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    09/07/2011 10:47 PM
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    06/23/2022 11:28 AM

2013/14 NBA Team Preview: San Antonio Spurs

Season Review 2012/13:

Advanced Stats

4 Factors

Monthly Performance

Five seconds was the time that the Spurs were away from winning the NBA Finals last season. Qualifying the season that the Spurs had last year just having in account these five seconds of the Game 6 in the NBA Finals would be unfair considering how brilliantly they played throughout the whole season.

One of the biggest virtues from Gregg Popovich is the fact that he keeps improving himself and he is always ready to change the team’s system regarding its current roster. The Spurs’ style of the last few years has very little in common with the years when David Robinson was still playing and the Spurs had some of the best defensive teams in league history.

In order to take advantage of Tony Parker’s prime, Gregg Popovich put the team playing on a more uptempo style by changing the Spurs into an elite offensive team. With Tim Duncan at the end of his career, the team’s defensive decline was inevitable with the Spurs being “just” #11 on defensive rating in 2010-11 and #10 in 2011-12. However, San Antonio came back into being an elite defense throughout the whole past season, with just Indiana and Memphis being better than them.

Offensively, San Antonio was more aggressive than usual. They are usually one of the best teams in the league in ball handling, but they were just #22 on Turnover rate last season. They also abandoned the idea of crashing the boards in order to get second chance points, just to be able to get back to defense as soon as possible: #29 in offensive rebound rankings, just in front of Boston.

Defensively, the Spurs were an elite team in almost every stats and it’s impossible not to associate this great team performance to Tim Duncan’s excellent season. He was solid as usual on offense and for the first time on his 16 years in the league, Duncan was able to reach the 80% FT mark! However, it was on defense that Duncan was an absolute beast and if it wasn’t just for the fact that he played “just” 30.1 minutes per game, he would have won the Defensive Player of the Year award. Also note that his mark of 2.7 blocks per game was his season best since 2003-04!

Tony Parker had a tremendous first half of the season with MVP caliber numbers of 20.8 points per game, while shooting 54% FG and 39% 3pts and dishing 7.6 assists per game. Then, he got injured, missed some games and needed some time to get back into his excellent level of the start of the season. Fortunately for the Spurs, that happened just in time for the playoffs.

The development of San Antonio’s role players was also essential for the team’s performance. Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter all had breakthrough seasons that helped the team in being more consistent in both ends of the floor.

In the playoffs, the Spurs crushed the Lakers who were without an injured Kobe Bryant with four straight wins in the first round. Then, they faced the Warriors in the second round. In theory, a matchup against the Nuggets would have been tougher for the Spurs, who would struggle on boards against Denver, but that wouldn’t happen against Golden State. Still, the series was tied at 2-2 until Tony Parker played two excellent games in a row to help his team in winning the series by 4-2.

In the Western Conference finals, San Antonio faced Memphis that had taken advantage of Russell Westbrook’s season-ending injury to beat them in the previous round. Even though the Spurs swept the Grizzlies, the series wasn’t as easy as it may seem. However, the superior coaching and superior play at the PG position was enough for San Antonio to win all the four games played in the series.

In the finals against Miami, the story is known in one of the best Finals ever. San Antonio seemed to have the edge every time both teams would put a big lineup on the floor, with the floor spacing of the Spurs offense being phenomenal in allowing Danny Green to pound the Heat with 25-38 3pts on the first five games of the series! Miami eventually put a small lineup from the start of the games, something that forced Popovich to insert Manu Ginobili in the starting lineup as well. Game 6 was the big opportunity for the Spurs to win the title, even though they shot 43% FG, while Miami ended that game was a great 11-19 3pts mark! As we know, the Spurs were five seconds away from winning the title, with Popovich deciding not to foul in the last play of regular time and with the Heat eventually winning the Game 6 on overtime, the Game 7 and consequently, the series and the title.

Offseason Report:

On this offseason, the Spurs’ biggest challenge was securing the main core of players, as Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal were all free agents on this summer.

The first step was given with Manu Ginobili, who agreed to re-sign with the Spurs on a fully guaranteed two-year contract that is worth $14 million. Then, they also re-signed Tiago Splitter on a four-year, $36 million contract. The Brazilian player had some market on the free agency, but the Spurs took the early iniciative and were able to re-sign him.

