Heading into the All-Star break, the Spurs are the top team in the NBA. They’re gaining respect as a potential championship contender, but as Spurs fans well know, having the best record doesn’t mean a guaranteed spot in the Finals.
Last year the Spurs cruised to the Western Conference Finals but were bounced by a younger Oklahoma City Thunder team. It’s hard not to predict a repeat of the same performance this year, but coach Gregg Popovich definitely thinks this year’s team is better, especially on the bench.
“Role players like Danny Green and Gary Neal really feel comfortable in what they’re doing,” said Coach Pop during an ESPN radio interview. “And Kawhi Leonard has progressed exponentially from what we thought he would… Our bench wasn’t near what it is now. They didn’t perform well in the playoffs. They didn’t really rise to the level. We had two or three players that played well during the season but did not play well come playoff time…This year, being a deeper team will help us.”
Last year, the Spurs were praised as having the deepest team in the league. Is it really possible they’ve gotten even better? Coach Pop sure believes it and he seems to think this team has what it takes to win it all. Another big difference this year is the quality of defense his team is playing.
“We’re a better defensive team than we were last year,” Pop said. “We were a middle of the road team if you looked at the stats and anything that’s important defensively, we were in the teens.”
During the interview, Coach Pop had lots of good things to say about this year’s team and his outlook for the rest of the season. It’s clear they’re prepared to go the distance. They’d better be ready, because a rematch with the Thunder is looming on the horizon.
Spurs still need to be stronger on the boards and defensively with their units off the bench against the upper echelon teams. I think we can score with anybody. If Timmy could play 40+ minutes per night like in the old days, I wouldn't even worry about it, but the dropoff in rebounding and D when he leaves the floor is very noticeable.
@jaws3 No way the drop off in D occurred when Kawhi was out with injury. Spurs lost 6 of those18 games he did not play in or half of their 12 losses.