San Antonio Spurs: Reactions to low early-season power rankings

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 08: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs celebrates with LaMarcus Aldridge #12 and Dejounte Murray #5 during the game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 08: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs celebrates with LaMarcus Aldridge #12 and Dejounte Murray #5 during the game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The San Antonio Spurs placed pretty low in some recent power rankings

The San Antonio Spurs didn’t stun the sports world with any moves this offseason. They quietly went about their business, made smart decisions in the draft, brought the right free agents in, and are heading into this season better than they were a few months ago.

The problem facing the Spurs is that even if they’ve gotten better, so has the rest of the Western Conference. There are legitimately 14 teams in the West with playoff aspirations.

It won’t be easy but the Spurs have a real shot at making the playoffs. They should be better on defense than they were last year and it sounds like they’re going to be keeping up the pace as well.

Unfortunately, not everyone shares our optimism, here are where a few experts recently ranked the Spurs in their early preseason power rankings.

NBA.com

NBA.com and writer John Schuhmann have the San Antonio Spurs ranked as the 13th team in the Western Conference. The Spurs placed ahead of the Sacramento Kings and Oklahoma City Thunder and behind the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Schuhmann had some positive notes in his analysis, one of which focused on the Spurs’ historically good shooting season.

“The Spurs were the 34th team in the 41 years of the 3-point line to rank in the top 5 in field goal percentage (47.2%, fifth), 3-point percentage (37.6%, fourth), and free throw percentage (81.0%, second). They were only the second of those 34 teams to miss the playoffs, joining the 1979-80 Jazz (first year of the 3-point line).”

But he also pointed out the incredibly low rates at which the Spurs got their shots from within the restricted area and from 3-point range.

That was an issue for the Spurs last year but should be something that doesn’t hurt them as much this time around. Gregg Popovich has been open in his desire to get the team to play the same way they did in the bubble.

They probably won’t turn into the Houston Rockets overnight and start unloading from deep on teams but they’ll almost certainly but a greater emphasis on getting 3-point shots off this year than they have in previous seasons.

Bleacher Report

The San Antonio Spurs fared better in the Bleacher Report Post-Free Agency Power Rankings, placing 20th in the NBA, ahead of the Kings, Thunder, and Wolves.

I don’t have an issue with the ranking as much as I do Greg Swartz’s categorization of the Spurs offseason. Swartz labeled the Spurs as “content to remain in NBA purgatory” and claimed that the team did nothing in free agency to address their poor defense.

San Antonio didn’t go out and hunt for impactful defenders to bring to their team but there’s a slim chance that they’re going to be as bad on defense as they were last year and their moves this offseason have a lot to do with that.

They chose to let Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli, two of the worst defenders on the team, walk away. They made re-signing Jakob Poeltl, one of the best young rim protectors in the NBA back, a priority. Finally, they used both of their draft picks on two of the best defenders in this draft class. But yes, please continue to tell me how they did nothing to address their defense.

And while their eventual standing in the rankings might reflect their “contentment to remain in NBA purgatory” there’s clearly been an ideological shift within the organization.

This isn’t a team like Charlotte who is going out and signing former All-Stars to $120 million dollar deals just to fight for the last spot in the playoffs. Gregg Popovich and the coaching staff are leading the buy-in to the up-tempo style of play that worked so well for the Young Spurs towards the end of the season.

They might end up as a fringe playoff team but make no mistake, the Spurs are not content to remain there. They’re fighting to return to the top of the Western Conference and are willing to build around their young core to see if that takes them there.

Ranking all 5 Spurs championship teams. Next

In all likelihood, we’re going to the San Antonio Spurs ranked somewhere in the low-20’s for much of the regular season. Barring an explosive start to the season, this is a team that many will overlook. But that’s fine, the Spurs prefer it that way.

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