Regarding Gary Neal, he chose Milwaukee’s money and he was the only player that left the team during the off-season and that was part of the rotation last season. In order to replace him, the Spurs signed Marco Belinelli also on free agency, who had a solid season with the Bulls last season.

Besides that, San Antonio didn’t have any significant move, as it generally happens with them.

Season Preview:

This new season will be very weird for the Spurs, especially for Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich, who are coming from a season where they reached the Finals but couldn’t get the title for the first time on their careers.

The physical and mental effort was brutal, so Popovich’s challenge will be to recover his players in order to get them ready for the postseason, even if this means that he will have to make some sacrifices during the regular season, something normal for Popovich.

The team’s structure will be the same, so we can expect the Spurs to be a top team once again. Tony Parker is the team’s best player. He is coming from his best season ever, he won the Eurobasket with France this summer and he is on his prime. We are in front of an elite player that has been constantly undervalued, but I believe that has changed since last season.

As I said previously, Tim Duncan was phenomenal last season in a way that nobody expected from him at 37 years old. When this season’s playoffs start, Duncan will be 38! Health will be the key word for him at such advanced age. His dedication and work ethic has been outstanding during this whole career, but Popovich will surely micromanage his minutes during the regular season. If Duncan manages to continue his excellent play this season, the Spurs will automatically fight for the best record in the league this season as well.

The team’s “Big Three” has been traditionally formed by Duncan, Parker and Ginobili. However, after last season, we might need to replace Ginobili with Leonard, who is coming from a tremendous sophomore season. Leonard missed 24 games due to a foot injury last season, but when he was on the floor, his production was amazing especially on defense. The Spurs wanted him desperately on the draft due to his defense, but the truth is that Leonard just keeps improving on offense. He shot 49% FG last season, while attempting almost three more shots per game than on his rookie season. However, it was on the playoffs that Leonard exploded with 13.5 points per game and 55% FG! His 11.1 rebounds per game in the Finals against Miami also show that he is versatile and that can be used at the PF position for some minutes. Leonard still seems a bit unfocused at times, but that’s normal considering he is just 22 years old!

On the other side, Manu Ginobili had a poor season. He struggled with minor injuries during the regular season as usual and he was never healthy enough to play at his best when he was on the court. His 42.5% FG mark on regular season was his career worse, while on the playoffs he was very inconsistent. Ginobili was the key on the Game 5 of the Finals with 8-14 FG, 24 points and 10 assists, but on the following game, he had just 2-5 FG and 8 turnovers, with most of them being down the stretch! I believe Manu can bounce back this season from this poor year, but he will need to keep himself healthy. At least he didn’t play for his national team during this summer and he had time to rest and fix all his minor physical issues.

Tiago Splitter and Danny Green will continue being key role players in the starting lineup. Both players had career highs in minutes per game last season, something that shows that Popovich trusts more on them than ever before. They are just system players that take well advantage of the opportunities that the team offers them and this won’t change this season.

Unlike to what has been usual, I believe the Spurs’ depth isn’t “that good” this season. Manu Ginobili will really need to bounce back in order to offer his team some quality minutes to the team’s backcourt, as Cory Joseph, Patrick Mills and Nando De Colo may not be ready to receive major minutes on a top team. The weird exit of Stephen Jackson from the team last season made the team struggle in finding a proper backup for Leonard and the problem will continue for this upcoming season, while Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner will be the team’s main backups on the frontcourt, something that isn’t good news for the team’s defense. Popovich has been managing the key players’ minutes very well over the last few years due to a strong second unit, but I doubt that this will happen this season without the team losing some of its level in the process.

Anyway, the Spurs will a playoff spot secured unless one or more key players suffer a serious injury early on the season. Then, on the postseason, the Spurs should be ready to make another serious postseason run, like it has been happening pretty much on a yearly basis since the 1997-98 season.

My name is André Gomes, I’m from Portugal and I am a Professional Handicapper. My sole purpose is to constantly beat the sportsbooks by taking advantage of the evaluation errors they make. It is most... Read more

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