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The Bird Calls Podcast Ep. 31: MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard to keep Spurs quite relevant

Part three of our Southwest Division preview stops in San Antonio.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs-Media Day Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Would the San Antonio Spurs have won the 2017 NBA Finals if Kawhi Leonard had never twisted his ankle in the first playoff game against the Golden State Warriors? We’re well versed with Gregg Popovich unfamiliarity with losing, but honestly this remains a legitimate question because of how well the Kawhi-led Spurs were playing before tragedy in the form of ZaZa Pachulia struck.

This is an important point in time to remember because many have openly questioned the Spurs offseason. One person who is a little more positive than most is J.R. Wilco, the editor in chief of Pounding the Rock. Believe it or not, he handed out a solid apple fritter grade for the summer moves. That’s right, forget traditional letter scores, we’re talking desserts, and if you’re interested to discover where this fritter falls on the scale of things, you’ve got to listen to him and Preston on this podcast!

Honestly though, J.R. largely understands why Jonathon Simmons is now with the Orlando Magic versus why Pau Gasol was retained. One player hovered around a 30% field goal percentage from 16 feet and out while the other surpassed 50%. Don’t believe in this theory? Have a look at the Spurs 2017-18 roster — they are all pretty much capable of stretching the floor.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs-Media Day Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

As for LaMarcus Aldridge, don’t expect the recent trade rumors to affect his play much in San Antonio. J.R. believes the longtime power forward, who may be asked to spend a good deal of time at center, has incredible motivation to go out and perform. Of course, a lot of lineup decisions will be based on Rudy Gay and his availability to play significant minutes after tearing his Achilles last season.

Although Tony Parker isn’t expected back until late November at the earliest, many are confident he’ll be able to return to form. This is big news considering he tore his left quadriceps tendon in a playoff game against the Rockets, and at the time, many believed it might have been a career-threatening injury.

Lastly, if you’re curious as to how the Spurs have made signing players to good contracts an art form, listen to J.R. describe how loyalty going both ways has made for a great selling point.