Based on last season’s All NBA Teams, the San Antonio Spurs will boast two of the best 15 players in the league in LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan. While this might be enough to smash the Las Vegas over-and-under prediction of 43.5 wins next year, recent history suggests that championship teams require a third (or even a fourth or fifth in the case of the Golden State Warriors) elite player to lead the franchise back to the promised land.
If Manu Ginobili remains with the Spurs at the start of the season, he is, sadly, no longer strong enough, or able to play enough, to be considered one of the team’s main weapons. Sure, he’ll win a game or three throughout the season, but his time has passed. Arguably, Pau Gasol fits a similar role: good for up to 20 minutes a night but not one to be relied upon throughout the year.
There are a number of middle-of-their-career players like free-agent signings Rudy Gay and Marco Belinelli, as well as Patty Mills in San Antonio, but they are all best suited to being role players that provide a spark off the bench. Only Gay has ever been a lead guy on any team, and that ultimately proved unsuccessful in Memphis, Toronto, and Sacramento.
That means it is just the young guys left. Lonnie Walker is an exciting prospect with possibly the highest ceiling, but he will be limited within the Spurs system coming off the bench early in his career. who will use is physical attributes (long, athletic) with his basketball IQ to learn how to play professionally. He might start some games by February and March but expect him to be learning in his first few years, perhaps taking slightly longer to do so than Kawhi Leonard did.
Players like Jakob Poeltl and Davis Bertans offer a lot of upside but will be playing behind Aldridge and Gasol if Coach Gregg Popovich wants to continue winning in his final few years in the league.
Derrick White will get more playing time this season, playing alongside Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills as an occasional two-guard, but also taking the point for some games.
But ultimately, that leaves Murray to be the third elite player for the Spurs, and he is more than capable for three different reasons.
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