After the San Antonio Spurs closed a season that was both heartbreaking and auspicious, they went into the offseason with the same goal in mind as last season. They haven't made many huge roster changes, and the core group of players will continue to play together in the upcoming season.
There are a few unanswered questions and things to watch out for on the Spurs. In the midst of the new contracts signed by the current players and seeing the younger players develop, the Spurs will be basically the same team with the same style of play for the next few years.
With the 2013-14 season on the horizon, there will be a few basketball fans who watch the Spurs and say that they're exactly the same team as last year. However, every team is different every year and the Spurs are no exception.
Earlier this month, Tiago Splitter agreed to a new deal with the team which will pay him $36 million over four years (via Marc Stein of ESPN). Even though legitimate, two-way centers who can run the floor are incredibly rare these days, the long-term deal means that the Spurs have faith in Splitter being their starting center for the next several years.
The deal may look ridiculous at first, especially since Splitter averaged just 10.3 PPG and 6.4 RPG in 24.7 minutes of action per contest last season (per Basketball Reference). However, big men are typically paid much more than guards or forwards and that has been the trend in the NBA these days.
For comparison, Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan and Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee both make upwards of $10 million a year, but neither of them—in my opinion—are better players than Splitter.
The signing of Splitter means that the Spurs are set at that position for the near future.
Splitter will be playing alongside first-ballot Hall of Famer Tim Duncan during the latter's twilight years to try and win one more championship before the Spurs' old core breaks up. As the season progresses, look out for Splitter's contributions to the team and see if he really deserves to be the future center for the franchise.
Although the Spurs fell to the Miami Heat in the finals last season, Kawhi Leonard was one of the bright spots on the team throughout the entire postseason.
In 21 playoff games, Leonard averaged 13.5 PPG, 9.0 RPG and 1.8 steals per game on 54.5 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent from beyond the arc. He was remarkable in the finals as well, increasing his scoring and rebounding averages to 14.6 and 11.1, respectively.
He's already shown that he isn't rattled when competing on the biggest stage against the best player in the world, and his exceptional poise led to one of his best individual playoff series performances of his young career.
Next season, Leonard will improve even more and will likely have a much bigger role on the team. He made his name known during the finals, and fans should keep a close eye on Leonard throughout the regular season.
Manu Ginobili had a rough season where he experienced ups and downs throughout the year.
It all led to him averaging the second-fewest points per game of his career (11.8) and the fewest minutes per game since his rookie season in 2002-03.
It didn't get any better in the playoffs, as Ginobili struggled to find any sort of rhythm. In 26.7 minutes per game in the playoffs, he averaged an unspectacular 11.5 PPG, along with a 39.9 field goal percentage and 30.2 percent from beyond the arc.
Next season, Ginobili will be another year older and another year slower. He signed a two-year deal with the Spurs earlier this month (via ESPN), but his role on the team will probably be diminished as he plays out the rest of his career.
Perhaps Ginobili can tap into his inner strength and find the energy to compete at the highest level again. He could have a bounce-back year just like Tim Duncan did a few seasons ago and prove his doubters wrong. He obviously won't be the same as his former self, but the 36-year old guard still has something left in the tank.