It seems like every new NBA season is filled with so-called experts calling for the end of the San Antonio Spurs. They’re too old, haven’t you heard? They have had the best record in the West for the past two seasons and head coach Gregg Popovich has perfected his rotation and the allotted minutes for each guy. His top players get plenty of rest during the regular season and aren't completely burned out once the playoffs begin. It was the little things that Popovich did throughout the season a year ago that led to him being awarded the Coach of the Year award. He’s one, if not the best coaches in the NBA and leads one of the most intelligent and savvy rosters in the league.
Long before Boston, Miami and Los Angeles created teams focused on their "Big Three's," the Spurs had been running things in the NBA with their own less heralded trio. Tim Duncan may be on the decline for his career, but he's sure to go down as one of the greatest power forwards of all-time and still provides plenty of good things to his team. He’s been in the NBA for well over a decade and is still looking to add on to his already impressive resume. The 4x NBA champion, 3x Finals MVP, as well as 2x regular season MVP still has a little bit left in the tank and is looking to win one for the thumb.
The stabilizer for this team is fittingly enough their PG Tony Parker. When all things seem to go to crap, Parker seems to always step up and slow things down. He plays with a constant level headed confidence that proves to be invaluable for his team. Parker will never be confused with guys like Rajon Rondo and Steve Nash who fill the boxscore with assists, but his ability to be a floor general that facilitates everything happening on the floor is extremely underrated. He’s been the guy bringing the ball up the court in pivotal moments for this Spurs team and it has led to multiple championships.
You have the old grizzled veteran in team captain Duncan, the guy who sparks everything on offense in Parker and now the glue that holds it all together with Manu Ginobili. It doesn’t matter if they ask him to start or come off the bench, this potential Sixth Man of the Year always plays at a high level. His biggest issue is the inability to stay healthy for a full season. If the Spurs wish to compete for one last NBA championship then Ginobili must stay on the court. It’s devastating for him to miss a game – especially should it happen in the playoffs. This is a team based on chemistry, they won’t be able to match teams like the Lakers, Thunder and Heat in terms of talent, but they can surpass them in intelligence and good team play. Everyone just needs to be healthy for the playoffs stretch.
Obviously, when you have a team where its top players are as old as they are in San Antonio, you have to make sure you have a formidable supporting cast. Stephen Jackson is back for the Spurs after being traded there in March. He's not a hugely impactful performer for this team, but he doesn't have to be. Coming off the bench means he's only counted on to provide a little spark and hit a few shots. In 14 playoff games last summer, he shot over 60% from behind the 3-point line. There's still plenty left for this 34-year-old to provide to a good smart basketball team.
DeJuan Blair was the Spurs' big steal in the 2009 draft. He managed to drop into the 2nd round where San Antonio scooped him up and promptly turned him into their starting center. The questions surrounding his knees seemed to have become moot because he has barely missed a game in his three seasons and has played quite well for this team. The amount of knowledge he absorbs from a guy like Tim Duncan must be invaluable for a young NBA player like him and it only means he'll improve as the seasons begin to pile up.
The rest of the supporting cast on the Spurs is filled with guys like Daniel Green, Gary Neal, Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter and Patrick Mills. These are guys who show up every day and just try to get the job done for their team. There are no egos here, just a group of guys who want to win together. It often seems like Bonner and Neal never miss a shot and the spark and energy that surges through the Spurs and their fans when they take over games is a sight to behold. None of these guys were top draft picks, the Spurs deserve to be heralded as one of the best drafters in the NBA. The value they get for each late round/2nd round pick has been spectacular.
Before I end this write-up, I want to give some press to Kawhi Leonard. He may not be the type of player ESPN raves about, but he may become one quickly. I’m very high on this 21-year-old’s game and think he could emerge as someone who competes with Ginobili for the best player coming off the bench. High praise for a young player with a ton of potential. His offensive games needs work, a lot of it, but he’s athletic enough to get by on raw talent alone right now. His defense was impressive for a rookie last season and should only flourish from here with a mastermind like Coach Pops helping him along. Someone needs to guard the superstars on the imposing teams. Leonard has all the potential in the world to become an above average player in the NBA for the Spurs.
Each year it seems like the critics for the Spurs announce that this is the season it all comes to an end. And each year they prove their critics wrong. I expect another solid season for the Spurs, but not quite one where they finish atop the West. More rest for guys like Duncan, Ginobili and Parker will mean a more modest record and 3rd seed in the West. The three of those guys missing games will just lead to someone like Leonard getting plenty of chances to prove himself. The role players will get their chances to shine and the confidence will be out of this world once the playoffs begin.
Season Outlook: The Spurs perfectly compete through the season under the radar with plenty of rest for their three stars. The role players step up and prove themselves while Kawhi Leonard potentially becomes the Most Improved Player in the NBA.
If you're looking for past teams I've already covered, click my name below the title to see a list of my articles.
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