It's been a more active than normal summer for basketball. The NBA Finals bled right in to the NBA Draft, which bled right in to NBA Free Agency which bled right in the Olympics. Now the Olympics are over and training camp is over a month away. This is officially the NBA's summer doldrums. Because of the relative lack of team activity, writers, sites and blogs begin to do things like analyzing the end of a season before we even know what many regular season rosters will look like opening night. ESPN is not immune to exercises like this and Tuesday they released their "expert" picks on where each team will finish the regular season.
The panel, which consisted of "100 of ESPN's best basketball minds," picked the San Antonio Spurs to finish third in the Western Conference with a 54-28 record. At first glance this doesn't sound so bad but that's only four more wins than this past season when the Spurs played only 66 games. True Hoop's Beckley Mason points out that it's hard to believe a team that is returning almost it's entire roster is going drop nearly 100 points in their winning percentage (.758 in '12 compared to a projected .659 in '13). Specific explanations from each panelist were not provided, but one could assume that this percieved drop off in winning percentage can be attributed to an expectation that there will be injuries to this "old team" and that Gregg Popovich doesn't care about the regular season enough to want to win 60 games.
Injuries are a concern for the Spurs, but no more than they are for any other team. It's entirely possible that a key member of the Spurs will miss several games due to injury, but this Spurs roster is built to sustain injuries to a guy like Manu Ginobili. Tim Duncan getting injured is another story all together, but otherwise the Spurs are built to be able to absorb any other injury for a short period of time. Additionally, the notion that Coach Pop doesn't care about the regular season is a bit outdated. Yes, Pop prefers health over playoff seeding, but the depth of this Spurs roster has allowed Pop to rest guys like Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan throughout the regular season while still being able to compete for the top seed in the Western Conference.
There is also an expectation in South Texas that the Spurs will be better this coming season than they were last year. Bringing back 13 players from last year's team (potentially 14 if James Anderson comes back) gives the Spurs a sort of head start versus many of the other teams in the West because of the turnover for teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks. One can also assume that players like Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter and Danny Green are bound to improve their game and guys like Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw will benefit greatly from having a full training camp in the Spurs' system.
Don't get it twisted, the Spurs still have their issues. They're still woefully unathletic and have only one rim protector in Tim Duncan. They're a good but not great defensive team with Duncan in the game and not very good when he isn't in. Nando De Colo does give them another shot creator, but it's way too early to tell how much playing time he'll receive. These are issues that will come up once the Spurs play the Thunder or probably the Lakers in the playoffs. On the other hand, during the regular season, they're depth and team chemistry is going to be a nightmare for 95% of the league during the regular season.
Coach Popovich also has extra incentive to make a push for the number one seed in the West. A number one seed means the Thunder and Lakers will most likely have to deal with each other before either plays the Spurs in the playoffs. Defeating the Lakers, Thunder and Heat in consecutive series would be an incredibly tough task for any team to achieve. 54 wins is probably a little low, ESPN. 59-23 seems like a more accurate finish for the Spurs, which would likely put them atop the Western Conference again, unless Oklahoma City takes another leap and reels off something like a 65 win season.
Come on guys.
We are talking about the regular season record.
Even with all the SUPER TEAMS in the league, it comes down to wins and loses.
The Spurs just resigned the entire team excluding JA.
WE DID WHAT WE DO BEST HOLD ON TO OUR PLAYERS AND IMPROVE!!
And with two seasons straight with the best record in the west, dont expect the SPURS to fall off the ranks any time soon!
The SPURS AND THUNDER WILL WIN MORE GAMES THIS SEASON THAN THE LAKERS!
@saspurs101 West Preseason Prediction :
wow it's baffling how Spurs fans forget this team won 20 straight games before series of bad end-of-game finishes. The fact that Diaw, Mills and Jackson will be more in-tuned with everyone else and a Kawhi Leonard who's going to have a bigger role, how can we expect less?
I don't buy the Lakers, Nash will make them a little bit better on offense (even though their offense was pretty good to last season), and obviously worse on defense. Kobe in his like what? 18th season? an inefficient volume shooter? Gasol is no longer Gasol of 2009 and a Howard that comes from back surgery? At the same time still no depth? you already ranked them ahead of the Spurs? wow that's very shocking to be honest.
I give OKC number 1 by default just becasue they beat us in the WCF, but deep down I truly believe we have the best team in the NBA.
@Spursforever69 You both could be right of course..whatever the case it's going to be a dogfight and mostly contingent on injuries imo
@Spursforever69 I agree whole-heartedly. I just wrote almost the same thing. I think the only reasons the spurs got knocked out by okc were because okc played better than they were, and ibaka was defending the basket really well and making it too hard for tony to drive in. I don't think sefolosha was their defensive key, but more ibaka. The spurs also played worse than they were. Our three pointers disappeared, tim and diaw weren't making jump shots, and everyone just lost their confidence. I think pop is the best coach of any sport, but I think the thing he needs to work on is knowing how to motivate his team. He should've told them the spurs were better than the thunder, but he didn't. but that's ok, he does 99.99% things perfectly, so I don't blame him. The spurs have the best chemistry, and the best strategy. they are the best team. It'll also help that tiago will get his first training camp.
