Yes, this is a transition year. After losing out on the Durant sweepstakes, the Spurs roster was always going to be a matter of duct tape and make-do. Pau Gasol is mostly used up, and was always a liability on defense but who else was there to add?
The hope was that Tony still had a step and Manu had enough guile to make up for his aging body. If you watched the Olympics you saw all three — Tony, Manu, Pau — look more like shadows of their former selves.
Tony has played three solid games out of four, but Manu has yet to show up. The Spurs should have enough to see out the Grizz but the next series will be an even greater challenge.
It’s a bit early to think about, but the Spurs’ backcourt has needed a refresh for a while. While the Spurs won the George Hill-Kawhi Leonard trade, they gave up the point guard of the future and haven’t found the guy to take over for Tony. Adding Aldridge meant losing Cory Joseph, and while Patty Mills has been solid, he has had to be the bench spark and the starting guard and that has been a tad too much to ask of him.
Tony is too old and Dejounte Murray is too young. Murray looks like the future but even Kawhi’s learning curve took three years. Looking back further, when Tony had the reigns in 2001 the Spurs relied on Speedy Clayton to close games in 2003. It takes time that isn’t there. LMA’s window is smaller than Duncan’s was then. Spurs are likely going to use the cap room created by a retiring Manu (~14 million) to sign a starting PG.
They supposedly kicked the tires on Mike Conley, even though it was a long shot. I would love to see Chris Paul come and ring chase here, but I think he stays and cashes out. George Hill makes about $8 million in Utah, but he might like life as part of a young up-and-coming team. He already expressed interest in resigning but negotiations hit a snag. His game isn’t predicated on speed like Tony so he might have a less steep decline as he enters his mid 30s (he’s 30 now).
A more likely target? Jeff Teague. He is 28, is in line to make $14 mill a year, reliable, and can score and defend solidly. He is Spur material.
The problem is that the Spurs are likely going to have to find a way to pay Dewayne Dedmon, Patty, and find a guy all with about $19 million. It’s doable, but only if Dedmon and Patty take a Danny Green-style deal favors the Spurs.
This assumes the Spurs don’t blow it all up and trade Aldridge for Alex Len and Eric Bledsoe of Phoenix, giving the Spurs a little room to resign Dedmon and going back to the run-and-gun version the Spurs used to win the title in 2014.