If there is anything that has been a constant in the NBA during the past 15+ years, it’s this: the Spurs are smarter than anybody else. While big-market teams and some of the NBA glamour franchises can wave big bucks at free agents and offer the sweet sight of warm weather, iconic cities, and NBA history, the Spurs have never had much to flaunt but the idea of playing for Gregg Popovich, having a chance to contend every year, and the relative peace and quiet of San Antonio.
Just as the NBA officially closed its 2014-2015 year and free agency began, the Spurs did it again and completely retooled their roster in just a couple of days. While it was widely assumed that their tight cap situation didn’t give them much chance to pursue big free agents or at least keep much of their 2014 roster intact, GM R.C. Buford and Coach Pop worked their magic to unload Tiago Splitter on the Hawks, re-sign Danny Green to a below-market deal, and grab one of the offseason’s most coveted free agents in LaMarcus Aldridge.
Even as Aldridge is no spring chicken, he turns 30 this summer, his acquisition seems to be the perfect bridge from Tim Duncan’s eventual retirement to a new potential run of success for San Antonio. Aldridge’s signing lifted the Spurs as 2-1 favorites to win the West in 2016, according to many Vegas outlets, while they are in a close race with Cleveland as the top favorite to win it all.
With Duncan committed to return, Tony Parker ready to bounce back after a tough, injury-plagued season, and Manu Ginobili in advanced talks to give it another go, even the addition of Aldridge and the ascent of the Spurs’ new generation cannot shift away the attention from the franchise’s iconic Big Three. After 14 straight seasons playing together, 5 Finals appearances, and 4 championships, they will go down in history as one of the best nucleus ever assembled.
However, all that success was certainly not only a product of San Antonio’s Big 3. The franchise’s knack for undervalued assets and perfect role players has elevated the team’s game, while also bringing out the best of some guys who couldn’t replicate that kind of performance elsewhere. Today we highlight some of the most important yet unheralded players of San Antonio’s dynasty, just as the team prepares to gradually move on from the Big 3 and establish a new kind of power.
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