San Antonio Spurs News

San Antonio Spurs: 5 teams that will challenge SAS in 2017-18

rwolkenbrod
SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 8: Zaza Pachulia #27, Stephen Curry #30, Kevin Durant #35, Klay Thompson #11 and Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors face off against the Sacramento Kings on January 8, 2017 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 8: Zaza Pachulia #27, Stephen Curry #30, Kevin Durant #35, Klay Thompson #11 and Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors face off against the Sacramento Kings on January 8, 2017 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
facebooktwitterreddit
SAN ANTONIO,TX – MAY 29: Here is a photograph of the San Antonio Spurs logo prior to the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs on May 29, 2014 at the AT
SAN ANTONIO,TX – MAY 29: Here is a photograph of the San Antonio Spurs logo prior to the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs on May 29, 2014 at the AT

What teams will provide the greatest challenge to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2017-18 season?

The San Antonio Spurs will start the 2017-18 NBA season on Wednesday, Oct. 18 vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves. It’s their first official game since the 2017 Western Conference Finals closed, with the Golden State Warriors’ completion of the series sweep.

For the past two years, the Spurs sat at the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference. 2015-16 was the historic 67-win season, which the Warriors topped with 73 victories. Last year, the Spurs compiled 61 wins but were outdone by Golden State’s 67 wins.

To achieve this status again, San Antonio will face obstacles throughout the 82-game season. It starts in October and ends in April, so the journey will be lengthy and difficult. Teams improved and made the Western Conference even more powerful, which only makes the path to the NBA Finals more of a process.

The combat other teams’ improvement, the Spurs signed Rudy Gay, Joffrey Lauvergne and Brandon Paul in free agency. They also selected Derrick White in Round 1 of the 2017 NBA Draft. These players will join Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Patty Mills and others on a potential playoff and top-tier team in the NBA.

Must Read: 25 forgotten players that were on the Spurs

This group will try to get past multiple teams in the Western Conference. Some are obvious, while others might provide an interesting challenge for the team. Who could this be?

Let’s look at the five teams that will provide a roadblock for the Spurs in the 2017-18 season. This only includes Western Conference teams.

Next: Clippers

5. Los Angeles Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers roster faced a significant amount of turnover in the offseason. For the last five years, a core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, JJ Redick, and Jamal Crawford was given every chance to succeed in the playoffs. They didn’t, so Paul, Redick, and Crawford all departed. That doesn’t mean the Clippers won’t be a good or great team, however.

Danilo Gallinari was the big-name offseason acquisition. He’s not Paul, but will add a lengthy scoring presence at small forward that can go off for 20 or 30 points at a time. Injuries are a concern, though.

More from Spurs News

Patrick Beverley and Euroleague signing Milos Teodosic will take over at point guard. Beverley is the hard-nosed defender that can shoot. Teodosic is a mystery man, so it’s unknown how much he’ll provide the Clippers.

Outside of them, there’s still Griffin and Jordan. Both will provide a dynamic presence in the frontcourt and take over a bigger role without Paul. If Griffin stays healthy, this could be one of his best seasons. These two might provide issues for an aging San Antonio Spurs frontcourt.

Look for a top-five finish for the Clippers, if everything pans out. They don’t have the powerful core of 2016-17, but still feature plenty of quality players that will make an impact.

Next: Thunder

4. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder will provide an even larger challenge for the San Antonio Spurs. It starts at the top of the roster, including the 2016-17 NBA MVP.

Russell Westbrook had a historic season, as he averaged a triple-double. No player did that since Oscar Robertson in 1966-67. It’s possible no one will do this for another 50 seasons. Either way, it made Westbrook’s star shine brighter and as the team’s focal point.

Presti applauds the work ethic and character of @russwest44 "He stands for something in OKC that I can't put into words" pic.twitter.com/X5MSvwP6N6

— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) September 22, 2017

The UCLA product will be a nightmare for anyone to guard, even Danny Green or Kawhi Leonard. Whoever doesn’t defend him will be on Paul George.

The Thunder traded for George in the offseason. They sent back Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to the Indiana Pacers in what was viewed as a lopsided deal. 

