We are halfway through the 2014-2015 NBA season, and the Spurs’ title defense. So, how do we feel about it?
As I sit here and write the midseason review I can tell you that I don’t feel great about the hole San Antonio has dug, but much like the optimism that changing out your calendar for a new year can bring, I can look to the second half of the season with certainty. Certainty that the Spurs won’t repeat a 25-16 record.
Jan 13, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; San Antonio Spurs forwardTim Duncan
(21) on the court against the Washington Wizards during the second half at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 101-93. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio will not end the year with a 52% road winning percentage, as they did the first half. And I can assure you that the Spurs will not enter the 2015 Playoffs in the seventh position.
This season kicked off with a great home win against the Dallas Mavericks in the first game of the San Antonio title defense. And then, the season started to unravel.
The Spurs never really put a run together of note- not like their Western Conference contemporaries, and were perhaps the most affected by the injury-bug during the first part of the year. Patty Mills, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, and Tiago Splitter have all missed significant time in the first 41 games.
The inability to gain clear momentum, possibly the cause, or frankly the result, of coach Gregg Popovich using a league-high 21 starting lineups, has landed the Spurs near the bottom of the NBA Western Conference playoff contenders; Currently in the 7th position.
While their scoring has been fine in general, scoring on the road has been the achilles’ heel for San Antonio.Statistic
ResultAverage points scored per game
102.1Average points allowed per game
The team-leaders are no surprise. Tim Duncan has continued his excellence into this season, and when healthy, Leonard is solidifying his position in the “Big-Four”.Category
Kawhi Leonard (15.4)Rebounds
Tim Duncan (10.4)AssistsManu Ginobili
You’ll notice the absence of Tony Parker who has been struggling with injuries.
The front office has remained inactive even as the Division has gotten stronger. R.C. Buford may be satisfied with his team as constructed last year, and whats not to like? This roster is identical to the championship winning team of last year. But that team won last year’s title.
Jan 10, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Dallas Mavericks guardRajon Rondo
(9) during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
This year Western Conference General Managers have been shuffling the deck in order to take out the Spurs. San Antonio has not been creatively moving the roster forward.Dallas has gotten significantly better with the return of Tyson Chandler, the addition of Chandler Parsons and of course Rajon Rondo. They have surrounded Monte Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki with the caliber of teammates to push them to the top in the West.Houston is stronger this year with Trevor Ariza joining Dwight Howard and James Harden. Corey Brewer is a nice option that Houston recently acquired. And if Josh Smith can gel with his new teammates Houston can be a strong advisory for San Antonio.Oklahoma City began the year in the red. Injuries to both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook sunk OKC at the beginning of the year. Now, with Dion Waiters, they have another first round talent to add to Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka. Look for Reggie Jackson to have a strong second half.
Their shooting percentage is getting worse as the season unfolds:
In their wins they shoot 40.2% from behind the three-point line; whereas in their losses they drop to 33%. Do the Spurs live and die behind the arc? I would suggest, as the stats would that they do.
- There is a clear home-court advantage: At home the Spurs: Score an average of 107 points per game (97.5 on the road); Shoot 40% from three-point range (34.5% on the road); and shoot over 48% from the field (44.3% on the road).
- The “Rodeo Road-trip” is nearly upon us, and historically the team uses the long streak on the road to gel as a team. This year can be no different if the Spurs have title hopes.
- Corey Joseph was able to hold down the point guard position with the absence of Tony Parker. In fact, he excelled. Now, with the return of Patty Mills the Spurs have serious depth at point guard.
- Danny Green has not cooled off from last year. Sometimes we see shooters have great years, followed by a slump or downward trend. Danny Green has been consistently solid from behind the arc, and the mid-range game has improved. Also, with the absence of Leonard, Green has stepped up as a perimeter defender. That experience will pay dividends in the playoffs.
- The competition for Ray Allen was a two-horse race at the beginning of the season: San Antonio and Cleveland. Why would Allen, if he was coming back, go to the sinking ship that is the Cavaliers? Allen would still be a solid addition to the San Antonio roster, and absolutely provide the perimeter shooting on the road that the Spurs would need in a push for the Playoffs. Certainly, with the position the Spurs own at the bottom of the Playoff bracket, they won’t be receiving home court advantage throughout the Playoffs. Allen can bring a known commodity to the court, and ice in his veins, to San Antonio. In order to bring Allen to San Antonio the Spurs would have to move one of their 15 guaranteed contracts.
The San Antonio Spurs are in a great position for a second-half run. They are finally getting healthy, and that lack of health in the first 41 games may be the greatest benefit to the Spurs. Players like Joseph, Matt Bonner, Austin Daye, and others have been playing lots of minutes in the absence of the Spurs’ regulars. San Antonio has always been deep, and now they are getting stronger.
The seven teams ahead of San Antonio in the standings are not proven winners. Golden State is a shooting team on a hot streak. What if they go cold? Do we really trust Houston to keep up their pace? Be wary of both Memphis and Dallas. There is no reason, however, that San Antonio couldn’t leap-frog the Clippers and even the Portland Trailblazers into the top half of the Conference.