We are currently in the middle of the worst sports month of the year. In addition, we are also in the middle of the NBA offseason. Since there’s not much to talk about in the news, I’ll be spending the next month or so talking about five teams that I think are locks to go over or stay under their Las Vegas projected win totals.
San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs had their first tumultuous offseason since — well — I’ve been alive. The player who was supposed to help them transition them into the next era of greatness — Kawhi Leonard — decided that he wasn’t so fond of San Antonio and actually wanted to play for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.
That’s nice and all, but he still was under contract until the 2018-19 season was over. After a handful of reports from multiple NBA insiders, Kawhi was traded away to the Toronto Raptors for second team All-NBA shooting guard, DeMar DeRozan. He will be joining LaMarcus Aldridge (who also made the second team All-NBA last year), and of course arguably the best coach in the NBA, Gregg Popovich.
The Spurs finished the season 47-35 at the 7th seed in the Western Conference, drawing the very unwanted matchup against the Golden State Warriors in the first round. They lost, but then even worse, they lost Kawhi Leonard. Even after the trade which saw them getting DeMar DeRozan, Las Vegas has them declining to 43.5 wins this year. Even worse, in relation to the other win projections, that would cause them to be at the 9 seed in the West. It would be the first time since the 1996-97 season that the Spurs would miss the playoffs, when they went 20-62 (and then drafted a certain player named Tim Duncan).
Bet the Over…
In regards to the win projection coming out of Las Vegas, I think the Spurs will beat that soundly and be right around their 2017-18 win total of 47.
There’s no doubt that if you were the owner of an NBA team, you would want to have (a healthy) Kawhi Leonard over DeMar DeRozan. Kawhi is a far better defender and shoots more threes at a far better percentage than DeRozan.
The Toronto Raptors should be throwing a party, even with the circumstances of Kawhi’s impending free agency and the dismissal of longtime head coach Duane Casey. The Spurs fans on the other hand definitely have a right to be upset regarding their long term future, but they should still be able to improve on last season no matter what Las Vegas says.
When you actually think about it, the Spurs more-or-less played without Kawhi last season. He only played nine games in the middle of the 2017-18 campaign from December 12th to January 13th. Take away those nine, and the Spurs are theoretically adding a very dynamic scorer in DeMar DeRozan to the squad.
Aside from Kawhi, the rest of the season was fought for by LaMarcus Aldridge (second team All-NBA, 23.1 PPG/8.5 RPG/2.0 APG), Manu Ginobili (8.9/2.2/2.5), Pau Gasol (10.1/8.0/3.1), Rudy Gay (11.5/5.1/1.3), and Dejounte Murray (8.1/5.7/2.9). Those players shared responsibilities of getting the Spurs franchise into the playoffs yet again, and even though they got swept in the first round, they (and Popovich, of course) should be applauded for even getting in within the terrifying Western Conference.
Of course there were some negatives to the Spurs’ offseason other than Kawhi publicly announcing he didn’t want to play there anymore. The Spurs didn’t match the offer sheet that was offered to Kyle Anderson from the Memphis Grizzlies so they lost him. He played the second-most minutes for the Spurs behind Aldridge and contributed a Net Rating that was 3rd behind Murray and Aldridge. They also lost long-time Spurs legend Tony Parker to the Charlotte Hornets, but that may be a blessing in disguise for the Spurs’ long-term plans. With Parker gone, Dejounte Murray should be able to flourish more properly in the point guard role. The Spurs also got a promising young player in the 2018 Draft in Lonnie Walker, who may be able to partially fill the absence left by Kyle Anderson. Also look for Rudy Gay to have an increased role with the team and try and fill Anderson’s role, as lately he has said that he feels 100% again following his achilles injury in 2017.
Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, and Kyle Anderson aside, this Spurs team still has a chance to be good and make the playoffs in the West. I was shocked when I saw Westgate’s prediction for their win total, and how it had them on the outside-looking-in on the West’s playoff race. I’d personally say they’re the best Over bet among the 30 NBA teams, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they get the 6th, 7th, or 8th seed even in the competitive West.