The 2012-13 San Antonio Spurs – Championship Bound?
Just around the corner lies the beginning of another Spurs season. While the Spurs season was ended unexpectedly and abruptly, many Spurs fans have reasons to believe in a possible fifth trophy this season. Reason 1) The growth of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green 2) Boris Diaw will have a full training camp 3) OKC 6th man and Spur killer James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets. While those pre-season developments seem small it may have a larger impact than many think.
BIG MEN – Looking at the Spurs preseason roster had many excited. The addition of Eddy Curry at Center and Josh Powell at Power Forward made fans feel like the Spurs were headed in a certain direction. Curry who was a legit Center standing at 7’0 and weighing 295lbs was a sight to see. He had a solid post game and the size Spurs fans have been waiting for. Sadly he wasn’t much of a rebounding or defensive force and soon thereafter was waived. Many thought that the final roster spot would then go to Josh Powell. Having a power forward that is over 6’8 and athletic was something the Spurs fans would welcome as well. Suprisingly the Spurs waived him a few days later.
The Spurs staff obviously feels that the variety of big men they have is sufficient to get them to a fifth ring. Splitter is the tall legit big man the Spurs have that they can use to back Duncan and play next to him when they wanna go big. Bonner is their big that can stretch the floor and Blair is the rebounding big. Boris Diaw although short has now had significant time to learn the Spurs defensive schemes. Add to that he already has a high basketball IQ which may help push the Spurs over the edge. Having 3pt range also will allow the Spurs to have a shorter leash on Bonner when he isnt hitting his shots. Hopefully the right combination at the right times will help the Spurs.
Leonard and Green - Kawhi Leonard showed much improvement during summer league, especially in his ball handling. Having a full training camp will hopefully help him become a legit defensive stopper for the Spurs. Danny Green melted down in the Western Finals. His slump on offense affected his defense for the worse. This year during the preseason Green was on fire from beyond the Arc. The question will be can he keep up his defensive focus even when his shots aren’t falling.
On the move - Not being able to offer James Harden a satisfactory extension because of paying top dollar for leading shotblocker Serge Ibaka put the Oklahoma City Thunder in a situation. The Thunder traded away fan favorite and 6th man James Harden in principle for draft picks and Kevin Martin. Martin is a good scorer, but is what some would call a “chucker”. For most of his career he has shot barely above 40% from the field and isnt a great passer and he is prone to injury. Harden shot well from the field and was arguably their best playmaker and a solid playoff performer. This move should give the Spurs a significant advantage.
THE DEFENSE - The Spurs perimeter defense improved somewhat last season. The emergence of Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard plus the addition of Stephen Jackson helped in that area. The Spurs however don’t have a legit secondary post defender. The Thunder have Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins playing together to protect from layups. The Lakers have Pau Gasol and 3 time defensive player of the year Dwight Howard as their post defenders. The Spurs will always have Duncan as their main shotblocker, but that second big defender that is needed to rotate over is Tiago Splitter. Coach Popovich has been reluctant using the two big guys simultaneously, perhaps feeling this will hinder their effecient floor spacing offense. The Spurs ranked 10th last year defensively. While that doesnt seem bad, the fact is the Spurs can’t play a full 48minutes of stifling defense and more importantly they can’t always get stops on demand. This year, Greg Popovich seems to be expecting growth in that area simply thru a full training camp (benefiting Diaw and Jackson) and player experience (from Leonard, Green and Splitter). Important to the Spurs defense is TRUST. Having a second Big guy to rotate over and either block shots or take charges allows the defense not to crumble when Tim Duncan gets pulled out trying to defend pick n rolls. Look for TRUST resulting in better rotations from all five players on the court this season.
THE OFFENSE - The Spurs offense was a cause for concern (frankly an enigma), especially after the realization that Richard Jefferson was not the offensive weapon they thought he would be. After ridding themselves of a bad contract/unproductive player the Spurs offense continued to blossom. The days of Tony Parker dribbling around Jameer Nelson style seem to be over. For a while the Spurs offense was effecient but nevertheless predictable and at times stagnant. Pick n rolls mostly involving Parker would lead to a layup for him or a 3point shot from someone else. Stop Parker and you could expose the defenciences of the other players. Now, however the Spurs in a addition to the Parker pick n rolls employ alot of zipper cuts and at times make use of the triangle offense. Motion offense has allowed the Spurs to be a high scoring yet effecient team. Similar to the Flex Offense that was run to perfection in Utah by Jerry Sloan, the Spurs offense Takes roll players and gets them good shots without Parker always burning alot of energy to create. The play and scoring from the role Players is important especially with Ginobili ( their second playmaker) being injury prone.
KEEP ON THE WATCH - Spurs fans can expect another 50win season. The thing to keep an eye on this season is how well the Spurs play as a unit on defense against tall frontlines or teams with super quick point guards. Another cause for concern is when it comes to their rebounding, since they dont have a dominant rebounder outside of Duncan. Their offense will continue to improve, now with Diaw having the starting job and all the offensive skills to compliment the team. Look to an exciting but challenging 82 game Spurs season ahead.
Date: November 2, 2012