Forty six games into the season and the San Antonio Spurs currently lead the league with a 39-7 record. While most NBA observers still believe the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics or Miami Heat will eventually win it all, the Spurs can't be taken for granted.
Except for the 96-72 embarrassing loss to the New Orleans last January 22, the Spurs have played well enough, continue to win ball games and show continued improvement on the defensive end.
They are currently 7th in league in defensive efficiency and 4th in effective field goal percentage and for good measure here are some stats over their last 10 games.
The decline in points per game average indicates that the Spurs are now finding more balance using their running game and half court plays which is a good thing as the playoffs approaches.
Their offense is also one of the league's best, they are currently third in offensive efficiency and fifth in assist to turnover ratio.
All these numbers suggest the Spurs are playing great basketball; however, there are many factors as to why the Spurs remains the best in the league.
One of them is health, although they have their share of injuries such as rookie James Anderson, three-point specialist Matt Bonner and George Hill. Regardless, the Spurs have been lucky enough to have their starters healthy all season which is key.
Besides that, the Spurs' offense has also evolved into a good mixture of running game, inside plays and consistent outside shooting. In fact, it could be argued that they are actually a better offensive team this season compared to their championship years.
The Spurs' backcourt is looking top-notch at this point and their bench have more fire power than ever. If and when Anderson comes back and play like he plays earlier in the season, the Spurs will be really tough to beat.
Nevertheless, the Spurs still need to raise the level of their defense like in the past before having serious thoughts on winning another title, allowing the Jazz to connect on 55 percent of their shots in their most recent victory won't make the cut.
Not only that, one of the most pressing issue for the Spurs right now is length. Sure they are winning more than ever before and have used the same starting line up all season with great success. But it is no secret that the game pace become more slower when the post season arrives.
If that's the case, will the Spurs have enough size against teams with huge frontline like the Lakers, Mavericks or Boston? Tim Duncan is Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair plays above his height but lacks consistency and McDyess has shown that there's still plenty left on his tank. But for them to get over hump, they will need Tiago Splitter to play his role and maximize his talent. If they believe otherwise they should look for another big to help them out.
The Spurs will be the first one to admit this fact and for that, they know they still have a lot of work ahead. With coach Gregg Popovich at the helm and Duncan, Ginobili and Parker healthy as ever, they have their best shot but with this current group their margin for error becomes relatively smaller especially during the post season.
Yes, the Spurs has have been impressive so far and it's safe to say the no one expected them to be on top of the standings at this point of the season, but fair or not their true success will only be measured by winning a title this season, anything less than that might be considered a failure in San Antonio.