- NBA Rank: 2
Conference Rank: 2
- San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are the most dominant contemporary team in the NBA. Last season they kept it up. The common line has always been that the Spurs are reliant on their big three, and they aren't getting any younger. But the Spurs have a secret: they've retooled, and look poised to stay strong over the next couple of seasons.
In 1997 the Spurs unexpectedly lost David Robinson to injury. They tried to get him to play, but he couldn't. Avery Johnson and Vinny Del Negro entered their 30s and couldn't overcome age. Without their superstar center, the Spurs fell apart. They lucked into Tim Duncan (history has forgotten that the Celtics had a much better chance at landing the #1 pick than the Spurs did). The next season -- with a healthy David Robinson playing -- marked the start of the most successful modern NBA franchise. To the outside world, the lesson learned was that "tanking works". The Spurs have done little publicly to dispel this notion, and have been content to let everyone else go down the wrong path, but they learned something else: that it's important to keep your old players healthy and to retool your team before time takes it.
|Gary Neal ||1484||29||.006||.2|
|Nando De Colo||920||26||.104||2.0|
|DeJuan Blair ||851||24||.069||1.2|
|James Anderson ||94||24||.168||1.4|
Indicates that the player is no longer with the team.
Last year the Spurs big three accounted for 22.2 wins. However, the younger trio of Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, and Tiago Splitter put up 25.3 wins! That's right, more of the Spurs wins are coming from their "young guns" than their old guard. The Spurs are also making a slight paradigm shift. The classic model is a major star or two sustains your team -- see the Heat. The Spurs understand the key of getting stars. However, they're also going for balance. Tack on great coaching, and you get a cominant contender. Last season they were just two Ray Allen threes away from winning it all. Have they kept it up?
|Marco Belinelli ||2.1||1213||27||.044||1.1|
|Nando De Colo||1.4||804||26||.107||1.8|
|Jeff Ayres ||4.0||399||26||.055||.5|
Indicates that the player is new to the team.
The good news about the Spurs is that their team as it stood was set. Their offseason was a bit underwhelming. They wisely resigned Tiago Splitter for an undervalued contract. I'm skeptical of their contract for Ginobili, but we think he can keep it up for at least another season. Belinelli though? Wow, this feels like a very anti-Spurs move. With the expected growth and minute increase in Leonard and Green, this isn't a major issue. Really, the Spurs could have stood pat and been in a great spot, which is essentially what they did.
Is it a scoop to say "The Spurs will be great again"? Their offseason was pretty uneventful. It's never exciting when a team just re-signs their good players and grabs a few cheap players. For all the guff I give the Belinelli signing, it cost nothing in the land of NBA contracts. The Spurs could sign a Belinelli every year, provided they kept a strong roster, and it wouldn't even touch the mistakes in a three year Melo deal. The Spurs didn't need to make a huge splash like grabbing Dwight. They didn't need to "win" the draft. All they needed to do was keep their team intact. They did that, and expect them to compete.
The Second Opinion Patrick reminisces on age
"The Spurs are too old" is the oldest meme in the NBA. It practically predates the internet. I remember first hearing this after the 2003 championship. The "old" players then were Johnson, Robinson, Kerr, Ferry, etc. But folks were ignoring the fact that Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli were not old at all, and that they were becoming more important than the old guys. After the 2005 season, every single year, everyone forgets the Spurs. "They are a year older!" is the cry.
Yes, Kawhi Leonard is a year older. That should scare the **** out of Western Conference rivals. The guy who should have won the 2011-12 rookie of the year is entering his third season. He has already surpassed Ginobli in the depth chart. Other young players like Green, Splitter and de Colo are making big contributions. The fact is, this is not a particularly old team at all. They still need Duncan to perform at a high level if they want to go all the way, and one of these years, that will finally stop happenning -- but it wouldn't surprise me if they find a replacement before then.
The Third Opinion Devin chimes inDevin Dignam from Wages of Wins was kind enough to hop in with a third opinion!
As Dre says, the Spurs and Heat are boring. The players and reasons that will make them successful this year are the same that made them successful last year. Neither made big offseason changes. In the case of the Spurs, however, it should be noted that they cut ties with some of their mistakes -- Stephen Jackson and Gary Neal. They've added Belinelli to replace some of those lost minutes, and the rest will probably be used by Leonard, Green, Colo, Mills, and Joseph. While Belinelli hasn't been great, he's been more productive than Jackson and Neal, and giving more minutes to your better players is always good. But unlike the Heat -- who have cornered the market on aging, former big name players -- the thing to watch with the Spurs is if any of their prospects show signs of stardom in limited minutes. In particular, Cory Joseph is one to watch. The Canadian is young and played very well in his second year. If continues to put up decent numbers, watch out -- the Spurs may have found their eventual Tony Parker replacement.