The most frustrating part about the latest loss, the 138-132 road loss to the Wizards, is that the Spurs played hard until the end. Effort is not really the issue as the Spurs are playing hard.
The team has been saying that they do not communicate well and while the Spurs have always been able to take one or two poor defenders and turn them into competent ones, that was always with a Tim Duncan as an anchor.
Since Kawhi left (along with Danny Green) the Spurs have been poor defensively and it does not help that the league has been in an offensive revolution. The young players on the team have either been hurt or are still developing, so nothing is complete.
Murray has been good, but the overall defensive talent is low and there is only so much scheme that can be done. The Spurs are not good but they are talented enough to keep this thing going for a bit. DeMar DeRozan does not have tremendous trade value and he provides some of that quality NBA knowledge the team values.
Letting the young guys learn and develop is fine, but if they have to learn lessons themselves? Eh. It is only so valuable. Everyone likes to point to the Spurs’ 96 season where they “tanked” for Tim, but the real value was in putting Tim in a program that had David and Sean and Avery there to provide the winning structure. Those three had won 60-games before, had been to the playoffs, and played in big games.
The Spurs could use a little bit of grit and defensive presence. That was supposed to be Marcus Morris Sr, until that whole deal meant the Spurs lost Davis Bertans and got Trey Lyles. Beyond that the weird DeMarre Carroll situation means the Spurs are carrying a guy with little value.
Lonnie Walker has been underperforming and simply giving him time on the court is not the answer. Time on the court is useful but focused time is the best kind.
We can guesstimate that there is only so much losing the organization will tolerate before changing the plan for the season. Just as you modify your game plan in one that got out of hand, you change it up as the season regresses.
What is there to do? The popular suggestions are in moving LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan. Either can be a key addition to a playoff-hopeful squad as they both have a proven ability to get buckets and are pro’s pros. The problem is that the return is not going to be good. Draft picks will not help in the immediate future and whatever young pieces come back this way will likely not fit the scheme or the roster.
We will see more of the unbalanced team we have seen since Kawhi left, just with young players filing the roles. Count me among the number of fans that like making the playoffs each year, as that can teach the young players the things that are necessary for winning in this league better than tanking.
Still, putting Lonnie Walker, Dejounte Murray, and Derrick white on the floor along with the new draft picks will certainly be a learning experience. If the Spurs really are going to lose more, well, then they might as well get some experience while doing it.
The interesting thing in all this is that the Spurs had a chance to draft a defense-first guy that would have fit in perfectly right now: Matisse Thybulle. They instead drafted Luca Samanic, who has rode the bench. The Spurs player-development staff is great, but mistakes can and will be made.