In the next two weeks, the Armchair crew will be taking on the NBA Regular Season preview. We will be taking on each team individually and looking into what to expect from each.
Last Year’s Record: 55-27
Key Losses: Tiago Splitter, Cory Joseph, Marco Belinelli, Aron Baynes, Jeff Ayres.
Key Additions: LaMarcus Aldridge, David West, Ray McCallum, Boban Marjanovic
I am really looking forward to Pop’s autobiography where we all learn that he actually made a deal with the Devil and then tricked the devil to get his soul back while still getting the dynasty most coaches dream of. The Spurs pulled off the move of the summer here, reeling in the best player on the market while maintaining their core to make a run for it another year. And while LA makes the Spurs a contender once again, there may actually be reasons to be concerned, at least for now (because core of Kawhi and LA to build around is still a scary thought).
Let’s start with the good. The fluid, can’t look away for fear of missing something spectacular offence is back for another season, except improved. With LA, they have the flexibility to easily rotate Duncan, Aldrdige, Diaw and even Anderson at will without losing much in terms of spreading the floor with their bigs and keeping the rock moving. All are exceptional passers and will fit well into Pop’s system. What’s more, is LA on the block should be able to give Tim a break offensively, meaning that #21 will be available for the playoffs as spry as he can be at the tender age of 513.
The development of Kawhi Leonard should be another essential factor. If he can take yet another leap, this could be a scary offence. So far Pop has used him as a slasher, spot-up shooter and the pivot around the elbow. If he can make him a primary ball handler for a chunk of possessions, this team becomes truly scary. Kawhi has the kind of work rate the Spurs need for their current plan to succeed and this should be the year he fully takes over the reigns in San Antonio.
That being said, there are questions San Antonio will need to answer. Losing Splitter will hurt on the defensive end, and while I have no doubt that the staff in San Antonio will have no problem getting LaMarcus to buy into the system, I don’t think he has quite the presence on the other side as the Argentine did. The Spurs will have to lean heavier on Kawhi and Tim on this end, and while it is fine for one of them, the other may or may not collapse at an unspecified time.
Furthermore, the loss of Joseph can lead to point guard depth depletion, and while more of Patty Mills is never bad, I think Ray McCallum is a significant downgrade, which will show in the playoffs, or even faster depending on which Tony Parker we get. If Tony can conjure up whatever magic he had two years ago, Spurs should be fine, but should he regress further, they are in trouble.
Then we come to Ginobili, who has been a ghost of his former self for about three years now. Riddled by injuries and a step slow, his impact is now sporadic and is negative as often as it is positive. This downward progression coupled with loss of Belinelli will make it harder to spread the floor and easier for defenses to concentrate around whatever post tanded the Spurs will trot out on the nightly basis. The starting front court simply has to be solid and present through the majority of 82 games and ALL of the playoffs for this team to meet the hefty expectations.
Plausible best-case scenario: Whatever deity Pop has been sacrificing children to smiles on the Spurs once again, propelling them through the season. The presence of LA allows for a few extra games off from Duncan and Ginobili and Parker rejuvenate just long enough to push past 50, but not too long as to be depleted by the post season. Spurs terrorize the West with their inside-out game and make it to the Finals, defeating the Cavs and giving LeBron nightmares, this time permanent.
Plausible worst-case scenario: Ginobili falls apart limb by limb and we get the breaking down version of Tony Parker instead of resilient. Tim Duncan is finally told what age he is and his play starts to reflect that. Spurs limp into the first round and get bounced by the surging Rockets.