2012/13 NBA season previews: San Antonio Spurs
Every year, pundits claim the San Antonio Spurs are too old. And every year, the Spurs sit near the top of the NBA standings.
Last season, they tied with the Chicago Bulls for the best record in the league, with 50 wins and just 16 losses.
It was the club’s thirteenth consecutive 50 win season, an NBA record. Surely by now, everyone has learnt to bet against this team at their own peril?
The three biggest questions for the Spurs in 2012/13:
Do the Spurs have one more run in them?
The club rode a 20 game winning streak into the playoffs, and was just two more victories away from the NBA Finals, holding 2-0 lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals. It looked a fait accompli that the Spurs would meet the Miami Heat to decide the NBA championship.
However, the Thunder had other ideas, and got extremely hot when it mattered, rattling off four consecutive wins to not just end the Spurs record winning streak, but send them home from the playoffs.
Despite their finish to the season, it’s hard to believe that a team that was so good last year would suddenly struggle this season. And the Spurs simply won’t, especially with mastercoach Gregg Popovich at the helm.
While it’s true that ageing stars Manu Ginobli and Tim Duncan remain cornerstones of the franchise, the club has had a subtle handling of the reins over to point guard Tony Parker, while also entrusting more responsibility to their youngsters, especially Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard.
This has ensured that the Spurs no longer solely rely on the brilliance of Duncan and Ginobli, and this thus ensures that the Spurs most certainly have one more championship run in them.
The Thunder proved better than the Spurs last year, and the Lakers have improved. The Spurs made no roster changes, so how will they keep up in the West?
While stability and continuity have their benefits, talent wins in the NBA. The Thunder had too much of it for the Spurs last year, and the Lakers have added plenty of it. By standing pat with what they have, the Spurs run the risk of actually going backwards.
However, that doesn’t factor in the notion that the Thunder and the Lakers’ respective changes won’t necessarily guarantee success, and that the Spurs may be able to find improvement from within.
The Spurs were handed over to Tony Parker last year, and he responded with an MVP-type season. Still just 30, Parker was unstoppable at times, and there is every chance he will be even better this season with the confidence of knowing it’s officially, unequivocally his team.
Young wing players Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard are just 25 and 21 respectively, so both should be better this season. And coach Popovich, never one to hand out effusive praise, believes Leonard is a star in the making.
Also, Manu Ginobli only played 34 games last season, and if he can stay healthy, it will be the equivalent of adding a missing All Star to their roster.
The club will also have the chance to properly integrate Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw and Patty Mills, as they all joined the team during the season, and were therefore forced to learn on the run. The benefits of a pre-season with the coaching staff should ensure improvements from those individuals.
Overall, the Thunder’s trade of James Harden, the Lakers question marks over chemistry, and the Spurs potential improvement from within, all means that San Antonio may not just keep up in the West, they may actually win it.
Will Aussie Patty Mills be part of the rotation?
I’m sure it’s not actually a big question facing the Spurs organisation, but it’s an important one for Australian fans.
After playing for the Melbourne Tigers in the NBL and the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in China during the NBA lock-out, Mills hooked up with the Spurs in the closing months of the regular season, and averaged 10 points and 2.4 assists in 16 games.
Those are seriously impressive statistics for a back-up point guard.
However, those numbers were heavily inflated by some late season games in which the starters were rested and Mills played big minutes.
Still, you have to take your opportunities when they come, and the Spurs hierarchy would have been impressed with what they saw from their young point guard in a Spurs jersey, and then in the Olympics for the Australian Boomers.
Mills will start the season as the third point guard on the roster, but his speed and shooting are handy assets off the bench, and he can be expected to be utilised as a sparkplug when the team needs a lift.
His minutes won’t be consistent, but he will get them. He needs to be ready when he does.
San Antonio Spurs Snapshot:
- 50 wins, 16 losses
- Finished first in the Western Conference, and first in the Southwest Division
- Lost 4-2 to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals
Statistical leaders in 2011/12:
Points: Tony Parker (18.3 ppg)
Rebounds: Tim Duncan (9.0 rpg)
Assists: Tony Parker (7.7 apg)
Career Record: 847 wins, 399 losses
Predicted finish in 2012/13:
- 3rd in the Western Conference
- 1st in the Southwest Division
- Lose in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs
Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.