Watching the Spurs win over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday, I couldn’t help but remember the players who were donning a Spurs jersey only a short time ago: DeMar DeRozan, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, Dejounte Murray, and now Jakob Poeltl. A theory has nagged at me throughout the release of those players: they could easily have been the Spurs’ starting five this season, and if they were, where would they be now? It’s interesting to ponder this alternate reality.
Two of them, DeRozan and Murray, are recent All-Stars, with DeRozan averaging 25 points per game this season. White and Walker are starters and important role players on their new teams, with White contributing to a championship contender in the Celtics. And Spurs fans know Poeltl is as solid of a starter as they come.
So the question I’m pondering is this: How did they really get here? In another universe, a basketball metaverse, a reverse fantasy league, that would be the Spurs’ starting five, and their current excellent young players would be developing from the bench.
First, I’ll briefly comment on the belief that all these players had to go: they really didn’t. (How’s that for a rebuttal?) DeRozan might have been re-signed for the right offer. Murray and White had already signed friendly extensions, so contract issues weren’t a problem, and Walker probably would have re-signed on a friendly deal if he had a guaranteed starting role.
Let me also remind you of the boring details. The only piece the Spurs got for DeRozan that really matters in the long term is a 2025 first round draft pick. None of the players they got stuck around for long. Murray was supposedly a wild card but would have stayed in this metaverse. With Walker, White, and Poeltl rounding out the starting five, and Tre Jones, Zach Collins, Keldon Johnson, and Devin Vassell and Jeremy Sochan coming off the bench (and we’re not worrying about if the Spurs draft differently in this Metaverse), I can’t help but wonder how this season would have played out. Would the Spurs be as good as the Nuggets, or Grizzlies?
I say yes, possibly a hard maybe.
So let’s say that in this reverse fantasy league, call it a nightmare league, where someone like myself has deconstructed all the trades a team has made and has brought them back as a “ghost-of-the-past” team that shows up to play the new team, now that would really be something!
But it’s all conjecture (Really? You’re saying, your “ghost team” is conjecture?) And my hypothesis is riddled with errors as I’m bored by stats and also fact-checking, but at any rate I will now finally come to the point. Watching the game against the Magic, picturing this parallel roster, I have to wonder how much the Spurs front office is being driven by fantasy league type trends. After all, a lot of front office personnel are of that generation now, where the old Spurs front office was, well, old.
If you look at the Spurs and NBA from an online perspective, you can see in our sports culture, player development is fading, while the road to the championship is presumed to go through personnel and contract wizardry. The old Spurs front office has changed from its historically boring ways to the new way, and I can’t help but wonder if the fans and sports culture aren’t driving this change instead of reason and logic.
“Basketball metaverse? Questioning the tank/rebuild? What the heck are you talking about?” I can hear you wondering. Well, there is clearly only one way to settle this (I guess I could say anything here: arm wrestling, Rochambeau, footrace), and that’s a scrimmage between the roster we traded away and the current one. That could be a fun event for fans actually, a reunion game (though don’t press me for details, I’m in the metaverse).
So let’s sum it up, the Spurs traded their starting five basically for I think 5 our 6 first round picks over the next five years or so (I’m not counting the second round picks) and also forced the team into the lottery. They could have stayed pat, gotten better, and right now, right at this very moment, we could be watching the standings with bated breath instead of baited breath, defending a narrow lead over the Nuggets, or counting how many games is needed to catch the Grizzlies, but I suppose we’ll never know, and I guess in the basketball metaverse it all works out one way or another.
In this case, it has worked out watching a really fun squad get better and, since we have no other choice, getting excited about the draft. And I’m proud of our team and Spurs nation for supporting them! As John Wooden once said, “Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out.”