When started his professional basketball career back in 1997, when he was drafted as a first pick from San Antonio Spurs, a few have predicted that the Spurs have hit the jackpot and just drafted one of the greatest players in the history of the game. Fast forward 19 years and that statement has become a reality.In that time, Duncan aka “Timmy”, has collected a number of individual and team honors, such as the two-time MVP award (2002, 2003), five-time NBA champion (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2014) and the three-time NBA Finals MVP award (1999, 2003, and 2005).
However, after almost 20 years of a successful NBA career, Duncan decided that the 2015/16 season was the last season of his professional basketballcareer and that it is the right time to hand over the leadership role to someone else. With his final goodbye, the Spurs where on the crossroads, and wondered how to replace theirreplaceable. Looking at the current San Antonio roster, there is one man who could replace Duncan’sleadership role experience wise, and that man is a newcomer from the Chicago Bulls – Pau Gasol. However, Gasol is already 35 and he can be only a short-term solution. Gasol had a decent last season in Chicago averaging 16.5 points, 11 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.There is no doubt that he will upgrade San Antonio’s offense but the real question is can he replace Duncan who contributed mostly on defense in his final two NBA seasons.
Losing Duncan is not the only problem for the Spurs. Looking back at the last season, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will not be able to count on the services of Boris Diaw, David West and BobanMarjanovic anymore, who all found new homes. The new players in the team are the aforementioned Pau Gasol, David Lee, Dejounte Murray, Bryn Forbes, Davis Bertans and Dewayne Dedmon. All of them, except Gasol and Lee,are young players and require some time to adjust to the NBA and prove them self.This means that the team’s performance will mainly depend on the leadership from the young 25 year old Kawhi Leonard who seems like a natural candidate to take the burden of becoming the new leader of the Spurs.
In Duncan’s last season, San Antonio won 67 gamesand reached the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs last season, where they were eliminated by the Oklahoma City Thunder. The main question now is how far they can go this season, without him. Strengths of the Spurs this year are definitely Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Kawhi Leonard might be the best two way player in the NBA at this moment with great physical abilities, with help of LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol the Spurs have fantastic offensive line and all around a decent defense. If you add on that the experience of Gregg Popovich, the Spurs will be serious opponent for every team.
Major weaknessof the San Antonio Spurs will definitely be Tim Duncan’s retirement. On side his contribution on the field, he was theheart and soul of the Spurs for almost 20 years and there isn’t a player on the Spurs roster that is capable of filling that gapon the team yet. Maybe next season but definitely not this one. The second weakness is Tony Parker.It’s safe to say that he is not at his prime and that the Spurs should search for a new, younger starting point guard because Parkerjust can’t follow the rest of the teammates that are simplyyounger, stronger and faster than he is.
To conclude, it is safe to say that San Antonio Spurs will not be an easy opponent for any team in western conference. They have a young team, led by Kawhi Leonard, coached by the great Gregg Popovich and they are definitely capable to repeat their last year success. Maybe even they will go one step further. Maybe we are witnessing the new NBA champions.
Words By: Admir Aljic