What does this all mean though? Did losing to the Spurs without putting up almost any fight put doubt into the heads of Bosh, Wade, and LeBron? Does Duncan decide to retire on what could be considered his pinnacle championship run? Is this brand of Spurs basketball convincing enough to cause a shift in the way the NBA plays on a nightly basis?
This Heat roster is missing one thing more than anything else: depth. Sure, Wade was hobbling by the end of the series, Bosh wasn't playing incredibly well, and Allen probably should be in a wheelchair by now, but we still shouldn't have seen the series go this way. Look at the Spurs roster. They got significant contributions out of Patty Mills, Boris Diaw, and Danny Green. Because Wade, Bosh, and LeBron take up so much cap room (which is still less than each was probably worth when they signed their original deals), they had to rely on Rashard Lewis, Mario Chalmers, and Chris Andersen. If the drop-off after Wade and LeBron wasn't such a gaping hole, they may not have had such a significant burden on their shoulders. The Spurs showed the NBA that the looming threat of multiple-superstar teams doesn't necessarily equate to championships anymore.
To be fair though, if the Spurs were not the team in the finals, I have no doubt that the Heat could have won their third-straight championship. LeBron looked nearly invincible, even without having a great team around him and having some of the best man-defense we've witnessed to this point applied to him by Kawhi Leonard. The man still scored 28 PTS, 8 RBS, 4 AST, on 68% TS. Wade, Bosh, and Allen could have easily dealt with most other teams on the offensive end and played defense that would have at least kept games close enough in the 4th for LeBron to catch fire and go "NBA Jam" on anyone in his path. But the precision of the Spurs offense and depth that they were able to go to without missing a beat was too much. Not only was it incredibly difficult to defend, it was exhausting for the Heat to contend with, only exacerbating the depth issue. When Patty Mills subs out Parker and then proceeds to rain 3's every time he touches the ball, you have a problem.
For the Spurs, they've had an extraordinary and legendary run, but their future is also quite blurry. With Duncan at 38, Parker at 32, and Ginobli at almost 37, their days are numbered being the Spurs team that everyone recognizes. It wouldn't be a shock whatsoever if Duncan decides to call it quits, and Ginobli and Parker can only go as far as their bodies take them (the "Wade" factor). I have no doubt that even without Duncan, the team will be in the playoffs next year, but will they be able to contend in the same way? And how much longer will Popovich continue to coach? While we don't know for sure, it just adds to the mystery of this offseason. For all we know, Duncan retiring might give the Heat enough confidence that they can beat the Spurs if they were to meet again next year that the Big-3 could opt-in for one more run. But I honestly don't know if that would be enough.
(Side note, I'm not going to talk about the prospect of Melo joining the Heat. It's a longshot and, while a possibility, still wholly unreasonable with the amount of money that each would be losing in a pay-cut)
But the impact of this finals could reach beyond just LeBron. As I discussed before, the Spurs offense could be a major focus in the coaching search, the draft, and in free-agency. Making sure that all of the players on the team can play together well, pass the ball, and trust one another should be a major focus. That means bringing in a coach that can convince players to buy in. It means drafting a player that can pass the ball and create fluidity for the offense. It means finding players in free agency that fit, not ones that will just make a big splash.
For the coach, I trust that just about any candidate that has been discussed, other than Gentry (please not Gentry), can help this team with trust and flow of the offense. Blatt and Price would be my two main targets, though there are quite a few unknowns with bringing them in. Both do offer expertise on the offensive side of the ball though, as well as knowledge in how the motion of the offense needs to be run. For Blatt, this was his M/O in Russia, and Price ran that offense in the NBA for the Cavs. Even Lue was once an NBA point guard, though not of Price's caliber.
For the draft, Embiid has to be on the mind of Griffin if he takes the Spurs into account. A big man that can move, pass, and shoot from multiple places on the floor, as well as defend the rim in the same way that Duncan and Splitter were able to? Sign me up. If he isn't healthy though, I have to imagine that Parker might be more of a focus than Wiggins, at least offensively. Parker is the better shooter, ball handler, and passer, which all lends itself to better motion of the offense. Wiggins may be able to overcome his weaknesses in these areas, but it might take years to scrub the waste off his game and get to the next level, particularly the level required to be a key cog in a motion-heavy offense.
And for free-agency, you need to find wings that can pass and shoot. If there's one lesson that the Spurs taught us was that the big-fish in free agency doesn't necessarily make the biggest waves down the line. To me, this means that you don't pursue trading/signing Love or Melo. Both are players that, individually, are dominant and have all the skills to improve a team drastically. The issue though is two-fold. One, they eat up massive amounts of cap room. Kyrie is about to get an extension that will push his salary to the mid-teens in the immediate future, nearing the 20s in the long term. Bare in mind that Waiters, Thompson, and Bennett will all be needing extensions in that timeline if you intend to keep them. Between those players and Love/Melo, there's only room for vet-minimum contracts. It might work for a year or two, but you can't count on those contracts working out consistently.
The Cavs need to pursue players like Hayward and Parsons hard, even though they're restricted FAs. Both fit a huge need on the roster and have shown themselves to be team players at the Jazz and Rockets respectively. CJ Miles is also another player that should be a priority to retain. And keep a lookout for Trevor Ariza's and Thabo Sefalosha's names to come up in Cavs' discussions.
Regardless of the decisions that are about to follow over the course of the next few weeks though, you can be sure that the effects of these finals will be felt throughout the NBA. I certainly hope that the Cavs catch on sooner rather than later.