The San Antonio Spurs enter the 2018-19 season with more questions than answers. After one of the stranger seasons in franchise history, an organization that has historically been one of the most stable in the NBA is now searching for a new identity. The Spurs were essentially forced to part ways with superstar and franchise cornerstone Kawhi Leonard following a season in which he only played in nine games. Leonard battled with Spurs management over the extent of his injury, and his relationship with the organization devolved to the point where he requested a trade. Many thought that Leonard would be sent to his hometown of Los Angeles, either to the Lakers or the Clippers. Instead, the eventual destination was something of a surprise.
The Spurs traded Leonard to the Toronto Raptors, and accomplished two things in the process. For one, they managed to send Leonard out of the Western Conference, meaning that he’d be one less player the Spurs would need to contend with in an already difficult road to the playoffs. The Spurs also acquired an All-Star in exchange for Leonard, which is about as well as a situation like this can go. When teams are forced to trade one of their best players, they often don’t get as equal of a return. DeMar DeRozan may not be the player that Kawhi Leonard is, but he is still one of the best players in the league. Acquiring Derozan will ensure that the Spurs can stay reasonably competitive, even if they may no longer have championship aspirations.
Still, the Spurs experienced a lot of changes this offseason. The Leonard trade took up most of the headlines, but the Spurs were also dealt a blow after the retirement of Manu Ginobili and the departure of Tony Parker. Parker and Ginobili were the last bastions of an era of sustained dominance for the Spurs, two members of a “Big 3,” along with Tim Duncan, that won four NBA championships. With Duncan, Ginobili and Parker all gone, this brings a new challenge for head coach Gregg Popovich. Will he be able to establish a new era of Spurs success?
Here are 3 X-Factors for the 2018-19 San Antonio Spurs.
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