The Grind For 8th

The Spurs are in a three-way battle for the final spot in the Western conference and it doesn’t look good. DeMar DeRozan has played incredible basketball in the last month+ stretch but not as good as Portland’s Damian Lillard. Portland is tied with the Spurs and Memphis, whose players are beefing with no-show Igoudala, are looking and feeling good.

Tonight, the Spurs led the struggling Clippers by 15 for a while. The Clips had a limited Paul George and an off Kawhi. I write that having saw Kawhi get buckets and Paul George hit the clutch bucket late. They are so good that they could power though their poor play to still dominate the game. If the Spurs were a better team, we could be frustrated that they did not take advantage of an off night for the home squad. Because they are not a good team, we now that the reason they led by 15 was precisely because the Clips were struggling.

Sean Elliott complained about the Spurs’ lack of situational awareness. This is something that has plagued the team since the Big Three took a backseat. Savvy Manu always knew the time and score and took full advantage of situations. Who is that guy now? Maybe Derrick White. Maybe Patty Mills.

DeRozan has been incredible but cannot do it all. His game — full of contortions and foul-drawing tactics — does not lend itself to drawing the kind of fouls that Kawhi does — more power and direct movements. I do not share the contempt that some other Spurs fans have for him as I appreciate his incredible game. The Spurs still do not have the kind of team that compliments hime fully. There are a lot of non-shooters on the floor and that takes up his space. Marco Belinelli is still struggling and is unplayable right now.

The difference between last season is in the details. The Spurs were slightly good last year and this year are slightly bad. All of these single-digit games mean the Spurs are blowing leads or just hanging around in games they should not be. It is very lukewarm and fully deserving of the last seed battle they are in.

No Help Is Coming

Trading DeMarre Carroll is good for the Holt’s wallet but not for the team. Jabari Young says the Spurs are trying to trade the guy. He was signed as one of those Of Course things, where we all figured that the Spurs were getting a steal on a good player. Instead he has rode the bench. The Spurs have missed before — Pau Gasol — but this was poor and even more damaging because of the Marcus Morris issue this summer.

All of these misses combined with the loss of some quality long-time assistants seem like the root cause of the slightly worse team. The Spurs need a steadying veteran presence that is better than say, Trey Lyles but not too expensive. Someone that can be gotten for Carroll. There is no one out there that can do that, decently.

Youth-ifying that roster spot is cool and fun, but that just means more time needs to be spent on a guy that is learning how to win. The Spurs can use upgrades at the Forbes, Belinelli, and Lyles spots and there are few options there. The Rockets want to dump salary and everyone wants shooters and defense. Marco is shooting near a career-worst (35%. His career worst year was in SAC in 15-16 when he shot 30%) from deep.

I do not buy that you cannot win with DDR and LMA, because both have been part of 60-win teams. The Spurs had to reconfigure their squad on the fly and it has been mistake-filled. They missed on Morris, and lost Bertans in the deal. Davis is having a career year but even he was flawed. He struggled late last season, and is nothing special on defense. Morris was the play, and he is showing out in NYC even though its for a losing squad.

Lyles has been good for the money, but Morris would have brought toughness, defense, and the scoring that was needed. Maybe the Spurs undo all the bad from this offseason and ship Beli and Carroll to NY for Morris and everything goes fine.

(This would never happen).