Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Previewing The Spurs

As I write this, we are just a few hours from the kickoff to the start of the NBA season.  I don't think I've ever been this excited for a NBA season where the Spurs didn't win a title in the previous year.  The league changed so much this summer through free agency and trade and could be headed for another change this coming summer thanks to a possible lockout.  I feel like both these changes will help this year's Spurs team. 

I do the following thing every year: I talk myself into thinking this year's Spurs roster is better then the last.  And guess what, I think this year's team is much better then last year.  You know what you're going to get from the always Underrated Big 3, but also George Hill is only going to get better, DeJuan Blair has already shown in the preseason how much he's improved in the offseason.  Richard Jefferson looks to be way more aggressive, which can only help him improve from last season.  We haven't seen Tiago Splitter yet, but if he can pull down 7 or 8 boards and play some great pick and roll defense, then that's already an improvement from last season.  Also, Matt Bonner is only slated for 10 to 15 minutes a game. This also is an improvement from last season.

The thing I like most about this team is they didn't change their core all that much.  Blair replaces Antonio McDyess in the starting 5, Splitter comes in, so there's some much needed depth in the front court.  I know he's a rookie, but I'll take James Anderson as the team's resident 3 point shooter over Roger Mason, Jr. and Keith Bogans.  If Anderson is in anyways NBA ready, this is probably the deepest team the Spurs have had in a long time.  The only question is will anyone step up to become the big shot maker.  I feel like a healthy Manu can take on this role.

Here's something that I've been thinking about all summer long.  Most people in NBA circles feel a lockout will happen next summer.  Tim, Tony and Manu have admitted the championship window is closing on them.  That's why I think, especially Duncan is going to go all out this year.  Sure he will take an occasional back to back off, but I think Duncan is motivated to get a fifth ring.  I think he will be able to conserve some energy now that he doesn't have to always guard the other team's best big man and more then anything I think we're going to see a very determined Duncan this year.  Same for a contract year Tony Parker.  He's healthy, he wants a big deal, whether with San Antonio or elsewhere and I think he's going to prove he's 2007-2008 Tony Parker.

So where does all this optimism I have put the Spurs?  Realistically it still puts them a couple games back of the Lakers and probably a game or two better then Oklahoma City, Portland and Utah.  I think the Spurs will finish 1st in the Southwest and 2nd or 3rd in the West.  You really have to ask yourself which teams in the West got noticeably better from last season and the answer is none of them.  I think Denver will be worse with or without Melo, Phoenix definitely got worse by losing Amare and replacing him with Hedo Turkoglu and Hakim Warrick.  Dallas is old and the same team the Spurs beat up last year in the playoffs.  You can argue that OKC is a lot better, and a healthy Portland is better as well as Utah.  The only problem for those teams is they all play in the same division, so they can't all win 55 games, right? 

Once the playoffs start I think the Spurs get out of the first round playing whoever they play, then meet OKC in the 2nd round, play what will be the best series of the playoffs and beat them in 7 games (You can't convince me OKC is better then San Antonio, so don't even try).  Sadly the run probably ends there.  If the Lakers are healthy and they have home court the Spurs won't beat them (probably) and then I'll have to root for Miami or Boston in the Finals.  But I think this year's run will be a lot better then last year's and I'm looking forward to what could be if Kobe Bryant blows out his knee in December or January.  Go Spurs Go.

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