2013-2014 San Antonio Spurs Season Preview
The San Antonio Spurs opted to make minimal changes this offseason after coming up just one win shy of winning the 2013 NBA Championship. Continuity and chemistry have been two of the biggest keys to their success, and they will once again rely heavily on them going into the 2013-14 campaign.
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, who were All-NBA team selections last season, remain the catalysts, as does Manu Ginobili to a certain extent. However, role players like Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter proved that the Spurs are much more than just their top three players. They’ll approach this upcoming season with the same goal in mind that they do every other: hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end.
- Yannis Koutroupis
In & Out
Additions: Marco Bellineli, Jeff Pendergraph.
Subtractions: Gary Neal, DeJuan Blair, Tracy McGrady.
<h2?Five Guys Think…
Had the Spurs not come within a posession of winning the 2012-13 NBA Championship, we probably would have seen some significant changes this offseason as they had plenty of financial flexibility. However, their deep run last year showed that the nucleus is worth keeping together. The Spurs’ approach and philosophy is going to remain the same and they should remain quiet effective given their chemistry and understanding of the system. Everyone has been quick to try and close their championship window in recent years, but it’s still very much open as the Spurs are still the best in the Southwest Division and a viable contender for the championship. With more internal development from their young core and a bounce back year from Manu Ginobili, they could finish what they weren’t able to last year.
1st place – Southwest Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
Life is truly a game of inches. Some would say seconds. As in the Spurs were literally less than 30 seconds away from hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy in game six of the NBA Finals last season before the Miami HEAT made an improbable comeback. The question is can the veteran laden Spurs make one more title run? Every season, during preview time, it seems as though the team’s eulogy as a top contender is written. But every year the wily veterans find a way to stay at the top of their craft. This year won’t be any different. While Manu Ginobili is clearly on his last legs, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are still going strong. Forward Kawhi Leonard is emerging and could eventually blossom into an All-Star level performer. The Western Conference has improved since the end of last season, but the Spurs will once again be one of the toughest outs in the league come playoff time.
1st Place – Southwest Division
- Lang Greene
Two years ago, Kevin Garnett proved he was a whole lot better and a whole lot younger than everybody thought he was, only to follow that rejuvenated campaign with one in which he really looked his age. Spurs fans are hoping the same isn’t true for Tim Duncan, who despite a ridiculous amount of NBA mileage had one of the best individual seasons of his career in 2012-2013. Tony Parker is the best player on this team now (and Kawhi Leonard probably isn’t far away from consideration for that title), but Duncan is still the heart and soul of the Spurs. If he’s got one more year like last season, and if Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili can stay healthy, they’ve got one more run in them. They’re one of the least entertaining teams in the league, but they’re always at the top of their conference. Not enough has changed in the last three months to start betting against them.
2nd Place – Southwest Division
– Joel Brigham
Every year, we write that the Spurs’ window may be closed and that it may be time to look past Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Gregg Popovich. Every year, the Spurs get the last laugh and remain one of the elite teams in the Western Conference. This year’s team is going to be hungrier than ever after coming up just seconds short of hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy in last year’s NBA Finals, and the thought of a Spurs team that is even more sharp and determined is scary. The progress of Kawhi Leonard may determine just how good the Spurs are this year. If he makes a huge leap this season, as many star players do in their third year (just ask Paul George), then the Spurs could be scary good. One thing is certain: San Antonio will win a lot of games and be in the championship hunt. You can never write this team out, no matter how hard sportswriters across the country try each season.
1st place – Southwest Division
How will the Spurs respond to coming within a whisker of winning the fifth championship of the Tim Duncan era? That is one of the questions that remain to be answered. The Spurs have re-signed both Tiago Splitter and Manu Ginobili and have essentially brought the same group back from last season. Gary Neal has been replaced by Marco Belinelli, so once again, the Spurs will need impeccable minute management by Greg Poppovich, sustained healthy by Tim Duncan and MVP-caliber play from Tony Parker if they are to repeat as conference champions. As the franchise begins to more seriously contemplate the Sun setting on Duncan’s esteemed career, it is Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard who must continue to emerge as building blocks for the future. In the Southwest Division, the Spurs will get fierce competition from the Memphis Grizzlies and the Houston Rockets, but with the Grizzlies standing mostly idle this past offseason, it is difficult to see them overthrowing the Spurs and the Rockets are probably a few rotation pieces short. The New Orleans Pelicans may be poised to take over the division in the next few years, but for now, the strength in numbers approach that Popovich has implemented to the tune of an 888-376 record since Duncan entered the league will be employed by the Spurs again this season. It will likely result in another division title, so long as the team remains relatively healthy.
1st Place — Southwest Division
— Moke Hamilton
Top Of The List
Top Offensive Player: Tony Parker. Duncan still serves as the face of the franchise, but Parker is the captain of the offense and has been for the last several years. Parker averaged 20 points a game in 2012-13, the second-highest mark of his career, on 52 percent shooting from the field. The Spurs’ offense revolves around his ability to get in the paint, break down defenses and either finish at the rim or find the open shooters.
Top Defensive Player: Kawhi Leonard. Even the Spurs are surprised with just how good the 22-year-old forward has become in such short amount of time. Leonard displayed poise and maturity far beyond his age in the NBA Finals while matched up against the eventual NBA Finals MVP LeBron James. With the ability to guard four different positions, Leonard embraces the toughest defensive assignment night in and night out.
