Can This Spurs Team Win an NBA Championship?

Dec 6, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The San Antonio Spurs beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 105-91. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 6, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The San Antonio Spurs beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 105-91. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
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With the playoffs drawing closer, one must pose the question: Can this current San Antonio Spurs team win an NBA Championship?

The San Antonio Spurs have been the most consistent franchise in the modern-NBA era, by far. I mean, they’ve made the playoffs for two decades straight. Tim Duncan has no idea what it feels like to miss the NBA Playoffs.

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However, Duncan is no longer a Spur, and many people assumed the day he left, the Spurs ability to compete for championships would greatly diminish. Gregg Popovich has the Spurs at 52-15, on pace for the second best regular season finish in Spurs history.

Before the season, the Spurs were projected to win 57 games. As of today, they are on pace for 64 wins, just three wins shy of their mark last year.

Last season was their highest win percentage in franchise history. Unfortunately, they were bounced in the second round of the playoffs to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In their first season without Duncan, the Spurs seem to be a lock for the second seed in the Western Conference, and Kawhi Leonard’s MVP caliber play has Spurs fans wondering:

Can the Spurs win a championship without Duncan?

Determining the MVP, DPOY, and COY is an incredibly difficult question to answer this season. Determining whether the Spurs can win a championship in the post-Duncan era is equally as challenging.

Dubs move 1.5 games ahead of the Spurs for the 1-seed.

The Thunder (29 L) are now tied with the Clippers (29 L) in loss column for 5 seed.

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) March 17, 2017

The Spurs are without a shadow of a doubt, a top-5 team in the NBA.

Leonard is playing at an MVP-level, LaMarcus Aldridge is still in his prime, and the second-unit is arguably the best in the league (when the Spurs are healthy).

Kawhi Leonard now has 25 games with 30+ points this year – the most in a season by a Spur since David Robinson had 36 in 1994-95.

— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) March 16, 2017

Tony Parker can still be efficient, although he has been injured recently.

Manu Ginobli is nearing the end of his career, but with proper rest, Ginobli can still be very effective leading the second-unit in the playoffs.

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Pau Gasol and David Lee are the best PF-C combo coming off the bench in the NBA, and their talents suit each other well. Danny Green, who may not be shooting as “lights out” as he was back in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, is still one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA.

Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray are two very capable point-guards that can help alleviate the pressure put on Parker. Dewayne Dedmon, who filled in for Gasol during his injury, has proven to be a formidable force down in the paint area.

Despite the talent and depth, the Spurs still aren’t as talented as the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors (when healthy, of course). One can argue that the Spurs team in 2014 wasn’t as talented as the Heat, but remember, that team had Duncan.

So, if push comes to shove, can the Spurs beat these two teams in a playoff series?

Golden State Warriors

Healthy squad vs healthy squad, most analysts would pick the Warriors to win the series. Why? Eight words: Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green.

It’s still hard to fathom that a team who won a record 73 games last season, went and signed a top-3 talent in Durant this past offseason.

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  • Despite the star-studded talent on the Warriors, they do have two weaknesses: Their interior defensive presence and lack of depth.

    To acquire the services of Durant, the Warriors gave up significant depth, including Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, Leandro Barbosa, and Marreese Speights.

    Instead, they have Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee, who aren’t exactly “cream of the crop” when it comes to interior presences. The Spurs, who are loaded in the front-court, can hurt the Warriors down-low, if they can successfully slow the pace down.

    Secondly, the Warriors lost depth, something that was a strength for them last season. Granted, rotations become much smaller in the playoffs, minimizing it’s importance. Nevertheless, those four guys have to rest eventually, and the Spurs can take advantage of the times when they do.

    So, can the Spurs defeat the Warriors in a seven-game series? I believe they have a better chance this season, than they did last season. Durant is injured, and the extent of that injury has yet to be determined. If Durant isn’t 100% in the playoffs, the Spurs can defeat them.

    The Spurs matchup very well with the Warriors. Green is the perfect guy to throw on Thompson, a guy who run around screens all day and defends at a high-level. Leonard’s defensive capabilities are well noted, and he will be asked to cover Durant. Aldridge is a solid defender who can make life difficult for Green on the offensive end.

