While it's a new season with more familiar faces than new ones, the San Antonio Spurs are most likely going to look like a new team when the 2017-2018 NBA season approaches.
With the additions of free agents Rudy Gay and Joffrey Lauvergne and rookie Derrick White, San Antonio will be adding much needed versatility and intangibles that were desperately needed last season. The team will also be bringing back young players Dejounte Murray and Bryn Forbes with a year under their belt in the Spurs' system.
So how will a team that will keep their main core (minus Tony Parker, who's injury likely keeping him out for the first part of the season), look different by bringing back the majority of the team back?
Intangibles Returning from the Center
When the Spurs gambled trading Tiago Splitter to the Atlanta Hawks to try to lure LaMarcus Aldridge to San Antonio, the team was looking to upgrade in the skill department while giving up the intangibles that Splitter and other Spurs brought to the table.
San Antonio lost the intangibles they had with Splitter such as setting screens off the ball, rebounding, and making the extra pass while the team was in motion. The Spurs opted for a more traditional, one-dimensional offense with Aldridge similar to what he had with the Portland Trail Blazers. With the addition of Lauvergne, San Antonio might see a return of what was called "The Beautiful Game" with his hustle, rebounding, and passing. His selfless style of play might be the closest the Spurs might see to their former Brazilian center.
More Running, Less Iso
The addition of Gay brings back the dimension of a faster pace to the Spurs.
The Spurs went through a similar situation in 2012 with a predictable offense until they signed Boris Diaw, who brought a quicker pace from the power forward position with ball handling, shooting, and inside scoring.
Gay brings exactly the same type of game and will likely impact San Antonio the same way. His versatility to guard bigger players and his ability to shoot, create his own shot, and run a faster than normal pace may see a resurgence of offense in the Alamo City. Rudy Gay's 18 points per game last season was extremely impressing in an offense where he had to be the focal point with minimal help overall.
He went down with an Achilles injury while only playing 30 games, but his game will open up opportunities for his teammates while helping Leonard carry the burden on offense. If the Spurs can get a few games out of Gay similar to last season, he'll be adding athleticism that the team will need to dethrone the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs.
No Parker Might Mean More Small Ball
Spurs fans have been confused as to when Parker might return from his torn quadriceps muscle.
Some have estimated around 10 months out while others have been less optimistic on his chances of returning this season. Parker, however, has publicly stated his goal will be around December. While it might be a long shot to come back that early, Parker will still be forced to partake in rehab assignments and work out the leg before being thrown into the fire of an NBA game.
Murray and Forbes will be called upon to help lead the team alongside veteran Patty Mills while Parker rehabs and gets back into game shape. This will be a new experience for the Spurs as Parker as held down the point guard position since his rookie season in 2002. It will come with growing pains with younger inexperienced players trying to hold down the fort, but this will actually put them in an excellent position to earn minutes and playing time once the rotation is solidified.
The Spurs won't have to change the offensive scheme without Parker as Murray plays a Parker-like game in finding his own shots that'll go perfectly with pick and rolls and Forbes can fit into a Mills role on the floor where the team can have him move off the ball to find his shots since he's not a traditional point guard by nature. Without Parker, it'll likely mean that the two will see more minutes in small ball settings also. The Warriors have changed the NBA to a smaller, quicker league and the Spurs seem equipped for that as Murray can slide into the shooting guard position with his wingspan and height and Forbes also because of his shoot first mentality.
The rest of the roster is now more versatilie to help accomodate the small ball lineup as Danny Green and Manu Ginobili can move to the small forward position when necessary and Leonard has been known to slide into the power forward position, a move that helped him earn NBA Finals MVP in 2014.
The Spurs will look to come into the upcoming season as a different looking team to help match the way the league is molding itself with a quicker style of play. The return of intangibles from the big man positions, a versatile big man who can play like a guard, and also young hungry players looking for minutes and opportunities will give the Spurs a much needed makeover this season over the traditional isolation basketball they were known for last season.
What are your thoughts Spurs fans? Let me know on Twitter at @JRG1023.