The San Antonio Spurs front office is constantly updating its long-term plan, shaping the intended direction of the team as major changes loom in the seemingly near future.
Fortunately for the franchise, its management has earned a sterling reputation by forming championship-caliber rosters on a yearly basis.
During the 2014 offseason, the team addressed short-term goals, re-signing Patty Mills and Boris Diaw to multiyear deals and selecting the best available player during the draft.
But before the regular season starts, the Spurs face a few moves that are integral in protecting the roster for future campaigns.
Find Another Point Guard
San Antonio could decide it is content with Tony Parker, Cory Joseph and a currently sidelined Mills at point guard, but the team should carry a fourth for depth purposes.
The Spurs need a temporary replacement for Mills so the Australian does not rush back and endanger future seasons with the team. Mills signed a three-year contract, but a shoulder injury to a sharpshooter is not exactly "no big deal." Ultimately, an extra point guard is a short-term fix with a long-term goal.
Resting Parker and Manu Ginobili on the same night prior to Mills' return will be difficult given the lack of available guards. Joseph, Danny Green and Marco Belinelli have proved themselves as worthy complements, but a three-man backcourt rotation is simply implausible.
While Kyle Anderson could potentially be used as an oversized guard, sending out a rookie in that role is not an optimal scenario for San Antonio. Granted, this situation is admittedly rare barring injury to the two veterans, but the Spurs must encourage Anderson's development, not stunt it.
According to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News, rookie Bryce Cotton's contract becomes guaranteed if he is on the roster opening night. As a senior at Providence, the 6'1" point guard averaged 21.8 points, 5.9 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals per night—effective, in other words.
Retaining Cotton signals the official end of Aron Baynes' tenure, but the San Antonio frontcourt is already deep enough as it stands.
Continue Developing Talent Overseas
The Spurs own the rights to a few promising players currently on rosters overseas. On a related note, water is wet and LeBron James is good at basketball.
French tweener forward Livio Jean-Charles is recovering from a knee injury that limited him last season, but San Antonio need not rush the 20-year-old to the States anyway. The 28th overall selection in 2013 was a draft-and-stash prospect—a strategy the Spurs consistently utilize.
Ryan Richards was the 49th pick in 2010, and the 7'0" center could perhaps assume Matt Bonner as a tall three-point specialist. He only knocked down 28.2 percent from distance for Ikaros (Greece) last season, but working with Chip Engelland would do Richards wonders.
Forward Davis Bertans and shooting guard Adam Hanga will both suit up for Baskonia (Spain) in 2014. Bertans, 21, told SportaCentrs.com (h/t Paul Garcia of Project Spurs) that he believes San Antonio expects him in the next two years.
Hanga has not cracked the starting lineup for Baskonia, which is slightly concerning for a 25-year-old. Though neither Ginobili nor Tiago Splitter joined San Antonio until after their respective 25th birthdays, the Spurs will start missing Hanga's perceived prime if he does not arrive soon.
Then again, if any team can find a perfect spot for a reserve, it's San Antonio.
Build Around Kawhi Leonard
The Spurs are slowly preparing for life without Tim Duncan, Ginobili and Gregg Popovich, and Leonard is the building block. However, those transactions are not an overnight process; rather, the organization must take small steps—the first being locking up the small forward for the future.
Leonard will become a restricted free agent in October if the parties, surprisingly, do not agree to an extension. Per HoopsHype, San Antonio has nearly $60 million available for its payroll in 2015-16. Chandler Parsons just received a three-year, $46 million deal, which sets a meaningful precedent for Leonard's camp in the negotiations.
He is sure to be expensive, but the reigning Finals MVP is worth the price. Leonard will likely be flanked by Parker and Splitter, and Anderson could eventually find his niche as a pass-first complement, which is an appealing premise.
Green's and Diaw's longevity are legitimate questions, but those are roles international prospects will take over, anyway.
As long as the Big Three all remain with the team, Leonard will happily occupy his under-the-radar spot, playing stout defense and scoring when presented the opportunity. Therefore, the long-term plan focusing on Leonard does not have a specific starting or ending date, it's simply when Duncan and Ginobili are gone.
Could be one year, could be seven—you just never know with those San Antonio robots. But one thing is definite: For better or worse, Leonard is the Spurs' future.
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