand alone at the top. But their blind pursuit of the postseason might entrench them at the bottom of the NBA for years to come.
Gregg Popovich needs to accept that his time at the top is over. It’s not his fault. Teams are never good 20+ years straight, except his. And that time is finally ending.
The Spurs currently sit just a half-game behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff seed in the West. They could absolutely make the playoffs this year with a strong push. But why? So the greatest 35-year-old ever can sweep them out of the first round?
It would be great to see Gregg Popovich and the Spurs get the all-time playoff record. But if they hoard their veterans, they’re sacrificing their future for a meaningless accolade. They’re already tied for the longest playoff streak ever, enjoy it. It’s time to tear it down and trade your older players while they have value. If Popovich still has “it,” they can still take their shot at the playoffs. After all, two 20-year-olds are currently leading Memphis to the eighth-seed.
The Spurs’ two best players, DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, are not part of their future, and their trade value is not getting any higher than it is right now. Both players are under contract for another full season (DeRozan has a player option next year).
Aldridge has become especially attractive in recent weeks. The 34-year-old has discovered what the rest of the league has known for years: shooting threes is good. Aldridge has shot 50 threes over his past 10 games, making them at a 56% clip. The Spurs have gone 6-4 in that time.
Could they ride his shooting renaissance into the playoffs? Maybe. But why not sell high on the veteran while he’s hot? Aldridge is still automatic from mid-range, and at 1.8 blocks-per-game, he can still serve as a rim-protector. He’s the perfect piece that could put a championship contender over the top. They should try to snag some assets from a team like the Celtics or the Clippers, who lack an impact center.
The Spurs have a few intriguing young players in Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker, but they need more. They have a golden opportunity to stock their coffer with hope for the future. That’s more important than a futile playoff run.
Any sensible franchise would’ve tried to trade these vets already, but the Spurs are in a tough spot. They want to do right by their esteemed coach in his final years on their bench.
Pop is one of the greatest coaches in any sport, ever. He’s known for his ability to adapt for the sake of the team. Now he needs to change course in the least comfortable way possible and sacrifice for the future. Pop’s greatest parting gift to the Spurs would be allowing a true shakeup to the roster.