Top Playmaker: Tony Parker. Parker has averaged over seven assists in each of the last two seasons, the highest marks in his career. His decision making used to be a major issue of concern with coach Popovich when he first came into the league, but now Popovich trusts him completely to make the right play. The return of Ginobili was vital, though, to help ensure Parker isn’t the lone playmaker on the team.
Top Clutch Player: Tony Parker. When the game is on the line, coach Popovich has no problem putting the ball in the hands of Ginobili or Duncan, but Parker controls the offense throughout the game and it’s no different when the game is on the line. He’s coming off of one of the best shooting years in his career and most importantly he’s experienced it all throughout his 12-year career.
The Unheralded Player: Tiago Splitter. While he may not have played his best basketball in the Finals, the Spurs wouldn’t have been in position to win a championship if it wasn’t for Splitter’s solid play throughout the season. Splitter is far from flashy, but he’s a blue collar player who thrives at the little things and helps make everything work. The four-year, $36 million contract he received from the Spurs shows just how much they value him.
Best New Addition: Marco Belinelli. Although they had ample cap space to go after the bigger names in free agency, the Spurs used most of it to bring back Ginobili and Splitter. Belinelli was the biggest new addition and he fits in perfectly to their system. He’ll provide versatility in the backcourt with his ability to play either guard position and another capable shooter to keep the floor spaced for the likes of Parker, Duncan and Ginobili.
Who We Like
1. Gregg Popovich - There’s nothing you can say about Popovich that hasn’t been said already. He’s one of the best to ever coach, the best ever in a lot of people’s eyes. He’s adjusted and adapted as his team has changed and remained extremely successful. We may never see another coach stay with one franchise as long as Popovich has. All coaches long for the kind of security that he has. There used to be a criticism of Popovich-coached teams that they were “boring” to watch, but the addition of in-game interviews and mic’d up timeouts have made those a thing of the past. Watching Popovich in those alone make the Spurs must-watch TV.
2. Tim Duncan - It’s always been clear that Duncan was cut from a different cloth than your average NBA basketball player, but the way he has gracefully aged is nothing short of astonishing, even for someone of his caliber. Most of the great big men in the past experience sharp declines, but at the age of 37 Duncan was a first team All-NBA selection. He’s still as good as the league has to offer, but what makes him truly great is the impact he makes on the team off the court. Duncan sets the standard in terms of work ethic that everyone on the team follows. He’s not only the greatest power forward to play the game, he’s the most ideal franchise player the league has ever seen.
3. Tony Parker - After the season he had last year, there’s no denying Parker’s status as one of the top five point guards in the league. He’s belonged in the conversation for years, but somehow he would often get left out. The only concern for Parker going into next season is that he had a long offseason playing for France and leading them to a Eurobasket championship. His minutes may need to be monitored, especially early on because Parker has developed into the most important piece for the Spurs now that Duncan and Manu Ginobili are in the final stages of his career.
4. Kawhi Leonard – You could not come up with a more prototypical Spur than Leonard. He embodies everything that the team is about so much that you almost wonder if they’ve been grooming him to play for them since birth. Leonard’s development and production was already impressive for a second year forward prior to the Finals, but the way handled himself against LeBron James showed that he is definitely the Spurs’ next star, just as Popovich predicted.
5. R.C. Buford - Buford has authored the handbook on how to build a successful small market team while staying under the luxury tax. He’s one of the best in the business, not letting his spending limit keep him from fielding a championship-caliber team year in and year out. One of the keys to his formula that doesn’t get talked about enough is that Buford has always signed the right type of players from a character standpoint, which he values as much as anything. Buford also has a relationship with Popovich that every general manager-head coach combination should strive to build.
Few teams can match San Antonio’s experience and chemistry. Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have had unparalleled success together and the franchise’s long-term stability is a big reason why the Spurs are perennial contenders. The Spurs are capable of dominating on both ends, ranking 4th in the NBA in points per game (103) and 11th in points against (96.6). San Antonio makes very few mistakes, as evidenced by their 48.1 percent FG percentage (2nd in the NBA) and 19.2 percent assist ratio (1st in the NBA), which is why players often say the Spurs won’t beat themselves.
As San Antonio’s veteran contributors continue to get older, the Spurs will need more production from their younger players. Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter and Danny Green are among the up-and-comers who have taken on bigger roles in recent years, but they must continue to develop and expand their games. Statistically, the Spurs don’t have many flaws as they’re one of the top-ranked teams in nearly every statistical category. The one area the Spurs could improve is their offensive rebounding since they have a 20.5 offensive rebound rate (29th in the NBA) and average 8.1 offensive boards (29th in the NBA).
The Burning Question:
Do the Spurs have room to improve?
Like all teams that go on deep playoff runs, the Spurs had a lot of things go in their favor last season. They were relatively healthy going into the playoffs and peaked when it mattered most. It also didn’t hurt that the Oklahoma City Thunder, their toughest competition in the Western Conference, lost All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook to a torn meniscus early in the playoffs. Just being as good as they were last year likely won’t be enough for the Spurs to win the championship. They’ll have to be better in every aspect and healthy when it matters most.