The free agency period is now eight days old and there's been quite a bit of proposed movement so far (remember, nothing is official until July 10). While the San Antonio Spurs mostly have stayed the same, several other teams have seen some major changes. With the addition of Dwight Howard, the Houston Rockets have put themselves in contender status, though their team still has some question marks. Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors added a great piece in Andre Iguodala that should have them pushing the Los Angeles Clippers for first place in the Pacific Division. Despite those improvements, the San Antonio Spurs should still be considered slight favorites in the West, if only because there's less uncertainty in their roster heading in to next season.
Say what you want about Howard, but when he's healthy and happy, he makes just about any roster a playoff team. Pairing him with James Harden should make them a lethal team inside and out. Still, there are questions about how the two will fit and what hasn't been mentioned much is whether Houston will be good enough with Howard and bunch of average to below average to win multiple seven game series come playoff time. What they get back for Omer Asik, who has formally requested a trade, will further determine the amount of their success.
While the Golden State Warriors added perhaps the best perimeter defender in the league in Iguodala, they have lost their back up point guard and power forward in Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. I think Steph Curry's improved playmaking and Iguodala's all-around brilliance will more than make up for Jack's absence, this team will still take some time to gel. What's more concerning from a Spurs perspective is the Warriors small ball line up, which already gave San Antonio problems last May, could become deadly. The Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut line up has the possibility of being a nightmare for the Spurs and any other team for that matter.
The Spurs have seemingly decided they're good with trotting out mostly the same team that was seconds away from winning an NBA title. Marco Belinelli should be an upgrade over Gary Neal. He's a better ball handler and overall a smarter basketball player. However, they still lack a back up small forward and more generally speaking, athleticism. Despite that, thanks to their overall depth and familiarity with each other, the Spurs should still be considered Western Conference favorites. They did less to improve their team, but at this point they're the bar other teams in the conference are striving for.
And don't sleep on the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite their quiet offseason, they still have two of the 15 best players on the planet. Both will be healthy to start the season and probably pretty pissed they didn't get past the second round last season. Out in Los Angeles, Doc Rivers and Chris Paul can't be overlooked and we'll all be able to laugh at the Lakers for another season. The landscape in the Western Conference has changed, but the top probably won't look too different from last year. The Spurs are again a favorite, but the margin of error is again small.
a lot of people are failing to realize that at this point OKC doesn't have a sixth man, let alone a bench. no james harden, no kevin martin...they're going to be relying on inexperienced players like jeremy lamb and perry jones III to provide a spark. i can see them pushing for the top seed in the regular season (depending on how quickly westbrook gets back to being himself), but i can just as easily see them flaming out in the 2nd or 3rd round from fatigue and lack of depth. the big 2 can only do so much.
@alamoaggie08 I love dreaming. To solidify your point, Lamb looked really bad yesterday during the Summer League game against Orlando. Despite hitting the game winner, he was horrible.
I don't know, I'm just not scared of the Ws yet. I feel like Pop "figured them out" when he moved Green to Curry & Kawhi to Thompson. And Boris, arguably our best small ball 4, was still getting his feet back under him in that series. Even when the Spurs lost Game 4, they outplayed GSW - just couldn't hit an open shot to save their lives in the 4th Q.
Iggy improves their perimeter defense to be sure, but most of their lineups will still have 2-3 guys that you can run the P&R at to get a good look. The advanced metrics say Golden State wasn't as good as their record last year, so even with Iggy improvement - they may just move from average to good rather than from good to great. Losing Jack & Landry hurts as well. Jack made some bonehead plays, but he was a perennial Spurs killer who took pressure off Curry as a ballhandler. Landry could get overwhelmed by size on occasion, but he's an underrated guy on both ends.
I do think there is something to be said that they were a solid team that went crazy hot from outside for a week in the playoffs rather than a great team that can sustain that level of shooting throughout a series.
Lastly, there is the issue that Steph Curry is one of the most fragile franchise players in the league. I love to watch the guy play & wish no harm on him, but it seems folly to bank on getting a full season from him in any given year.
The Spurs will be better, simply because Kawhi will be better. Duncan will continue to play limited minutes until the playoffs, hopefully Parker will not be injured this time. If I was him, I would start building endurance, he is approaching 32 years of age. Love the Spurs chances, only Houston, possibly OKC, the Clippers as a challenge. Only a healthy Bulls in the east, and Indiana as well as Miami, to challenge, this time the Spurs go over the top, if healthy.
Kawhi reminds me of a young Dr.J. and yes I was alive to see him play. Incredibly large hands, very athletic, He could be the second coming of the Doctor, also has tragedy in his life. Really driven by excellence. He will be very fun to watch.
Starters: Kawhi, TP, Splitter, DG, and X.
Bench: TD, Manu, Belinelli, Diaw, X
+Pendergraph, Jim Boylen, and whoever else makes their way onto the roster.
However it may fall I like our chances. We may not have KD/Westbrick, Harden/Space Cadet, or the starting five of the Warriors, but we do have the BEST group of role players. Our rotations are going to be wicked.
@KawhiLights Why do you have Duncan on the bench?
@yowhatupT @KawhiLights By starting the younger, less experienced big men you provide them with more minutes (experience) and help boost their confidence. Thus, Duncan can get his well deserved rest and shine during the playoffs. However, it is just a thought. Whether he starts or not, I still like our lineups. Best in the West!
I'm looking for Leonard to become our 2nd best player this season and really take off. He's already an elite rebounder and defender for his position if he can add an iso/triple threat type move to his game he'll be an All-Star in no time. With the experience he has gained the past 2 off seasons he'll be huge for us moving forward.
We needed a player that can score in the paint and isn't scared to drive to the basket and score constantly. And before the Manunation speaks up remember that has-been is only a turnover machine in the paint. I still cant get over how he forgot how to dribble that one game during the finals!
on top of the west or a trip to the finals doesn't get the ring we need to be the best team in basketball, we have always been on top of the west!