The San Antonio Spurs were arguably the biggest winners of the NBA offseason.
The Spurs signed the biggest free agent of the summer in LaMarcus Aldridge, re-signed several core players like Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, and brought back Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili on bargain contracts. They also got a valuable power forward in David West to sign for the minimum.
On paper, the Spurs may have the most stacked roster in an insanely competitive Western Conference.
However, they also may be facing one big problem that they don’t necessarily have a solution for: they’re one of the oldest teams in the NBA.
While many people wonder how Aldridge’s ball-dominant style will fit in the Spurs’ selfless, pass-happy system, or whether the Spurs have a roster that can fit the new small-ball NBA, their age could be a real concern when it comes to running through 82 games and the brutal West.
Twitter user Mark Porcaro released a chart of the 50 oldest and 50 youngest players in the NBA:
A closer look reveals the Spurs have six of the 50 oldest players in the NBA:
According to RealGM, the Spurs have the second oldest roster in terms of average age at 30.1 years old, and many of their key players are their oldest players. While Leonard and Green are only 24 and 28, respectively, as seen above, Duncan, Ginobili, West, Diaw, and Parker are 39, 38, 35, and 33. Aldridge turned 30 this summer.
Their starting lineup — likely Parker, Green, Leonard, Aldridge, and Duncan — has an average age of 30.8 years old. Their bench, likely Ginobili, Diaw, West, and Patty Mills, will have an average age of 33. If one of their best players is out for an extended period of time, some of these older players will have to play heavier minutes, unless coach Gregg Popovich feels there are younger players capable of filling in.
In clearing cap space for Aldridge, the Spurs also traded Tiago Splitter (30) and let Cory Joseph (23) and Aron Baynes (28) walk in free agency, losing some young depth in the process.
Age hasn’t affected the Spurs in the past, as they have managed to keep Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker fresh while getting valuable contributions from bench players. Popovich is notorious for being willing to sacrifice games to get his best players needed rest, and this season shouldn’t be any different. Additionally, the Spurs are also great at getting production out of end-of-the-bench players.
However, Parker and Ginobili noticeably lost steps last year, and while Duncan always appear ageless, he’s going into his 19th season — it’s likely that age will catch up to him at some point.
The teams that go furthest in the NBA tend to be the healthiest teams. Last year’s Golden State Warriors escaped the season unscathed, while the Cavaliers were down two top players in the Finals and simply didn’t have the depth to compete.
In this sense, the Spurs face a greater disadvantage than the conference’s other heavyweights, like the Warriors (average age of 27.9), the Thunder (average age of 26.7), Rockets (26.6), or even the slightly younger Clippers (29.7).
Age and injuries may not be a factor for the Spurs at all this season, but compared to the rest of the West’s top teams, the Spurs seem the most susceptible to wearing down or facing a brutal injury. If healthy, the Spurs have a dominant roster, but it may be tough for this group to stay in tact throughout the year and into the postseason.
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