All things must pass, a wise poet named George Harrison once said. Those words ring true of every aspect in life except for the San Antonio Spurs, who year after year seemed to have a legit shot at winning it all. Well, that is until this season came. The Spurs did clinch their 21st consecutive playoff berth but they barely made it. And by the time they were there as the seventh seed, coach Gregg Popovich's boys were clearly spent, bowing out against the Curry-less Warriors in five games.
This time, it's extremely difficult to expect the five-time champs to bounce back with another strong season. Okay, did we just witness the end of the Spurs as an NBA royalty? There are five factors that make the answer to that question a big "yes." However, if these miraculously get reversed, the Spurs will remain as formidable contenders and make a fool out of us once again.
Father Time is undefeated
The Spurs' success depends heavily on their system and for many years, they depended heavily on Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to execute that system. When the playbook gets thrown out of the window, San Antonio also relied on those two just as much as they did on Tim Duncan. But now that Ginobili is 40 and Parker is 35, and slowed down by injuries, the duo can no longer be dynamic on a nightly basis. We can only see glimpses of their former selves at best. It's bound to happen, though—not everyone is a freak of nature like LeBron James. When the SAS' season ended in Game 5 versus the Warriors and Manu was hugging it out with everyone as if to signal his retirement, it looked just right. We're at peace with him calling it quits. Same goes for Tony. If they do return for another season, expect them to create an even lesser impact for the Spurs.
The Kawhi conundrum
Kawhi Leonard's beef with the Spurs has been one of the weirdest, most disappointing storylines in the NBA (the Thunder's not OK3 top the list). This season was supposed to be the Klaw's launching pad to superstardom, but instead he's been M.I.A. It all started with getting sidelined by a quad injury, then it escalated to his dissatisfaction with how the Spurs handled his rehab, which resulted in Leonard not even showing up in games to support his team from the bench. In turn, Pop and his teammates, who once spoke highly of him, now seem irritated. Parker said he's played through an injury way worse than what his teammate has. At a postgame presser, Popovich praised Aldridge for being there for his team even if he's not at a hundred percent—of course, this statement was taken as a Kawhi diss. Whichever way you try to read this, you'll end up with the conclusion that Leonard wants out of San Antonio. In that case, the Spurs will likely trade him before he becomes a free agent at the end of next season.
LMA has reached his peak
LaMarcus Aldridge played his best basketball with the Portland Trail Blazers. This season, he's had sort of a renaissance, averaging 23 points and eight rebounds. But he's 32 years old, and it's hard to imagine him playing better in the following seasons. His numbers should dip from here on out unless he's LeBron. In top form, Aldridge cannot carry the Spurs by himself. What more if his abilities start to erode?
The not-so great holdovers
Let's look at the rest of the Spurs roster: Pau Gasol, Rudy Gay, Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray, Davis Bertans, Kyle Anderson, Joffrey Lauverne, Matt Costello, and a few other non-notables. Now, Gasol and Gay are obviously on the decline. As for the others, we highly doubt that any of them would become an All-Star caliber player. We certainly hope we get proven wrong but certainly, none of them could take over for San Antonio the way Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and Leonard did. The best case scenario is this particular group of Spurs finishing tenth in the West next year.
Unattractive landing spot for top free agents
The Spurs are a mess. What superstar free agent would want to sign with them, now that the team looks nothing like a title contender? Especially if Kawhi gets shipped, no ring-seeking, high profile free agent would consider San Antonio. Add to that, the mentality of the new breed of players, which is to market their brand first and foremost. If you want your brand to blow up, you'd want to be with a group that can win it all, or you'd want to go to the NBA's glamour teams in LA. How could anyone think of San Antonio as a top destination at this point?
In five years time, we may see the Spurs back in title contention. But who knows? How fast they rise back up could all boil down to two possible outcomes: either Leonard falls back in love with San Antonio, or the Spurs get a franchise-saving package in exchange for him.