    However, the problem is at point guard. Parker is past his prime, and covering Curry will be an impossible task for him. In this case, Popovich may start Mills, and bring Parker off-the-bench when Curry sits down.

    All in all, I believe the Spurs can defeat the Warriors in a seven game series.

    Cleveland Cavaliers

    The other incredibly elite team in the NBA is the Cavaliers, who came back down from 3-1 to defeat the Warriors in the Finals last season.

    This year, the Cavaliers re-loaded, adding depth to a roster that was lacking a second-unit. The Cavaliers signed Kyle Korver, Deron Williams, Derrick Williams, and Larry Sanders.

    LaMarcus Aldridge now has 1,000+ points in each of the last 10 seasons. Only 2 others with 1,000+ last 10 years: Dwyane Wade & LeBron James

    — Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) March 16, 2017

    The Cavaliers made key signings this season to improve one of their biggest weaknesses – their depth. However, the signings can’t help the Cavaliers in their biggest area of need – health.

    Kevin Love and JR Smith have all seen injuries that have kept them out of play for a significant amount of time. Love has a history of injuries, as he missed the first Cavaliers run at a championship back in 2015 when he got injured in the first round of the playoffs.

    Good morning. The Spurs are the league's best 3-point shooting team (39.7 percent) this season.

    — Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) March 16, 2017

    Outside of LeBron James and iron-man Tristan Thompson, the Cavaliers are incredibly injury prone. Bogut, a guy they signed after a buyout with the Philadephia 76ers, got injured in his very first appearance with the Cavaliers, forcing them to sign Sanders.

    Williams, their backup point guard, also has a deep history of injuries.

    Unlike the Warriors, we have yet to see the Cavaliers at full strength this season, and their capabilities once they reach it. However, it’s no guarantee that they ever will.

    With James, the Cavaliers are almost a lock to make the Finals, which is incredible. To beat a team like the Warriors or the Spurs, the Cavaliers will need that depth, especially at the backup point guard position. Come Finals time, Williams may have already been injured.

    Spurs regular season tracker (52-15):

    ✅✅✅✅❌✅❌❌✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅❌✅✅✅✅❌✅✅✅✅✅❌✅✅✅✅❌✅✅✅❌✅❌✅✅✅✅✅❌❌✅✅✅❌✅✅❌✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅❌✅✅❌⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜⬜

    — Quixem Ramirez (@quixem) March 16, 2017

    The other issue with the Cavaliers is their inconsistency on defense this season, which is a big reason why they have been struggling as of late. When the Spurs visited the Cavaliers back in January, and the Spurs came away with a victory, 118-115.

    James will never admit this publicly, but i’d be willing to bet that he would much rather face off against Durant than Leonard in the NBA Finals. Durant doesn’t have the size to give James problems defensively, while Leonard absolutely does.

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    Don’t get me wrong, James will get his points, one way or another. However, make James inefficient, and you make the Cavaliers as a whole, inefficient. The Warriors are a well-oiled machine that don’t rely on any one player’s success to succeed. The Cavaliers are lead by a machine, and his name is James. You slow him down, you slow the entire train down.

    With Leonard’s abilities on both ends of the floor, he can be the difference maker.

    Well, Can They Win or Not?

    If it came down to it, the Spurs would likely need to defeat the Warriors and Cavaliers back-to-back to hold a coveted NBA Championship. If done, it would arguably be Popovich’s greatest achievement as a head coach, which is saying a whole lot.

    If the Spurs are playing at full health, they have a chance at finding that rhythm they found in 2014, where the ball was moving at such an incredible pace, you thought the Heat were just a step slow. In reality, the Spurs were just a step too fast.

    Ball movement and defense wins championships, and that’s what the Spurs are built on. Leonard won the Finals MVP in 2014, so just imagine what he could do now.

    So, can the Spurs win against these teams in a 7-game series? Yes, the answer is yes.

    Will they? That’s a different story.

    Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to find out.

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