Amick: League executives don’t view Spurs as title contenders this season

By Quixem Ramirez

Jun 17, 2012; Miam, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) is guarded by Oklahoma City Thunder shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha (2) during the third quarter in game three in the 2012 NBA Finals at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated polled 19 NBA front-office executives to ascertain their top three teams in the NBA hierarchy.

The top three, unsurprisingly, were the Miami Heat (15 first-place votes), Oklahoma City Thunder (two first-place votes) and Los Angeles Lakers (two first-place votes).

Here’s one Western Conference executives take, who voted Miami, Los Angeles and Oklahoma City:

“LeBron and Dwyane Wade will carry the Heat     once again. The Lakers will need to jell and stay healthy, but with their new mix of players they will be tough     to beat. I don’t see the Thunder getting back to the Finals if the Lakers play to their potential, but the     Thunder should be back in the West finals again for another crack at it.”

The San Antonio Spurs didn’t receive any votes and seem to be entrenched as the fifth best team in the league behind the Boston Celtics, who held a 3-2 lead over the Heat in last years Eastern Conference Finals.

The league has essentially morphed to the point where there is a finite dichotomy separating the presumptive top three teams and the rest of the NBA. San Antonio is at the forefront of the next class of teams — as they are merely good and not elite like the aforementioned Heat, Thunder and Lakers — and are seemingly forgotten in conversations among NBA pundits and fans alike.

They don’t have the flash nor the grandeur of the truly elite basketball teams. Among the contenders, San Antonio probably doesn’t measure up, without accounting for the potential of injury which may knock the Lakers down a peg, but eschewing the national media may be a good thing in the long-term.

That means less pressure and the ability for Gregg Popovich and the Spurs’ potential to manifest within the confines of a stable environment and not the media frenzy that consistently clouds Miami and Los Angeles. And yet, it should be noted that this is still a strong team that scored 110.9 points per 100 possessions last season — a slight tick below their offensive efficiency in the 2010-11 season.

At their worst, the Spurs are one of the most efficient offensive teams in recent memory. That isn’t such a bad consolation prize.