After a second consecutive improbably dominating regular season, the San Antonio Spurs are once again heading home without a taste of the NBA Finals. So, what now?
The Spurs weren’t supposed to have the best record in the league this year. Hell, after Manu Ginobili’s injury, there were probably many who doubted whether they could make the playoffs. And yet, here they stand, or rather, have fallen. They came within two games of a finals berth, but ultimately fell to a younger and faster Oklahoma City Thunder.
And with the reality of elimination comes reflection, and with reflection comes criticism. But what happens as a result of that criticism? Should the Spurs, whose four best players are over 30, blow it up, decimate the roster and commit to rebuilding? Or should they emulate the Celtics, and give it another go?
Tim Duncan is a free agent this summer, but no one expects him to go anywhere. Nor does anyone expect him to retire after the season, specifically postseason, he had. But what about the rest of them? Manu Ginobili, Stephen Jackson and Tony Parker are all under contract, rendering it easy for San Antonio to stand pat and seek vengeance next year. But is that the right move?
Yes and no.
Clearly the Spurs are missing something. Their fundamental four—Duncan, Ginobili, Jackson and Parker—are complimented almost perfectly by Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter. Yet there’s still something missing.
While San Antonio doesn’t need another All-Star, it does need a fresh perspective and set of legs. The Spurs are hardly the old and ragged team they were portrayed to be at the beginning of the year, but after falling to the Thunder, it’s more than evident they’re far from tapping into the fountain of youth.
And that’s what they need, a youthful, exuberant presence to counteract Oklahoma City’s, among other powerhouses’, athleticism. The Spurs are efficient, but that’s hardly everything, especially now. They need that one player who operates on sheer energy and not necessarily experience. That one player who at times needs to be grounded, but at others resembles the fire we see in Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
That’s why it’s finally time for San Antonio to take to free agency and buy a portion of its championship contention. Forget trades and forget the draft, the Spurs must re-sign Duncan and use what’s left on effective, yet slightly unproven youth.
Nicolas Batum, Eric Gordon, Roy Hibbert and even O.J. Mayo, among others must all be considered legitimate options. They’re young, fiery and bursting with potential. And after a gut wrenching series like this one, the Spurs could use some healthy uncertainty.
That’s what adding a touch of proven, yet slightly unbeknownst talent will do for the Spurs—transcend their team dynamic beyond promising and into the realm of potentially unstoppable.
Perhaps this time, for real.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.