Defending these two will be a task throughout the 2017-18 season. They’re dynamic offensive players that are almost impossible to guard. It will push OKC as a top player in the Western Conference, as the post-Kevin Durant era continues. If anything, this might be their best of the two seasons since Durant left in July 2016.

The Thunder will lurk near the top of the West this season. With Westbrook, George, Enes Kanter, Steven Adams, and a cast of young talent, this team might have untapped potential.

Next: Timberwolves

PORTLAND, OR – APRIL 6: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves looks on during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on April 6, 2017 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR – APRIL 6: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves looks on during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on April 6, 2017 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

3. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers might finish with better records than the Minnesota Timberwolves. Whether they do or don’t this team could provide the San Antonio Spurs problems.

It starts at center. Karl-Anthony Towns shot 44 percent against the Spurs in 2016-17, one of his lowest numbers against any team. He’s still just 21-years-old, however, and will only improve. With Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge on the wrong side of 30, look for Towns to use his athleticism and all-around skills to dominate in the post.

Andrew Wiggins might be the task of Kawhi Leonard’s to defend. He’s not at a superstar level, but is growing as a scoring wing and is on track for a mid-20’s points per game season, if his past years are any indication. 

The hype is real. pic.twitter.com/y55S9GjQuM

— Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) September 22, 2017

Then, there are the two offseason acquisitions, Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague. Butler is the star of the two, as he grew into one of the best wing players in the NBA on the Chicago Bulls. He’ll head toward a defensive battle with Danny Green, which should be a fun matchup to open the season and continue on. Teague is a quality point guard that will dish a few passes but provide a better scoring punch than the outgoing Ricky Rubio.

There are four offensive threats for the Spurs to match. They have two capable defenders, but will anyone else equal this firepower?

Next: Rockets

LOS ANGELES, CA – JULY 30: Houston Rockets guards James Harden (13) and Chris Paul (3) talk during a Drew League game at King Drw Magnet High School on July 30th, 2017. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA – JULY 30: Houston Rockets guards James Harden (13) and Chris Paul (3) talk during a Drew League game at King Drw Magnet High School on July 30th, 2017. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

2. Houston Rockets

The No. 2 team is the Houston Rockets, who many have as second best in the NBA. It stems from two players, James Harden and Chris Paul.

Harden took over the point guard duties in 2016-17, in head coach Mike D’Antoni’s first season. It worked out spectacularly, with a career-high in points (29.1), assists (11.1) and rebounds (8.1). Russell Westbrook’s triple-double average led to him winning the NBA MVP over Harden.

Will the Beard hold this spot, though? No, but with good reason, with Houston’s acquisition of Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers.

Paul and Harden will be a feared 1-2 duo for the San Antonio Spurs to face. They’ll provide offensive firepower that not just the Spurs, but any NBA team will face trouble matching it. Look for almost 50 points per game between the two, if not more.

This doesn’t factor the rest of the team, most of which will shoot from the outside and play zero defense. There are intriguing inside presences, too, like rookie Zhou Qi and Clint Capela. How big of an impact will they provide? Are they obstacles for the Spurs?

Offensively, the Rockets will be tough to stop. The defense won’t be a problem, but all their weapons have the chance to balance that out.

Next: Warriors

1. Golden State Warriors

Without question, the Golden State Warriors are the biggest challenge to the San Antonio Spurs. That also goes for the other 28 NBA teams.

The core that won the 2017 NBA championship will return, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Title experience, MVP wins, All-Star Game appearances, scoring titles, 3-point shooting and more are what this group brings to the table. Most, if not all teams, can’t match that.

More from Air Alamo

Defending all four is a task in itself. Curry, Durant, and Thompson are offensive forces. If it weren’t for the latter two, the Washington State product would be the star of this team, averaging well over 20 points per game. Green’s a great talent, too, while the bench is loaded with Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, JaVale McGee, Patrick McCaw and Nick Young. Zaza Pachulia is a solid presence at center to fill out the starting lineup.

This team will be the favorites to win their third NBA championship in four years. It’s a dynasty in the making, if not one already. The Spurs could be Golden State’s toughest opponent to prevent this from happening, but that won’t be known until the 2018 playoff gets here.

Must Read: 25 greatest players in Spurs history

What teams present the toughest challenge to the Spurs?

facebooktwitterreddit