Every year around this time, Jeff Clark over at CelticsBlog organizes a team-by-team season preview written by NBA team bloggers. While we'll have our full season preview package of articles and a podcast coming out closer to the end of the month, we're glad to be amongst such good company previewing this season.
Team Name: San Antonio Spurs
Last Year’s Record: 54-28, Southwest Division Champions
Key Losses: Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas, Fabricio Oberto, Drew Gooden, Ime Udoka, Jacque Vaughn
Key Additions: Richard Jefferson, DeJuan Blair, Antonio McDyess, Theo Ratliff, Marcus Haislip, Keith Bogans
What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
I've got to tip my hat to Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford because I've given him some flack here on Project Spurs and on the Spurscast about not doing enough to ensure the success of the Spurs in the last few years of Tim Duncan's career. Buford, Coach Pop and Spurs owner Peter Holt really made a concerted effort to make wholesale changes after getting booted out of the first round of the playoffs, and at Dallas' hands no less. Trading Bowen, Thomas and Oberto for Richard Jefferson has got to be right up there for highway robbery of the year. The addition of Jefferson potentially gives the Spurs a fourth 20 point a night scorer, helps a bit in the youth department and provides them with some much-needed athleticism to contend with some of the best in the Western Conference.
On draft night, the Spurs brass saw the ACL-less DeJuan Blair fall and fall and fall right into their laps. As they say, the rich get richer and the Spurs landing a rebounding machine, which should address a weakness over the past few years.
The additions of veteran big men Antonio McDyess and Theo Ratliff should bolster the frontcourt and add some depth, while Bogans will step into a defensive role previously occupied by Bruce Bowen. The addition of Marcus Haislip is one that I'm still scratching my head about. I wondered about it when the Spurs signed him and I haven't seen enough of him to figure out exactly what his role is. As of now, he seems like a player in Hakim Warrick's mold, a small forward with enough size to be a center.
One thing that is clear is Peter Holt opened up his checkbook and took on the luxury tax with open arms. That itself is a significant change.
What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Whereas depth has been a weakness the past few seasons, the Spurs now seem to have a solid bench corp., made up of George Hill, Roger Mason, Michael Finley, Blair and Ratliff. With four big scorers starting and several coming off the bench, if we lose a player to injury, while it'll hurt, at least there will be someone that is capable of stepping up and into a starting role.
What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Having four starters that average close to nine years of NBA experience can certainly be seen as a weakness, especially when all four have had their share of injuries the past couple of years. While the front office did add youth, they also added two players with over 13 years of NBA experience, which tips the scales a bit. Pop will also have to learn from his mistakes last season and play his younger players when they are in a position to contribute.
What are the goals for this team?
Simply to stay healthy and get Tim Duncan his fifth ring. After all of the changes made in the offseason to put this team in position to compete for a championship, anything else would be seen as a failure. In order to stay healthy, Pop will have to be creative about giving some of the starters rest early and on back-to-backs to assure they are in primed for the stretch run after the all-star break.
Projected Finish: 60-22
After somehow managing to break 50 wins with Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan all injured for extended lengths last season, 60 wins seems attainable with the newly added firepower.