2018 San Antonio Spurs Predictions with Futures Odds and Expert Picks
How you feel about the Spurs right now depends on your perspective. If you just look at the headlines then things could be seen as really, really bleak. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were longtime cornerstones of a championship franchise, and now both are gone. Seeing Parker in San Antonio wearing a different jersey will take a whole lot of getting used to. And Kawhi Leonard, an all-World talent, is gone in the prime of his career. That's a whole lot of offseason turmoil for any franchise to deal with, never mind one that has defined themselves by how boringly predictable they have been over the years. A lot of drama for a place that has actively avoided drama for decades.
But if you take a step back, it may not be that bad after all. Parker is 36, has struggled to stay healthy, hasn't been nearly as productive lately as he was, and was deemed expendable because the future of the position is firmly in place. Ginobili turned 41 this summer and played like a 40-year-old last year - that's not a major insult coming from me since I long for when I was just 40, but it's still not great. His presence will be missed, but his production can be accounted for. And Leonard is a massive talent who will obviously be missed. They had him for only nine games last year, though, and obviously the situation had been so toxic that he wasn't going to stick around or be happy no matter what. You'd obviously rather have him than not, but they were able to replace with another all-star, and the dressing room is surely a lighter place as a result. It's not all peaches and cream, but it's not the screaming disaster that it could seem to be, either.
LaMarcus Aldridge is an interesting story in patience. During his first two years in San Antonio he struggled to find a fit, his numbers dipped, and it seemed like he was on a fast train out of town. But last year he got to be the man, and he responded with a career year. All it takes sometimes is the right situation. Now Aldridge will have every opportunity to continue to be the centerpiece of the offense, but with DeRozan in town he won't have to do it all himself. He seems to have found his common ground with Gregg Popovich, and it seems reasonable to expect a big year from him.
Dejounte Murray is really the guy who is most capable of making or breaking this season for the Spurs. Murray is a ridiculously good defender - both for a second-year player and for a point guard. And he can control things well while handling the ball, too. The Spurs seem to think he is the league's next great point guard. If he can continue on the trajectory he is on and progress towards that goal, then the team will be in good shape. He is the man now, though, and the safety net is gone. If he feels that pressure and has an off year then the team will, too. He can make a leap, and he has to.
Update: Not long after I wrote this, Murray was lost for the season with a torn ACL. I'm not accepting responsibility for causing the injury, but we will look at the impact. Murray will almost certainly miss the whole season, and in his absence things are a little bleak. Tony Parker and Kyle Anderson both left in free agency. Lonnie Walker IV injured his own knee two days before Murray and will miss a couple of months. Right now the depth chart is Patty Mills and sophomore Derrick White. Mills has stepped up in the past for the Spurs, and he certainly knows the system, but he isn't the flashiest option. White played more in the G-League than the NBA last year, but he is an intriguing talent and will have a tremendous opportunity to increase his stock here. DeRozan can also run the point if he needs to, and he improved his skills in that area the last two years in Toronto. It's all not great, but if the team gets lucky and avoids more injuries then they could at least be okay.
2018 San Antonio Spurs Additions and Departures
The obvious focus here is DeMar DeRozan, the centerpiece in the return for Leonard. He is far from the most efficient player in the league, but the guy can flat out score. And when he gets on a roll there is no stopping him. The Spurs were not a team that had an excess of offense last year, so provided he and Aldridge can find ways to work together peacefully he can be an excellent addition. The best part potentially is that he is playing with a massive chip on his shoulder. He feels deeply insulted by how his time in Toronto ended. If he can channel that positively, avoid pouting, and use it as fuel to show the Raptors how badly they messed up, then he could be sitting on a career year. Anger can always manifest itself poorly, though, so there is a chance that he won't be able to perform at or near his best. Some players - like Aldrich - also can take a very long time to learn the San Antonio way and figure out how to fit in, and that's a concern. All in all, though, it's hard not to be positive about what the team was able to get after losing their superstar.
The team also got Jakob Poeltl in the Toronto deal, and I like the addition a lot. The big man has made strides forward in the two years since he was the ninth overall pick out of Utah, and now he is going to a team that has done a better job of developing big men than any other in the league. Pau Gasol can't have much rubber left on the tires, so there is a real opportunity here.
The team also added Marco Belinelli on a two-year deal. He has already spent two solid seasons in San Antonio, so player and coach both know what to expect. And Dante Cunningham was added on a one-year deal so reasonable that anything he adds is a bonus.
2018 San Antonio Spurs Futures Odds and Trends
NBA title odds ( from Bovada ) : +8000
Western Conference title odds : +4000
LaMarcus Aldridge MVP Odds : +12500
DeMar DeRozan MVP Odds : +8000
Lonnie Walker ROY Odds: +2500
Season win total: 44.5
San Antonio was 43-41-3 ATS, including their short playoff run, so they weren't much fun to bet on no matter whether you liked them or not. They went "under" the total 47 times and "over" 39, so there were profits on the under over the course of the season.
2018 San Antonio Spurs Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
The more I look at this team, the more I talk myself into liking them. Last year they were forced to make due with a series of less-than-ideal circumstances, and they still won 47 games. It was a typically San Antonio season. Now they have the roster they want to have. It may not be the best one they have ever had, but there is lots to like about it. Chemistry is no certainty, but if they can get everyone on the same page early on then they can certainly go over this season win total - perhaps fairly comfortably. I don't think they are a top-tier team in the West, but 50 wins is not out of the question. I'm a believer - at least up to a point.
Update: The Murray injury seems like a big deal. It's telling, though, that the odds didn't move in the short term after the injury. Murray is a big talent, and he was on a good trajectory, but he was not yet at a point where he drove the offense or defined the team. The pressure is on Mills and White now, but I am not at all convinced that this injury dooms the team. I might be a little less optimistic about this team than I was, but not by much. They are still a playoff contender with a good shot at going over this total - a very good chance.
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