I'll go ahead and give my predictions for the West standings right now (however, there are still a few key free agents that have not signed with a team yet and trades could still happen so changes may vary):
@Emicris solid prediction
@Emicris Ya I really like Thompson and I think Barnes just might be K Leonard 2.0 (in that he contributes right away)
Yeah, I've been hearing a lot of people think the Warriors can sneak into the playoffs this season. At first, I thought, "No way! They don't have a chance!" But then I looked at the roster again, and I noticed that the Warriors do have a pretty deep roster. Along with Curry and Bogut, they still have Lee, Thompson, Jefferson, and Biedrins. Then, they added Harrison Barnes, Jarrett Jack, and Carl Landry. Mark Jackson seemed to do okay for being a first timer as a head coach. We'll see how things go. I'll still give the edge to the T'Wolves, but you're right, it will be close.
@Emicris You are quite welcome sir..only thing I might add is that if Warriors get Curry and Bogut healthy and stay that way, I think they could sneak in to #8 or so as well. Those last spots will be close I bet
It does not make a difference where the Spurs finish in the regular season. Spurs finished first the last 2 years and did not get a ring, but I see the Spurs as the 4 best team in the west behind Thunder, Lakers and Memphis. They all have a better teams than the Spurs because they have better Bigs. The Spurs Bigs cannot compete. Tim Duncan needs help. Other teams to watch and will be better next year are the Nuggets and Timberwolves. When the Nuggets play the Spurs, you can bet Andre Iguodala will cover Parker just like Sepholosa covered Parker the last 4 games of the Western Conf Finals. The Timberwolves, in only 2 games beat the Spurs those two games. TimberWolves coach Rick Adelman is an excellent coach, so watch out for this team.
The Thunder exposed the Spurs weakness the last 4 playoff games and you can bet the other teams will use a similar concept. If the Spurs do not get at least one atheltic Big (6'11 or more) and the really two athletic Bigs, this season will very disapointing.
@PopKat Actually, this season Spurs need #1 worse than any season in recent memory. For them to have any chance, they need LA and OKC to battle again before they get to Spurs just like last year.
Without a least one new atheltic Big, and they really need two atheltic Bigs, the Spurs will be out of the playoffs as soon as they face LA, OKC or Memphis. Bottom line Spurs have enough guards and small forwards to match with any team in the league, but the Spurs are very weak when it comes to 4 and 5 's. If Spurs don;t improve line, it will be OKC, LA or Memphis in Western Conference Finals.
@PopKat Agreed on Bonner Blair re: playoffs..only thing I doubt is that there are MANY bigs in 3.5 mil yr range to replace Matt. Bigs are WAY overpaid now.
With Mayo, yes he does have a bit of a bad rep, but so does Allen. You have to realize though that Mayo was pursued by other teams MORE than he was actually being shopped by Memphis. It was always Mem who was declining trade deals. SO mem definitely valued Mayo.
And you are right that those guys HAVE SOME chip experience, but definitely NOT as head coach. Brooks and Hollins won as players EONS ago (and as players that played very little) (and when the game was pretty drastically different)And brown got his as a coattail rider low rung coach. His coaching "prowess" has since proven to be lacking by virtually anyone well versed in NBA.If we are going to argue champ experience, the Spurs are loaded with that..TD, Manu, TP, Jax, Pops, Bud (and even matt bonner lol)
Thank goodness we are both true Spur fans. The only big that compete with the aforementioned competitiors bigs is Duncan. Whether they start or don't start is not the issue. The reason Bonner/Blair don't play in the playoffs is because they can't compete in the playoffs. If Bonner could hit his 3 point shot in the playoffs, he would get more playing time but he has not done it.
I do not expect to find another Ibaka. The Spurs were blessed to find Parker, Manu and Duncan, but there are better players than Bonner for around the same price.
With respect to Memphis and Mayo, and historcilly speaking, if a playoff team does not resign a high draft pick like Mayo and they cannot trade him, then a player (Mayo) is flawed off the court or on the court and team has a adequate replacement. Please remember Mayo is the player who got into a fight (cheating at cards) on the plane with Memphis teammate, Tony Allen. Soon after Mayo lost his starting job to Tony Allen.
In reference to the intangibles NBA championship of first hand experince, please see below:
Memphis Coach Hollins, as a player won a NBA championship with Portland.
Scotty Brooks won a NBA championship with the Houston Rockets as a player.
Brown won an NBA championship with San Antonio as an assistant coach in 2003.
