- Ric Bucher, NBA Reporter, ESPN The Magazine Senior Writer
Editor's note: Our series this week examines what would happen if five teams decided to start over by making seismic personnel shifts before the 2012-13 season; because of varying factors including age, salaries or expiring contracts, these five teams decide to begin anew. But such an exercise comes with some rules: (1) the owners get the hard salary cap they desire; and (2) exclude the 2012 NBA draft. Today we look at the Spurs.
Taking the draft out of the equation in rebuilding the San Antonio Spurs changes this from a speculative exercise to pure fantasy, seeing as how the Spurs have been a powerhouse for the last decade largely off of their ability to unearth talent late in the draft and then indoctrinate it in the San Antonio way. It's the same blueprint that has worked for most consistently successful small-market teams.
A Spurs makeover is also challenging because, in my mind, it means moving at least two parts of their three-man core -- Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker -- or else you're just equivocating. (I'm starting this exercise off by trusting that San Antonio made a wise choice in dealing George Hill for rookie small forward Kawhi Leonard, so I have him plugged in as my future 3.) And you don't have to be a Spurs fan to know how unappealing and gut-wrenching that would be for GM R.C. Buford or coach Gregg Popovich. They've already kept that nucleus longer than they should have because there just weren't options that could assure them of still contending; and let's face it, that's where the bar has been set for the Spurs.
But enough with the caveats. Here are a few avenues I'd explore in free agency and via trade in hopes of forging another run at title contention before we're listening to Duncan and Popovich make their Hall of Fame induction speeches.
Ric Bucher provides a blueprint for the Spurs to get back to title-contender status, including trades that would break up their Big 3 in order to bring some big-time stars to San Antonio.