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NBA season preview: San Antonio Spurs

Oct 22, 2012, 11:00 AM EDT

Kawhi Leonard

Last Season: A classic, and what we’ve largely come to expect from these Spurs over the last five years — achieving regular season success, making a dent in the playoffs, but ultimately falling short of a title.

San Antonio finished tied for the league’s best record, then swept its way through the first two rounds of the playoffs — building an 18-game winning streak in the process — before being dropped by the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.

Key Departures: None.

Key Additions: The Spurs continue to be the model franchise in terms of bringing in international players, and French guard Nando de Colo — who the team actually drafted back in 2009 — is already paying dividends in the preseason.

Three keys to the Spurs season: 

1) The San Antonio Spurs are now known for their offense: It’s true. The Spurs led the league in offensive efficiency last season at a blistering 108.5 points per 100 possessions — and 1.4 points ahead of the team in second in that category, the explosive Oklahoma City Thunder. Even more surprising was how they did it — without a 20 points per game scorer, and with just four players averaging in double figures. No regression can be tolerated if the expectation is to remain in the top tier of the Western Conference.

2) Is Kawhi Leonard as good as Gregg Popovich thinks he is? Popovich is one of the best coaches in the league, but one with a hard-nosed reputation that doesn’t include a history of heaping undeserved praise on his players. When it comes to Leonard, however, Pop had no problem telling the world he believes that the player entering just his second NBA season will be the face of the team and a star in the future.

Leonard played well for the Spurs in his rookie season, but did his damage on the defensive end of the floor; 10 of his teammates posted higher points-per-game scoring averages than Leonard’s 7.9, in a balanced San Antonio offense that was the league’s best. If Leonard progresses toward showing the rest of us the star potential that Popovich already sees in him, the Spurs could be even better than last year.

3) Championship or bust: This may seem like an unfair expectation to place on San Antonio, especially when you consider they’re playing in a conference that features a newly-stacked Lakers team, along with a Thunder squad that had little trouble with them in the playoffs a season ago. But when you look at just how consistently Gregg Popovich is able to put together a team that competes near the top of the standings, it’s only natural to want to see them progress to the next level.

What Spurs fans should fear: That the team is already squeezing as much as it can out of its existing roster of talent. If that’s the case, that’s fine — there’s nothing wrong with being one of the top four teams in the entire league. But if the ceiling has been hit, there’s no room there for the team to make that leap back into the championship conversation.

Prediction: It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Spurs at or very near the top of the regular season standings once again. All the key rotation players are back, and Popovich should have them playing to potential earlier than a Lakers team with large new pieces to try to fit together. San Antonio is going to be very tough to deal with all year long, and if there’s something left once the postseason begins — along with a renewed commitment to defense — the Spurs could be right there at the end, playing for a spot in the Finals once again.

  1. goraidersgospurs - Oct 22, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    I love PBT, but you fail to mention spurs sign no Center this off season unless you count Eddy Curry, I thought POP learn from last year mistake, he needs a Shot blocking, rebounding, big!!!

    • passerby23 - Oct 22, 2012 at 3:08 PM

      That’s a very good point. Yes, Leonard should be a lot better this year and they’ve got some depth, but their core is another year older and, you’re right, there’s a hole at center. I predict the Spurs grab the 4th seed and get bounced in the second round this year.

    • vero1402 - Oct 22, 2012 at 9:21 PM

      yep, because Center with “shotblocking, rebounding, big” is a dime in a dozen, isn’t it?like 8 million dollars for Asik?Wake up dude, the spurs were the best team last year with the least amount of talent…The management and the coach did the right thing…they’re being true of themselves, outsmart the rest of the team in NBA with cheap and affordable players

  2. KOBEshigawa - Oct 25, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    How do the Spurs get two games better? How do they beat the Thunder and revamped Lakers? Manu S-Jax and Timmy are both a year older, Boris Diaw isn’t getting skinnier and Tony Parker isn’t getting that much better. However, if the Spurs are going to keep their edge and go a bit further than they have, it’s going to be on Kawhi Leonard. Defensively, he’s already fantastic, so the young 3 is going to have to score a bit more and take more of the onus off the older guys. Super interesting Spurs team, but maybe not good enough to win the chip

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