@PopKat Frankly I don't get the whole Marc vs Blair/Bonner argument. Shouldn't you be comparing OUR starters with theirs? Marc is a starter and those guys barely play in playoffs. Yes, obviously playoff bball is different than reg season, and I certainly didn't imply it wasn't.
lol No idea why you keep harping on Bonner/Blair, ESPECIALLY with me. Did you NOT notice that I said we need to upgrade our bigs? Look at my posting history and you will clearly see I'm a proponent of shipping off both those guys.
I don't need to look at Ibaka's stats because I already know his value. 50 million in value apparently. I also know that Ibaka types are RARE these days, and if you actually expect Spurs to find/get a big of his caliber, then prepare for disappointment. I'm curious to know what you would do to get the Spurs such a player, much less TWO, given that Spurs are way over the cap.
Memphis may not miss Mayo himself, but to guarantee his production won't be missed is misguided imo.
And when exactly did Memphis coach get 1st hand experience in NBA championship? They have never even MADE the FINALS.lol Furthermore, how many chips does coach brown have? OR OKC's coach? How much "championship" experience could Scotty glean from getting pounded in the finals? WIN a chip, THEN they have championship experience.
Spurs were the best team in the regular season the last two years, but the playoffs are a different and separate season. Zach's type of injury takes at least a full year to recover. It's real simple, regardless if Marc has plateaued the Spurs with Bonner and Blair cannot reach Marc's ceiling. Bonner only does well at home and in the regular season. Go to NBA .com and look at his playoff stats vs regular season stats. Next look at the playoff stats vs regular season stats for Marc, Zach, Darrell Arthur, and Ibaka.
When Ibaka, a defensive player, went 11 for 11 in the WCF, he rose to the occasion and they were not all dunks. I know people will say that was a one time thing and he'll never do it again and maybe that's true but the thing is that he did it and did it in the playoffs, which help OKC win a game (pivital game) in the WCF.
Bonner has never risen to the occasion in playoffs, ever. Blair is a young Reggie Evans, but maybe shorter.
Memphis has been trying to get rid of Mayo for the last 2 years, so they want miss him.
Now the coaches for the Lakers, OKC and Memphis all have first hand experinece in the NBA championship, which is an intangible that cannot be overlooked.
If the Spurs do not get better at the 4 and 5 spot, they will have reached their ceiling with the 20 game winning streak last season. Besides they will be starting the season with a 4 game losing streak.
@PopKat I'm one of the majority of fans that think we need to upgrade bigs so preaching to the choir there. One thing I don't agree on is Memphis being better now. Mayo and Cunningham will be missed, I don't think Zach will ever be the Zach of two yrs ago, Marc has hit his ceiling, and Rudy dominates the ball too much for Memphis to get all the easy looks down low that they got 2 years ago. Not saying Spurs are SURE winners over them, but I'm confident they can
I don't know what's more sketchy - the fact that the Lakers are rated so high without proving anything yet, or the fact that the Warriors are rated so low. I would go as far as to say that the Warriors have the second most talented roster in the NBA (aside from the Heat), and are certainly more talented than the Lakers. If they are healthy, I think they could make a deep run in the playoffs.
@spurs123 I agree that Warriors have a shot at PO's over Jazz or wolves, but it all hinges on Bogut and Curry injuries.
no, the spurs will get the number 1 seed. don't get me wrong, the thunder and lakers will give the spurs trouble. but the spurs have the best team ball. this is a team that won 20 in a row. The spurs will take the one seed, but the playoffs are where the spurs need to pick up. that's not optimism just my observation based off watching almost every single game last year. The thunder still don't really know what they're doing offensively other than giving durant the ball. The thunder aren't the team they were when they played the spurs. They played better than they were. They'll probably get better this year, but for now I still need to fix chemistry issues. As for the lakers? they'll be good, but i'm not falling into the hype. kobe and nash on a team is definitely beatable. but once you get dwight howard in, there where it does get tough. But i don't think they'll be a scoring machine. they seem to be beatable too.
@aamador521 T'pups could well be a spoiler especially if Rubio comes back quick and strong, shved adapts fast, and AK 47 plays as well as he did in Olympics
People said we were old last season. People said we would be lucky to make it past the 1st round. People were STILL making fun of us months later after getting bounced by Memphis. I think we will surprise everyone again. If we get that young big guy, whether it's Blatche or rumored Patrick Patterson (whom the spurs are supposedly VERY interested in), with a full training camp, I greatly believe our young guys will be just fine. 3rd seed is a good pick, but I wouldn't be surprised if we are the talk of the nation once April comes around.
A #3 seed is probably about right for the Spurs this season. They should win the Southwest Division again so that will guarantee them a top 4 seed, and I just can't see the Nuggets or Clippers moving ahead of the Spurs (despite both teams improving). The Spurs could move into the 2nd seed if Howard does miss a portion of the season (and if Mike Brown screws up the chemistry. haha), and maybe they could take the 1st seed again (Hey, they did pass the Thunder last season. Anything's possible.). But for right now, I'll agree that the Spurs will end up as the 3rd seed.