Feb. 21, 2012; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Jamal Crawford (11) drives to the basket on San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) and San Antonio Spurs forward Eric Dawson (23) during the third quarter of the game at the Rose Garden. The Blazers won the game 137-97. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-US PRESSWIRE

Week Nine NBA Power Rankings: Spurs remain in top five

Sam Amico, FOX Sports – 4th (2nd in West)

“Tim Duncan playing at least as well as last season, Tony Parker even better. A lot to be said for familiarity.”

Like all basketball pundits mentioned at verbatim prior to the season, continuity would be one of the most important factors in a condensed season. Congrats. They were right.

Sean Deveney, Sporting News – 3rd (2nd in West)

“Tighten the rotation. Expect coach Gregg Popovich to winnow his rotation down as the second half progresses. The Spurs have gotten nice contributions from a variety of spots, but Popovich uses a short bench in the playoffs.”

The Spurs will have some tough decisions come playoff time. Differentiating between Danny Green, Richard Jefferson, Kawhi Leonard and Gary Neal won’t be easy for Gregg Popovich. But if anyone can successfully manage everyone’s minutes and has the intuition to stick with the hot hand, it’s Pop. We’ll see what happens.

Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk – 4th (2nd in West)

“They went 8-1 on the Rodeo road trip and the only loss was when Gregg Popovich decided to rest Tony Parker and Tim Duncan on the same night. This is a very good team but the question remains: If they run into the Grizzlies or Lakers in the playoffs (a team that scores a lot out of a big front line) can the Spurs stop them?”

To be honest, I am worried about an awful matchup arising during our playoff run. But, if the Spurs truly want to contend, they’re going to have to find a way to negate their disadvantage in frontcourt girth and skill.

John Hollinger, ESPN.com – 4th (2nd in West)

Hollinger’s power rankings are certainly interesting and occasionally controversial. The Spurs don’t have the plus-six average margin of victory as other upper echelon teams but that is a product of a rigorous schedule. It’ll only get more palatable from now on. Hopefully.

Alex Kay, Bleacher Report – 4th (2nd in West)

“The Spurs are a ridiculous 24-10 so far and many of those wins came without Manu Ginobili in the lineup. This is a tough team with a ton of veteran experience, but there is no way the Spurs can keep this pace up. Look for them to cool down towards the end of the season when they already have a top-four seed locked up and coach Gregg Popovich tries to rest his starters for the playoffs.”

Ok, I have to interject here. While the notion that Pop values health over inconsequential regular season victories has it’s merits, I don’t think the Spurs are a team that has overachieved thus far and, therefore, subject to regression. I have a hard time believing that there are four teams in the Western Conference more capable than the Spurs.

The Los Angeles Clippers have obvious defensive problems. Memphis lost a lot of frontcourt depth after Darrell Arthur and Zach Randolph suffered serious injuries. The Lakers, while they have three players — Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol — that rank in the top 10 at their respective positions, lack the sufficient depth to warrant title consideration. Minnesota poses a distinct matchup problem but they aren’t guaranteed a playoff spot.

More reliable evaluation methods than win-loss record also suggest the Spurs success isn’t a fluke. The Spurs offensive efficiency (104.4) puts them seventh in the league and that was accomplished without backup point guard T.J. Ford and the Spurs heart-and-soul Manu Ginobili (25.1 PER, 5th overall) for two-thirds of the season. In terms of efficiency differential and point differential, the Spurs do indeed belong in the same sentence as the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder.

With the benefit of methodical minute management (Tony Parker is the only Spur playing more than 32 minutes per game) and a roster that goes 11 deep, San Antonio is indeed a legitimate title contender and have survived through the difficult portion of their schedule. They have had the 4th most difficult schedule to date and seem poised to improve upon their record given most of their games will be played at the cozy confines of the AT&T Center against below-average opponents.

Mike Monroe, SA Express News – 3rd (2nd in West)

“After a great rodeo road trip, can they do as well on seven-game homestand that includes Bulls, Knicks, Clippers and Magic?”

Great news: The Spurs will play the Charlotte Bobcats and Washington Wizards!

Good news: No back-to-backs in the next two weeks!

Bad news: The Spurs are playing six teams with above .500 records.

Really bad news: Manu and Tiago Splitter probably won’t play for the majority of the homestand.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com – 4th (2nd in West)

“A stat: Throwing away that “forfeit” in Portland, the Spurs have allowed only 96.4 points per 100 possessions in their other 12 games since Jan. 31.
A question: Will Manu Ginobili be healthy for more than five games at a time?
A prediction: The Spurs won’t shoot nearly as poorly from 3-point range as they did in last year’s playoffs (29 percent), and win a round this season.”

Should I be happy that the Spurs are playing with such startling proficiency without Manu or should I be legitimately worried that Schuhmann was compelled to even ponder that question? I have no idea what to think.

Chris Sheridan, Sheridan Hoops – 2nd (1st in West)

“As mentioned above, Tony Parker is putting himself in the MVP race. Was a plus-15 vs. Clippers on Saturday while brainfarter Chris Paul was a minus-20. Bad news came with the good after that unlikeliest of victories as Manu Ginobili (strained oblique) and Tiago Splitter (strained calf) were injured. Need an undefeated week to finish Rodeo Road Trip 9-0. Watching them this past week, I am amazed by their poise and precision in tight games. I shouldn’t be, but I am.”

Parker is playing better than (in terms of PER) Kyrie Irving, Jeremy Lin, Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams while only playing marginally worse than Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. Did I just mention TP in the same sentence as seven other elite point guards without being sarcastic? You bet I did.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com – 2nd (1st in West)

“The Spurs are the rare team that we won’t immediately drop after a significant injury because they just went 15-7 without the hurt-again Manu. Rest assured, though, they’d trade it all and take the No. 8 seed in the West off you right now if you could guarantee they’d have a fully healed Manu for the playoffs.”

Agreed. Ideally, the Spurs will take the No. 1 seed and a healthy Manu (which I still think is attainable by the way). OKC, for all their offensive talent, has an unnerving tendency to play in close games.

Tom Ziller, SB Nation – 2nd (1st in West)

“The only team hotter than the Heat or Knicks is San Antonio, currently on a 10-game win string and with a shot at sweeping the annual Rodeo Trip for the first time ever. The roadie has three challenges left: Utah, Portland and Denver. Stay tuned.”

That Linsanity kid is incredible.

Wait, we are actually talking about the Spurs?

I’m dreaming, right?

Composite ranking: 3rd (2nd in West)

Tags: Andrew Bynum Chicago Bulls Chris Paul Coach Pop Danny Green Darrell Arthur Deron Williams Derrick Rose Gary Neal Jeremy Lin Kawhi Leonard Kobe Bryant Kyrie Irving Los Angeles Lakers Manu Ginobili Memphis Grizzlies Miami Heat Minnesota Timberwolves Oklahoma City Thunder Pau Gasol Rajon Rondo Richard Jefferson Russell Westbrook San Antonio Spurs Steve Nash T.J. Ford Tiago Splitter Tim Duncan Tony Parker Zach Randolph

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