Last season the San Antonio Spurs seemed to defy all odds as they went on an incredible 20-game winning streak that began with 10 games left in the regular season and 10 games into the playoffs, but unfortunately for them the 20th win would be their last of the year. After taking that 2-0 lead on the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals but the Thunder would fight back and win the next four knocking the Spurs out of the postseason and advancing themselves to the NBA Finals. Now the Spurs look to put that tragic finish behind them and focus on the upcoming 2012-13 season with their sights set on a fifth NBA championship with the title window appearing to close.
The Spurs went through a bit of transition last season as far as the star of the team goes; although Tim Duncan is still around and now returning for his 16th season (this year), Tony Parker emerged during the 2011-12 season as the major focal point of the Spurs. This season San Antonio will need another spectacular year out of Parker who last season averaged 18.3 points and a career high 7.7 assists per game. Duncan also had a solid year for a big man in his 15th season, averaging 15.4 points, nine rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots per game. These two along with Manu Ginobili (12.9 points, 4.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game last season) are the major three cogs on this team and have been for a decade now; they will only go as far as they take them.
The starting lineup is rounded out by a veteran playmaker in Boris Diaw, and a talented youngster who can do-it-all in Kawhi Leonard. Late last season the Spurs rescued Diaw from the Charlotte Bobcats and he fit perfectly in to the system in San Antonio. His versatility and playmaking skills allow the others to move freely without the ball as he finds them with his superb passing ability. Leonard was acquired during the 2011 NBA Draft in a draft day trade with the Indiana Pacers for guard George Hill. Last season Leonard averaged 7.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots per game while moving into the Spurs starting unit early in the year. These two will be almost as important to the Spurs fortunes in 2012-13 as the big three will.
The Spurs may just have the best bench in the entire NBA, they go two deep at just about every position and their second unit has almost as much talent as some starting fives in the Association. When you think about it if you put Patrick Mills, Danny Green, Stephen Jackson, DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter together makeup a formidable lineup, and I didn’t even mention the instant offense that is Gary Neal. Last season each one of these players averaged nine points or more per game for San Antonio and they look to get the same type of production from their reserves again this season.
San Antonio’s depth is one of the elements that separates them from some of the other contenders in the NBA. They have a balance of youthful talent and veteran leadership coming off of the bench which many teams lack and that is key to them moving on this year and beyond. With this unit on any given night someone else can defeat a team and it also allows the vets in the starting lineup Duncan, Parker and Ginobili the ability to take a night off of get some much needed rest. The Spurs are going to ask this unit to do big things for them this season and I’m certain they will be able to because of the depth and talent.
Head Coach/Front Office:
The Spurs head coach Greg Popovich is by far one of the top three coaches currently in the game and isn’t showing any signs of being disinterested or slowing down. Last season he led San Antonio to their 13th consecutive 50-win season (despite it being a 66-game schedule) and in the process won his second NBA Coach of the Year award. Popovich is just one of five head coaches to win at least four NBA Championships. Expect Pop to guide his Spurs to their 14th consecutive 50-win season and make a run at his and the franchise’s fifth NBA title this year.
The Spurs always have a great front office since the days that Popovich was their GM before he stepped down to focus on solely coaching the team to now when R.C. Buford has done a great job during his 11-year tenure. During this off-season Buford didn’t see it fit to go out and sign any players thinking that what he had built in San Antonio was more than enough to take them on a title run this season. We’ll see if that logic works out because only time will tell if that was the right move or not. The season begins soon so that will be answered sooner than later.