The San Antonio Spurs are off to an 18-11 start and are surprisingly fourth place in the Southwest Division. The Spurs have been shorthanded in many contests, as Tony Parker, Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard have been out for a significant part of the season.
What are some things that must happen for the Spurs to have another championship run?
Dec 22, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) reacts after a shot against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
1. Spurs Must Get Healthy
It all starts with Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills. Leonard has missed the last four games with a torn ligament in his right hand. Leonard is having the best season in his young career, as he is averaging 15.2 points and 7.6 rebounds.
Mills has been out all season, he is important to the Spurs as he is one of their best three point shooters (41% career) and would be their backup point guard. Despite the terrific play of Cory Joseph, it is important that Mills gets healthy and back in uniform. He is expected to make a return sometime in January.
Lastly, Tiago Splitter who has been battling a calf injury all season, must stay in the lineup. Splitter has played in only seven games this season. He is their second best big man, so his health is a concern.
Nov 10, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks point guardBeno Udrih
(18) is defended by San Antonio Spurs point guard Patty Mills (8) center Tiago Splitter (22) and small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. Spurs won 120-89. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
2. Cut Down on Tim Duncan Minutes
Tim Duncan has been playing incredible this season. On the year he is averaging 16 points, 11 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. There is one problem, he is playing a little more than he should be. At this point he is averaging a little more than 32 minutes, which isn’t too high. But in the last 10 games he is averaging 35 minutes. In that stretch, he has three games in which he played at least 40 minutes.
Before the 10 game stretch he was averaging 30 minutes, which can be a product of Leonard being in the lineup. In a Western conference that is incredibly loaded, the Spurs might be better off sacrificing a top three seed for a well rested Duncan.
Dec 17, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan (21) is fouled while shooting by Memphis Grizzlies power forwardJon Leuer
(behind) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
3. Keep Shooting Threes
With an unhealthy Splitter and a true secondary post option behind Duncan, the Spurs have to let it fly from deep. The Spurs are currently second in the NBA in three point percentage, as they are it shooting it at 39%. They are tied for 14th in the league, in attempts (22). This is a sign that the Spurs might not be shooting enough threes.
Instead of settling for long two point shots, they should take more threes. It’s always a good idea to shoot many threes, when you have Danny Green, Marco Belinelli, Manu Ginobili and Matt Bonner. Mills return and Tony Parker’s out of nowhere improvement from three (64%), should help the Spurs as well.
Oct 9, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (20) talks to Danny Green (4) during the second half agains the CSKA Moscow at the AT&T Center. The Spurs won 95-93 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
4. Improve Play Within Conference
Want to know something shocking? The Spurs are 10-10 against the Western Conference. It is clear that the Western Conference is better than the Eastern Conference, from top to bottom, but that is no excuse. The Spurs will face these teams in the postseason and their 8-1 against the east, won’t matter come postseason time. You only face one team from the opposite conference in the postseason, and that is in the finals.
Out of all the teams, that are currently in the playoffs, only the Phoenix Suns (7-8) have a worst record within the conference. If the Spurs want to make another push they must put it together against the Western Conference, as any team that enters the playoffs can make a run.
Dec 22, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) drives to the basket while guarded by Los Angeles Clippers shooting guardJamal Crawford
(11) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
5. Danny Green Must Remain Consistent
Danny Green averaged just over 24 minutes per game last season, this year he is at 31 minutes per game. His minutes have jumped, as has his production. Green is having his best season, as he is averaging 12.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.
Green has improved as a defender and has become consistent as a scorer in the past few weeks. In the past 10 games, Green is averaging 15.1 points and 5 rebounds. If Green plays like this the Spurs will be incredibly tough to beat when Leonard comes back.
Dec 22, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Danny Green (14) reacts after a shot against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports