It hasn’t been forever since the Spurs have had a winning core of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker in place; it only feels like it.
San Antonio has been the league’s most consistent franchise for going on 18 years now, but two of the three players that have been in place for much of the team’s recent success — Duncan and Ginobili — are in the final years of their respective contracts, and could very well choose retirement at the conclusion of this season.
If that happens, the Spurs aren’t going to pursue a long rebuild through the draft. They’re instead expected to go hard after one of the top unrestricted free agents that will hit the market this summer.
For much of the year, a rumor has simmered that the Spurs are girding for the retirements of both Duncan and Ginobili, and, according to league sources, are prepared to chase hard after one of the top free agents on the market this summer: Grizzlies center Marc Gasol.
“It depends on what Tim and Manu and everyone there does,” one Western Conference executive told Sporting News. “But if they’re going, the Spurs are not going to step back and rebuild, no one thinks that. The understanding is Gasol would be their top target.” …
“They tend to fly under the radar on this kind of thing, then pop up and make the George Hill trade or almost get Jason Kidd,” one general manager said. “With their situation, you’d expect that to be the case again. If it is not Gasol, it will be a trade for a draft pick, something on draft night, it will be someone you’re not expecting. It’s not an organization that has gotten where it is without being prepared.”
Gasol is unlikely to leave Memphis, mainly because he’s already playing for a playoff team with the Grizzlies, and can earn more money via an extra year on a max-level deal by simply staying where he is.
But things haven’t been great for the Grizzlies in the second half of the season, and given the strength of the teams in the Western Conference, a first round playoff exit isn’t completely out of the question.
If Gasol believes that the winning nature of his current situation may be fading, he could consider other options. And few would be more attractive than the Spurs, given their rich history of continued success.