Spurs offseason transformation; Popovich drops F-bomb on critics after Team USA wins gold; Ben Simmons-Spurs remains in rumor mill

This week’s Spurs newsletter breaks down Spurs busy offseason

(Dejounte Murray image for San Antonio Spurs Newsletter.

In less than a month, we have seen a complete transformation of the Spurs. Let’s break down some of the pros and cons of this wild offseason and coach Gregg Popovich eviscerating the haters! Welcome to this week’s KSAT.com Spurs newsletter.

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Before we get to the pros and cons, let’s address this latest report with Ben Simmons. The Spurs continue to be linked to a trade involving the Philadelphia All-Star point guard, and now we know some of the players San Antonio may have included in recent trade talks. That would be Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker, among many other things Philly wants.

A Bleacher Report article stated the “Spurs front office” was rumored to “strongly covet Simmons,” but it appears the Sixers want to wait out the Damian Lillard situation in Portland before making a move.

Simmons, by all accounts, is done with Philly so something may have to give before camp starts. San Antonio acquired more draft capital over the past few weeks and could be preparing to make another offer. In my humble opinion, Keldon Johnson might be the only Spurs player who would be considered to be deal-breaker. This will be interesting to watch.

Offseason pros and cons

Primo looks promising

There’s not much of a chance the Spurs get any real contributions from their first-round pick this season, but the 18-year-old rookie played very well in summer league. I like that the staff put the ball in his hands and let him create. We also saw a nice array of shots and decision-making.

The Spurs were universally crushed for this pick and draft analysts projected Primo to go late in the first round, but this is a futures pick. Primo doesn’t even turn 19 until Christmas Eve! The former Alabama standout would likely be selected in the top 8 of next year’s lottery so the Spurs are taking the gamble on him now.

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The youth movement finally begins

The Primo pick makes more sense when you analyze what San Antonio did in the following days. DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay and stalwart Patty Mills departed the Spurs this offseason and that gives way to a full-blown youth movement. It’s time to see if Dejounte Murray and Derrick White can be team leaders or whether Lonnie Walker, Jakob Poeltl and Devin Vassell can take their game to the next level. It’s also time to give Luka Samanic some real minutes and see what the former first-round pick can do.

Tre Jones impressed during summer league so it will be interesting to see him develop. And can Keldon Johnson become the next Spurs star or all-star caliber player? KJ had an impressive sophomore season and his experience in Tokyo with the Olympic team should benefit him in the long run. The Spurs need him to get even better.

Spurs get something back from DeMar deal

It became clear this offseason DeMar DeRozan was ready to move from San Antonio. I don’t blame him. He’s a veteran who wants to play for a contender. The Spurs are not that on paper. But It was crucial San Antonio not let DeMar walk for nothing. Remember, these are the remnants of the Kawhi Leonard deal. San Antonio received a future first-rounder (nice!) and two players on expiring contracts, Thad Young ($14M) and Al-Farouq Aminu ($10M). That’s $24 million the Spurs can use in free agency next season. They could also trade either veteran player to acquire more future assets. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton also wrote that San Antonio essentially won this trade.

Spurs get McBuckets

San Antonio filled a significant need with the signing of Doug McDermott in free agency. McDermott has shot nearly 40% from 3-point range over his career and averaged a career-high 13.6 points per game last season with Indiana. McDermott also adds some much-needed spacing to the offense and will allow the Spurs guards to attack on offense. The price, $42 million over three years, is not bad either. It’s interesting McDermott signed with San Antonio considering he’s an older player, but he said he wanted to be in San Antonio and the Spurs wanted him so this could be a nice veteran fit to the young core.

(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) (2021 Getty Images)

The cons (it wasn’t all Silver and Black colored-roses)

What happened to all that cap space?

The Spurs entered free agency with nearly $50 million in cap space and dreams of a John Collins or Kelly Oubre Jr. type player. They used that space to sign McDermott and former Portland big man Zach Collins, trade for Young and Aminu, and bring back Bryn Forbes, a player who many Spurs fans were OK with seeing move on. This is not the offseason many fans envisioned, but it’s impossible to know if plans changed on the fly or the front office had to go in a different direction.

The Collins gamble

The Spurs did sign a Collins, it just turned out to be Zach and not John. This is not really a con, per se. I think Zach Collins has potential and he’s still only 23, but he’s been injury-prone. He missed the entire 2020-21 season and played only 11 games the season prior. Collins’ reported deal was $22 million over 3 years, but it’s only about $10 million guaranteed, so that’s good value on both ends. This is another risk-reward acquisition, but I also wonder where Collins fits into the rotation. My guess is he backs up Jakob, but it’s still unclear when he will return from his foot injury.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) (2020 Getty Images)

The long road ahead

I think most Spurs fans are fine with this much-delayed youth movement. This was a foregone conclusion after Kawhi went AWOL and the DeRozan-LaMarcus Aldridge combo essentially gave San Antonio time to develop their young core. But this is going to be a grind. I like the current roster and feel there’s potential there, but until a star emerges, I don’t know if this is a championship contender. Vegas predicts the Spurs will not win more than 30 games this upcoming season which means it would be three straight years in the lottery. I would love for this group to prove me wrong, but this season is going to be about evaluating where this team goes in the next few years. It’s exciting, but also going to come with major growing pains. The NBA regular season tips off on Oct. 19. Unless there is some massive trade (hello, Ben Simmons), this is the squad we are rolling with into the season.

Other Spurs news and notes

Pop claps back at the haters

Props to Pop. We rarely, if ever, get a glimpse of Gregg Popovich’s locker room discussions with his team, but thanks to Gold medal winner JaVale McGee, we got a unique window into a Pop speech after Team USA beat France to win the Gold medal in Tokyo, and it was as epic as you would think.

Popovich, speaking to the team, became emotional and thanked the players and their families for sacrificing their time amid the pandemic. “That’s why I’m so proud to be part of this. It’s like the best feeling I’ve ever had in basketball,” Popovich said.

Then Pop finished with a message to all the people and analysts who doubted the players and whether Pop was the right man to coach Team USA. “I would just like to say to all of those people out there, how the ‘f*** you like us now?” Popovich said. This meant a lot to Pop. Congrats on the Gold, Coach. The full clip is on McGee’s YouTube channel.

(Gregg Popovich Team USA Postgame Image via JaVale McGee YouTube channel.)

Keldon’s Olympic world tour

Speaking of the US basketball team, how about our guy Keldon, who got the opportunity to play on Team USA after an impressive showing with the select team this summer in Vegas. Johnson became the first American Spurs player to win the Gold since David Robinson in 1996. KJ was born three years later! And KJ apparently has no plans to ever take off the medal. He was spotted throughout Las Vegas summer league wearing the hardware, and again recently at the WWE RAW at the AT&T Center. It’s Keldon’s world now and we’re all just living in it.

(Keldon Johnson will never take off his Gold medal.)
Where in the world is Manu Ginobili

The most interesting Spur in the world, or former Spurs player, is Manu Ginobili. What has Manu been up to? Well, Manu recently showed some love to some great friends, rivals and teammates when he took to Twitter to congratulate the Gasol brothers and his fellow countryman Luis Scola on their incredible international careers, which all came to an end at this year’s Olympic games. Spain and Argentina were some of the toughest opponents the US ever faced in hoops. Hard to believe it’s been 17 years since Manu led Argentina to the Gold. Just put this man in the hall of fame already! MANU. FOREVER.

(Photo credit should read DONALD EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images) (2004 AFP)

About the Author:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.