It’s time to stop counting the San Antonio Spurs out or expecting them to miss the playoffs. The Western Conference has gotten better but this Spurs team is, without a doubt, one of the top eight in the conference.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but NBA writers are counting out the San Antonio Spurs once again. It should come as no surprise. This kind of stuff happens every year. This time it came from Bleacher Report who included the Spurs in their list of the most disappointing teams of the season.
Among the reasons included for predicting Spurs to miss the playoffs and being one of the five most disappointing teams in the league were their defensive deficiencies, departure of key three-point shooter Davis Bertans, and a deep and improved Western Conference.
Valid points to be sure. But at some point, you have to wonder, have these people been watching the same team we have over the past two decades? Have they not been paying attention?
Predicting the Spurs to miss the playoffs is like saying that Tom Brady and the Patriots won’t be playing post-season football. Sure, you can make your case. But eventually, it just seems futile. At some point, you have to look at the body of work throughout this millennium and accept that San Antonio is post-season bound.
It’s true, the Spurs defense last season was not as good as it has been in years past. But there are real reasons for optimism. Dejounte Murray‘s return, Derrick White‘s growth, and the addition of DeMarre Carroll should all help bolster a defense that needs to turn around.
Murray was an NBA All-Defensive Second Team member the last time we saw him. He is coming back from a torn ACL but at the Spurs recent media, Gregg Popovich was raving about how fast he looked. He’s a complete game-changer for how the Spurs approach each game defensively. Pair him with White, one of the best defensive guards in the league, and Carroll and you’ll have a much improved defensive unit.
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While the Bleacher Report article was sure to highlight the Spurs low three-point shooting volume, it failed to mention their league-leading accuracy. San Antonio didn’t shoot a ton of three’s but they were incredibly accurate, connecting on 39 percent of their attempts.
Losing Bertans does sting, there’s no denying that. But between Rudy Gay and Bryn Forbes, both of whom shot at or above 40 percent from behind the arc last year, and Carroll (a career 36 percent shooter from deep) the Spurs have plenty of players who can pick up the slack.
It’s unquestionable that the Western Conference as a whole improved. The Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers both added star players. The Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz were able to set up a pairs of dynamic guards in their backcourts as well. While the rest of the West is banking on pairing stars together, the Spurs are banking on continuity.
Another year of DeMar DeRozan getting comfortable with the team and another year of growth for players like White and Lonnie Walker should help the team improve from last year. LaMarcus Aldridge’s dominance of the post and mid-range doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. The idea that teams like the Kings, Thunder, and Pelicans will finish ahead of the Spurs just doesn’t seem likely.
The San Antonio Spurs have gone through various iterations of the same successful franchise. They’ve adjusted to every change that the NBA has gone through and they’ve made the playoffs every single year despite what people may think of them at the beginning of the season.
At some point, you’d think that people would come around to the fact that, barring catastrophe, this team is going to make the playoffs. Popovich and his team will find a way no matter what. That’s been the case for the past two decades and it’s not going to change now.
If they’re asked about it, Popovich and company will say they don’t care about what is said about them, and that’s probably true. They’re far too focused on making the playoffs for an NBA record 23rd year to worry about what anyone has to say about them.