It has been 16 years since Tim Duncan entered the NBA as a high-profile prospect out of Wake Forest.
Since then, his San Antonio Spurs have accustomed themselves to habitual success, earning a reputation as the team that simply refuses to go away.
Now 38, Duncan has led his team to a second consecutive appearance in the NBA Finals, something that many critics deemed impossible at the year's start.
But, as they do every year, the Spurs proved detractors wrong, executing in a manner that belies their preseason expectations.
And, regardless of how they perform in the upcoming series against the Miami Heat, the Spurs will be subject to their fair share of critics by the start of next year.
However, experience, coaching and quality roster management have kept the team relevant thus far, and once it comes time for the team to suit up for the 2014-15 year, another strong offseason in which they improve in the following areas should ensure success similar to that of this year and the many years prior.
If it wasn't clear yet, the Spurs' biggest current roster need is assistance in the frontcourt, particularly at one of the power positions.
Together, Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan present a formidable starting duo. Throw in Boris Diaw, and the team currently has a triumvirate of capable big men. However, after those three, the team's collection of post players could use assistance.
As evidenced by the heavy playing time that a struggling Matt Bonner received against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, San Antonio desperately lacks depth in the rotation down low.
While Aron Baynes continues to boost his potential as a rotation player, when accounting for the possibility that Boris Diaw takes his talents to the bank this offseason, as well as the continued playing-time restrictions for Tim Duncan, it is integral that the Spurs find another legitimate big man who can add firepower to the Spurs' offense and defense.
With Bonner poised to depart in free agency, a roster spot will open that the team should fill with a polished big man who can spread the floor—something that ultimately helped San Antonio overcome the Serge Ibaka factor in the WCF—while also being able to rebound and contribute in the post in a manner in which Bonner was unable to.
There are a wide range of players to choose from, and while the Spurs won't be signing the natural successor to Tim Duncan this summer, there are plenty of role players capable of playing strong minutes off the bench that the front office should consider.
Whether it's an established presence like Spencer Hawes or a younger prospect like Jordan Hill, a backup big man should be on the Spurs' radar, as the team desperately needs to upgrade its frontcourt depth.
Do the Spurs need to add to their stock of overseas players?
No, of course not. Compared to many teams in the league, their collection of foreign talent is already incredible. From last season's draft pick Livio Jean-Charles to big men like Adam Hanga who have been maturing in Europe for a few seasons, San Antonio already has a large supply of talent grooming beyond the borders of the United States.
That said, the current San Antonio roster situation, as well as their current situation in general, makes drafting-and-stashing a foreign prospect seem like the most viable option for the team.
San Antonio's roster flexibility hinges greatly on whether or not the team re-signs Diaw and Patty Mills. Though the departure of Matt Bonner may be a forgone conclusion, it is likely that his roster spot is the only one that opens up. Diaw and Mills, though both potentially in for big pay days, have been integral members of the Spur's system throughout the season, and the team's possession of their Bird rights makes it possible for their re-signing.
Additionally, the Tim Duncan retirement question casts another shadow of uncertainty on their roster availability for next season, but that alone changes everything, and it can be tackled if such a momentous announcement is made.
In the event in which all but Bonner return, San Antonio will be limited in its ability to add players, and any additions will likely come in the form of established talent—i.e. free agency—rather than a late first-round draft pick.
So, with a number of foreign prospects with lottery potential but no guarantee that they'll make the jump to the NBA anytime soon, it would be in the Spurs' best interest to add to their current collection so that, when the day comes when their roster undergoes its inevitable post-Duncan overhaul, a stock of talent will already be at the team's fingerprints.
Going overseas in June has worked before—see Gee-no-bee-lee, Emmanuel—and, with little flexibility to do otherwise, it seems appropriate that the Spurs utilize this offseason as an opportunity to upgrade their foreign player pool.
It won't be a roster upgrade, but the continued development of Kawhi Leonard will help improve the team as a whole, and should thus be a top priority for the Spurs this offseason.
Leonard, who turns 23 in late June, is one of the league's brightest prospects, and his performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as the praise he received from coach Gregg Popovich afterwards, solidified the notion that the San Diego State product is the future of the team.
Currently, the third-year forward has developed a reputation as one of the league's elite defensive players. His recent selection to the All-NBA Second Defensive Team will be the first of many defensive-oriented awards that Leonard will garner over the course of his career.
Offensively, Leonard continues to grow every year, both in his abilities and his confidence. He is an above-average three-point shooter, a solid contributor from mid-range and a reliable finisher in the paint. He can handle the ball, pass and run the floor with the poise of a veteran.
Off the court, his ethic is unparalleled, and his IQ is growing exponentially.
Even so, despite having already found his place as a standout, his ceiling—or rather, lack thereof—ensures that, over time, he'll grow into a superstar.
This offseason, he may very well make that jump.
Whether it's polishing his current tools or expanding his repertoire and improving his post game and scoring ability, Leonard will undoubtedly be hard at work this offseason.
It would serve in the team's best interests to supply him with the extra coaching and guidance in his quest to improve, as it could very well push him into the realm of stardom by the start of next season.
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