The San Antonio Spurs once again are looking like one of the few teams in the mix for the NBA Championship this season, currently possessing a 12-3 record after a victory over the hapless Wizards on Monday night. But despite their impressive start, unselfish play, and remarkable consistency, the Spurs still are behind the Thunder, Lakers, Heat, Celtics, Clippers, and perhaps even the Knicks in the championship discussion. Yet the Spurs currently possess a better record than all of those teams. Yes, I’ll repeat, ALL of those teams.
So with that fact being established, why are the Spurs not as highly favored as these other teams? It can’t be that they are in a small market, since we all know that they’ve won four championships in San Antonio, and it can’t be experience, because we all know that Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Gregg Popovich are as experienced as they come. The answer seems to more likely lie in the fact that the Spurs haven’t won an NBA Championship since 2007, and that 2 years ago they possessed the #1 record in the West and lost in the first round, and last season they came in white-hot and got outmatched by a simply more athletic Thunder team. We’ve seen the Spurs have recent regular season success without that success translating into championships. Thus, it stands to reason that there isn’t much to take away from their 12-3 start this season, and that we’ll have to wait until May & June to see if this team is truly for real.
But while the approach to the Spurs being “call me in May” may be an accurate one, I don’t want to wait until May to make a judgement on them. And so right now, I will give you three reasons why there is cause to believe the Spurs should be the favorites to win the NBA Championship.
#1. Continuity: The Spurs have made the least amount of changes of any of the serious contending teams in the NBA, and while that may be viewed as bad, I see it as a good thing. The Celtics, Heat, Lakers, Thunder, Clippers, and Knicks are all trying to figure out who they are as teams right now. The Celtics are trying to fill the void left by Ray Allen; the Heat are trying to work in Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis; the Lakers are trying to work in a new coach, a new point guard, and a new center; the Thunder are trying to march forward with James Harden no longer a member of the team; and both the Clippers and Knicks are still searching for their identities. With all these teams trying to make these adjustments, the Spurs are continuing to play the same kind of ball they did a year ago, and they are doing it with virtually the same faces and coach. Of all these teams listed, the Spurs are the one team we can truly know what to expect from them come playoffs. Everybody else has a big question mark somewhere. Having one more year under the belts of Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, and other young players will make the Spurs even more dangerous this year than last.
#2. Coaching: With Phil Jackson out of the picture in Los Angeles, the Spurs now have the best coach in the NBA in Gregg Popovich. He has more championship rings as a head coach than all the other head coaches in the NBA combined, and he also knows his team better than anybody else know’s their team. Largely because of the continuity of the Spurs that was previously mentioned. He knows his guys, he knows his system, and he knows it can work.
#3. This season is a full 82 game season: This may not sound like an advantage for the Spurs, who have an aging Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. 82 games is a lot for these guys to play. But the advantage they have from last season is there is more rest in between games, and none of those back-to-back-to-back games like last season. The chances of injury are far less during a regular 82 game season than in a compressed 66 game schedule. Look for the Spurs to be much more rested and healthy coming into the playoffs.
By having more continuity, better coaching, and more time to rest, there is no reason to not put the San Antonio Spurs at the very top of the title discussion this season. But knowing them, they probably like not being mentioned among these other teams. That’s just how Gregg Popovich teams like to operate: silent but deadly.