SAN ANTONIO SPURS
PACE: #15 94.3
OFFENSE: #2 109.4
DEFENSE: #11 102.8
The Tim Duncan Era ranks:
Every single year, we knew the kind of team the San Antonio Spurs were going to be. And that was a half-court minded team, anchored by Tim Duncan and where the offense was good enough to score. With this philosophy, the Spurs were one of the most dominant teams in the decade.
However, in the last few seasons, the Spurs began to show some defensive struggles, what was actually quite normal. Bruce Bowen was gone, the main core of the team was getting older and Tim Duncan couldn’t play more than 30mpg last season.
Obviously Gregg Popovich had to do something…and he changed the team into one of the best offensive teams in the league. Say goodbye to the Spurs version of being an elite defensive team with an average offense and say hello to the new Spurs version, with an elite offense and an average defense. The truth is that last season, the Spurs averaged 16.1 fast-break points per 100 possessions, the 7th highest rate in the league. They led the league in 3PTS% with 39.7% and committed just 12.9 turnovers per game. These numbers clearly demonstrate the high efficiency of the Spurs offense and help to explain why San Antonio was the best team in the Western conference during the regular season.
Unfortunately, Manu Ginobili hurt his right elbow during the last week of the regular season and everything that the Spurs were able to do during the regular season was put in jeopardy, as Ginobili was clearly the Spurs MVP during the past season.
To make things worse for the Spurs, from every lower seeded teams that went to the playoffs, the Grizzlies were the worst matchup for the Spurs and that was shown on the court. Tim Duncan’s days of dominating when he’s on the floor are gone and Memphis frontcourt duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph was able to limit Duncan during the series. The team that better handled the ball during the regular season faced the team who forced more turnovers during that span. The result of that was that the Spurs committed 14 turnovers per game during the series. The final nail in their coffin was that it happened to the Spurs what the Spurs used to do against every offensive minded team on the playoffs during their defensive minded era: they were shut down in the perimeter, as they could just shot 29% 3PTS during the six-game series.
Now, is their window to win another championship closed? Not in my opinion, as their coach Gregg Popovich is a genius and he can find ways for his team to win, even if it’s necessary to change the whole philosophy of the team. With a short season full of tough physical spots, the old Spurs with their slow pace and terrific defense would be one of the most benefited teams from this calendar. But as we have seen, these days are gone unless Popovich changes his mind again.
On the other side, we have a veteran team who will have to play fewer games this season than on a regular season and that must be taken in account as well. With a healthy Parker and Ginobili, the Spurs have one of the best SG-PG combos of the league and with both players being clutch down the stretch. The Spurs have always had the ability to find new talent and if Duncan was able to stay healthy and relatively fresh late on the season, the Spurs will be one of the best teams in the west once again.