The “woulda, coulda, shoulda” San Antonio Spurs are back, fresh of that stinger of a historical NBA Finals defeat. The Spurs are, once again, expected to compete for the throne out West despite Duncan and Parker being one year older. That 28 second collapse definitely had the potential to suck the future life out of this Spur team. However, I doubt Popovich, Parker, and Duncan let that happen. This team is just way too professional and on top of things. Will the San Antonio Spurs status as an elite team be any different this season? Let’s take a look:
Guards (A-): Tony Parker, Danny Green, Cory Joseph, Marco Belinelli, Patty Mills/Nando De Colo
The Spurs’ highly skilled and energetic backcourt is the same except with Marco Belinelli as their backup shooting guard instead of Gary Neal, who signed with the Bucks in free agency. There’s no question 31-year-old point guard Tony Parker is returning this year as an elite guard. Parker makes a strong case for the best point guard in the league with this incredibly efficient offensive game. A true master of the game, Parker seems to improve more with each year of experience. Last year, Parker had a career season, averaging a fantastic 24.6 points and 9.2 assists per 40 minutes. Parker also shot remarkably well from the field at over 52 percent. Danny Green shocked many in last year’s playoffs and Finals especially, in which he broke the record for most three-pointers made in an NBA Finals with an astounding 27 that fell through the hoop. Green is now clearly perceived as a major threat from deep and has a good chance to be the future shooting guard of this organization. Belinelli is a pretty talented backup with a nice shooting stroke and fits San Antonio’s identity with his active and aggressive playing style. Joseph has earned Coach Pop’s respect as he’s proved to be a relentless worker and cooperative player on and off the court.
Forwards (A-): Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner
Kawhi Leonard’s game took a saw a major jump in his sophomore season. His maturity level seemed to be far ahead of his age as well as his understanding of the game. There’s not anything more a coach could ask out of Leonard. Kawhi was, hands down, a huge steal at pick 15 of the 2011 draft. Hey, that’s the Spurs for you. Splitter is labeled the starting center but Duncan really takes most of the center’s duties. Splitter usually guards the shorter big man, which is obviously often the power forward. In today’s game, we are often seeing the power forward and center spots as interchangeable. Splitter earned a longterm deal this offseason by proving to be a hard-nosed, physical player. Splitter is never known to shy away and will continue to push himself to the max just like Leonard. Ginobili will probably log more time at forward this season with Joseph and Bellinelli as capable backup guards. But Manu’s complete skillset makes him much like a three anyways. Leonard has officially taken Manu’s spot as the third part of the “big three” and is, arguably, already an All-Star caliber wing player.
Centers (A): Tim Duncan, Jeff Ayres, Aron Baynes
Tim Duncan is the single center of these three who’s deserving of big minutes (keep in mind the Spurs’ flexible rotation can allow Splitter or Bonner to play here.) It’s actually somewhat difficult to categorize many of these athletes as a position because of all the different roles they play. The Spurs are just all over on offense and defense. All-time great Tim Duncan never goes unnoticed. We, pretty much, never hear about any health concerns for 37-year-old Tim Duncan as he appears to be built to last forever. Duncan remains a popular choice as best big man in the league over players such as Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol. His knowledge of the game is just off the charts and he’s consistently exploiting opposing players in their weak spots. I look forward to, hopefully, seeing Duncan keep up this magnificent run.
Defense (A): With Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard on the court and Greg Popovich running the show, the Spurs’ defense is always in check. They’re the only team who knows how to limit LeBron James. Danny Green’s value on defense can be overlooked considering his long wingspan doesn’t exactly allow players to have a field day against him. Splitter doesn’t have great mobility but makes enough of an impact on post defense. Then there are players off the bench like Joseph and Diaw who just give the team defense a lift.
Shooting (A-): San Antonio doesn’t particularly have a whole lot of sharp shooters but it’s floor spacing is impeccable. Credit that to Popovich, Parker, and Duncan who all work together with the team as if Pop were actually on the court playing. Danny Green has proved a monster of an outside shooter and will blast defenses if he’s left an inch of space.
Experience (A): Self-explanatory. The Spurs are among the best ever when it comes to knowledge and experience.
Standing – 1st West: Why not put them on top of the mountain again? All around, the Spurs are the most exceptional team in the Western Conference until proven otherwise.