by Doobie Okon

The San Antonio Spurs find themselves in quite the difficult position now that this dubious offseason has commenced. After serving as a rock of an organization for the last two decades, 2010-11 was no different for San Antonio as they breezed through the regular season to the tune of 61-21, a phenomenal mark.

What’s really amazing about the Spurs’ season is that they managed to win so many games with their veteran star, Tim Duncan, putting up by far the worst numbers of his career with 13.4 points and 8.9 boards in only 28.4 minutes a game. Not a horrible season for a 35-year-old power forward with aged knees, but certainly not up to Duncan standards especially when TD recorded another “down year” in ’09-10 with 17.9/10.1 a game. Therefore, you have to give loads of credit to Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Gregg Popovich and the Spurs’ depth for still managing 60+ wins and the top seed in the ever-strong West.

But maybe it’s because of his Duncan’s now limited efficiency that the Spurs were hardly feared headed into the postseason. Not to say that many people picked the Grizzlies to upset the four-time champs in the opening round, but still the Spurs were not exactly the people’s favorites to take home the Larry O’Brien trophy this year. And should the NBA get its collective head out of their sphincter and prevent a lockout, I don’t see San Antonio going into next year as a championship favorite either, although still a very high Playoff team.

It’s easy to see where the current group of Spurs are flawed—look no further than that embarrassing Memphis series. The Spurs’ usual vaunted defense was less than stellar during the regular season, giving up 98.0 points a game which was balanced out by a superb offense (103.7 ppg). However, once the postseason began, San Antonio’s offense slightly tumbled while their D continued to fail them. Zach Randolph absolutely owned the paint against Duncan, DeJuan Blair and Antonio McDyess while the Spurs met their match in terms of team depth.

So where does San Antonio go from here? Clearly, it’s hard to improve on 61 victories and the Spurs aren’t trying to. They are a championship organization with their only focus being on that—championships. For this franchise…there’s no difference between 50 and 60 wins, only if they’re still standing come June. However, Tony Parker has already said the Spurs aren’t contenders anymore, a statement many in San Antonio will have a problem with. It’s a fair one though, as it’s hard to envision these Spurs winning another ring with Duncan declining so much and Parker/Ginobili not getting any younger either, no matter how well they do in the regular season. The window may be closing, but it ain’t locked shut yet.

So….

With the 29th pick in the SLAMonline Mock Draft, the San Antonio Spurs select Jeremy Tyler.

You really know the Spurs are in a difficult position when they finish with over 60 wins yet their star point guard is saying the Championship window has closed. Many are predicting that the Spurs are trying to draft their ‘heir-apparent’ to TD, especially with McDyess expected to retire, but that’s quite hard considering the Spurs repeatedly selecting in the high 20′s.

Jeremy Tyler is not Tim Duncan’s heir. Nor should he be thought that way. But he’s 20 and possesses a huge body at 6-11, 263 lbs, with an incredible 7-5 wingspan. Although extremely raw in terms of his offensive game and his attitude, he’s got the kind of elite size and athleticism that NBA scouts are looking for to transform him into a true professional power forward.

Tyler wouldn’t have an immediate impact as Duncan did as a rookie, but no player that will be available at 29th can match TD’s first-year numbers or even come close. However, with Tyler continuing to impress scouts at the pre-draft workouts with his size and his defense, he can clog up the paint on both sides of the court where the Spurs certainly needed help last year, especially against the Grizzlies.

What greatly speaks to Jeremy Tyler’s upside is that he hasn’t really been effectively coached yet, at least to NBA standards. After three years at San Diego High School where he was the best HS junior in the country (28.7 points per game), Tyler retracted his commitment to play for Rick Pitino at Louisville and went to go play in Israel. After only ten disastrous games in the Israeli Super League, Tyler left and played for Tokyo Apache in Japan last year where he posted much better numbers at 9.9 points and 6.4 rebounds in only 15.4 minutes per game. So after missing out on a chance to learn from Pitino and then spending two years overseas, Tyler really has not received the proper coaching to make him into the NBA big man he could become someday.

Throw that gigantic, raw body in the gym with Pop…and only good things can happen.