For the first time in more than two decades, the San Antonio Spurs did not play at a 50-win pace (or better) during the 2017-2018 NBA season. The team did manage to produce a 47-35 record that was enough to generate a playoff berth but, given the franchise’s incredible run of success, that season-long effort may have felt underwhelming.
However, a deeper look into the 2017-18 Spurs would likely lend itself to a more generous view, particularly given the fact that star forward Kawhi Leonard appeared in only nine of the team’s 82 games. Through that lens, San Antonio’s performance was actually quite impressive and that allows players like veteran forward Rudy Gay to enter the 2018-19 season with optimism, even as Leonard now resides in Toronto.
Gay recently caught up with Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News to discuss the relatively modest expectations for the 2018-19 Spurs, and he was prompted on the team’s Las Vegas over/under of only 43.5 victories.
“How is that?” Gay lamented. “Why were we expected to be so much better last year? Because Kawhi may have come back? He didn’t, and we were still a playoff team, really a couple of wins away from being a third or fourth seed in the West.”
The 32 year old also indicated that “nobody expects (the Spurs) to be good” this season, but that isn’t going to deter him or his teammates in their pursuit of another playoff run.
“They don’t have many expectations for us,” Gay shared. “But the Spurs always exceed the expectations. Don’t expect anything less this year.”
If anything, there is reason to believe that the 2018-19 team will be superior to its predecessor, particularly given the arrival of DeMar DeRozan. It isn’t as simple as trading nine games of Leonard for a full season of DeRozan but, if the Spurs can coax All-Star production from their newest arrival in tandem with LaMarcus Aldridge, the steady hand of Gregg Popovich and a nice cast of supporting pieces (including Gay) should do the rest.
With that said, the Spurs will have to outlast an interesting array of playoff competitors, with teams like the Lakers set to enter the fray and the likes of the Nuggets and Wolves seemingly set to build with young talent. That doesn’t appear to scare San Antonio but, at the very least, there will be a level of uncertainty and intrigue surrounding the Spurs that the franchise hasn’t seen since the dawn of the Tim Duncan era.