This coming season, the San Antonio Spurs are going to be a force to be reckoned with: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills and the core that was a legitimate title contender last season, and now they’ve added the 20-and-10 talents of LaMarcus Aldridge. Plus the Spurs are not done, they are in the mix for David West and other quality role players. They will be as good as anyone, serious contenders to win another Larry O’Brien trophy.
That’s not even the most impressive part of what the Spurs did this summer.
In one week, San Antonio has ensured that when Tim Duncan walks away — very possibly after next season — the Spurs will remain at the top of the West for at least the next four years.
The Spurs will keep being the Spurs.
Of course, it didn’t all happen in just one week. This started June 23, 2011, the night of the NBA Draft when the Spurs shipped out George Hill — a good point guard and a player Gregg Popovich was very fond of — for the rights to Kawhi Leonard. It was a gamble, but the Spurs saw the potential in the long, athletic, big-handed Leonard to bring them defense and scoring from the wing they had not been getting.
This week the Spurs secured that promise — they locked Leonard up to a five-year, $90 million max contract extension. Leonard is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA and a former Finals MVP, plus he brought 16.5 points and 7.2 rebounds a game last season, with an efficient true shooting percentage of 56.2 percent. He is a franchise cornerstone piece on the wings.
Aldridge gives them that in the paint for the next four years — when Duncan steps away Aldridge slides right into that slot.
Like Duncan, Aldridge has good footwork and moves in the post, but he will kill you from the midrange. (Yes the midrange jumper is going out of fashion in the NBA, but like the stolen base in baseball it’s a good strategy if you hit a high-enough percentage and Aldridge shot an excellent 44 percent from 16 feet out to the arc last season).
Like Duncan, Aldridge is a good defender (not as good as peak Duncan, but good). And like Duncan, he is underrated for his toughness — he was supposed to have surgery on his thumb last season but came back to play out the season because he thought the Trail Blazers could contend.
Just as happened in 2011 with the Leonard trade, credit Popovich for knowing what needed to be done. Popovich is no recruiter by choice, but when Aldrige was on the fence, he came back out to Los Angeles for a second lunch to talk specifics with the big man. Aldridge had more questions, pressed for details, and liked what he heard, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
Aldridge and Leonard are the core for the next four years, but as always the Spurs will have quality talent at below-market prices around them.
Danny Green is as good a “3&D” guy as there is in the NBA right now and when you look at what the others in that class got — DeMarre Carroll was given $60 million from Toronto — the Spurs this week re-signed Green at a steal of four years, $45 million.
Then there is Tony Parker, who could have made more than the $13.4 million he will make this year but is locked in now for three more seasons at a price that will be a bargain as the salary cap spikes. Boris Diaw will make $22 million over the next three years, but the next two years of his deal are not fully guaranteed if the Spurs want to make a move. Patty Mills is going to make just a little over $7 million total the next two seasons.
All of which is to say, the Spurs didn’t just reload this week to make one more run at a sixth ring for Tim Duncan.
This week the Spurs set themselves up to contend for titles long after Duncan has retired to spend more time at his custom auto shop.
The Spurs are going to just keep going on, being the San Antonio Spurs