It's impossible to replicate Ginobili, but the Spurs must find a player to help fill an important void on the court.
Pertaining to his presence alone, the left-hander is irreplaceable. His impact is felt beyond scoring a few baskets and dishing a few assists. Aided by his ever-growing bald spot, he has become one of the most recognizable members of the franchise.
What's more, no Spur gets away with things that Manu can, said Grantland's Jared Dubin:
Manu operates under an entirely different set of rules than the rest of the Spurs, at the intersection of singular talent and team-oriented system. ... He’s still pretty much the only player who can get away with breaking the offense and not having Gregg Popovich look like he wants to murder somebody.
General manager R.C. Buford can look for the next Ginobili on the current roster. Additionally, San Antonio has a surprising amount of cap room available in the near future, but there must be a free agent who fits what San Antonio needs whenever the Argentine retires.
Whichever direction the Spurs' brass heads, however, it's a safe bet the reins will be tighter.
Why Danny Green Is Not
Quite clearly, Ginobili is plain better than shooting guard Danny Green. The North Carolina product may start over Manu, but the two have never been confused in the talent department—with a significant concession.
Ginobili has only converted on 40.0-plus percent of three-point attempts twice in his career, and one occurrence was during an injury-hampered, lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign. On the other hand, Green's lowest season percentage from distance (41.5) is higher than Ginobili's best (41.3).
Both players are or were excellent defenders, and Green is arguably the NBA's best at stopping transition offense. During their respective careers, Ginobili has grabbed more steals, while his counterpart has blocked more shots.
However, their offensive values are so very different. For example, you will probably never see Green purposefully and successfully complete the accompanying dime.
Ginobili is one of the most creative passers in the history of the game, and he attacks the rim beautifully. Whether it's a finger-roll, floater or hanging bank shot, Manu can be a treat to watch off a pick-and-roll and inside the lane.
But Green is a liability when handling the rock. Whenever the sharpshooter puts the ball on the floor, many San Antonio fans are terrified at what will happen next, and rightfully so. Ultimately, his finishing ability is borderline laughable.
Though it's undeniable Ginobili still has a handful of "Are you serious, Manu?" moments, the concern is more an issue of control than skill. Hopefully Green will become a more serviceable all-around offensive player, but any hopes of him becoming a true offensive creator are far-fetched.
Potential Free Agents
With simplicity in mind, let's assume Ginobili and Tim Duncan both play out the duration of their respective contracts and retire after the 2014-15 season.
Once the legendary pair is off the books, the Spurs receive $17 million in cap space, according to HoopsHype. For any who may not understand the importance, that's basically max-contract money.
The Houston Rockets recently made waves by declining Chandler Parsons' fourth-year option, and the swingman immediately comes to mind as a possible replacement. He's big, he shoots, he snags rebounds, he passes, he grabs steals and he plays defense.
However, there are too many what-ifs surrounding his impending restricted free agency to call Parsons a legitimate option at this time. Should he actually becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2015, let's revisit this topic.
More realistically, both Kemba Walker and Goran Dragic could be available after next season. Walker's rookie deal expires and Dragic holds a player option, so both point guards would be worth an inquiry.
But would Walker be willing to leave the Charlotte Bobcats? Secondly, would he be willing to leave his starting position to come off the bench behind Tony Parker? The latter question is the biggest obstacle San Antonio will confront throughout this quest, and it's highly unlikely Walker would choose the Spurs.
At 29 years old next offseason, Dragic will be nearing the end of his perceived prime. What that means, of course, is he will want one last sizable long-term contract. Following those potential free agents, though, the drop-off is considerable, so San Antonio could be persuaded into overpaying for Dragic.
Addressing Manu's replacement in free agency is extremely difficult, and the front office would be forced to fork over a hefty amount of cash—something atypical of the franchise's norm.
Then again, the money is there. And once Kawhi Leonard is paid, raining leftover money on Dragic doesn't sound like a horrible idea.
However, Patty Mills...
The curious case of Patrick Mills.
Mills may not be a swift dribbler or acrobatic finisher, but his Ferrari-speed style of play gives him a dazzling future as a sixth man in San Antonio.
"Along with that quickness comes a much-improved jumper," said Hang Time Blog's John Schuhmann. "He’s a ball-handler that can pull up at any time and make you pay for going under a screen. And if he catches fire, he can change a game."
The thing is, is that where Mills sees his future? According to HoopsHype, San Antonio must re-sign the Australian during the upcoming offseason.
An unrestricted free agent, he will be in high demand by teams like the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers. These other franchises are appealing because the front offices are more than willing to overpay for Mills' services and can offer the point guard a starting role.
But if Mills returns to San Antonio, he will undoubtedly take on a bigger role post-Manu.
While he flashes aggressiveness in the lane, he'd much prefer a pull-up jumper at the free-throw line. Granted, Mills stands six inches shorter than Ginobili, and it will take some serious improvement for a player of his stature to be comfortable attacking the rim.
Overall, the point guard has certain Manu-esque qualities, such as a "why are you taking th—hey, nice shot" jumper, a "why are you making th—hey, nice assist" pass and "that's a horrible heat-che—I can't believe he made that" three-pointer.
Mills is unafraid to play risky basketball like Ginobili, but his main hindrance will be overcoming those risks by achieving consistent results. If he eventually proves he can, though, we may have found the answer.
Could Lightning Strike Twice?
Maybe lightning does strike twice in the same spot. San Antonio could win the championship and proceed to select the next Manu in the second round of the upcoming draft, similar to how it snagged the left-hander in 1999 after a title.
Granted, even with a victory in the 2014 NBA Finals, he may not begin his ride toward the sunset and into the Professional Basketball Hall of Fame.
His bust in Springfield can wait, but the Spurs cannot hold on to Ginobili much longer. Though Buford and Co. might hold out hope Manu discovers the illustrious Fountain of Youth, they must be prepared to replace one of the most important players in the history of the franchise.
And that's easier said than done, because maybe the next Manu just doesn't exist.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all stats taken from Basketball-Reference. Hat-tip to Grantland's Dubin for both Ginobili videos.
Follow Bleacher Report NBA writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.