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San Antonio Spurs: Return to defensive dominance is a few steps away

By Matty Farner
San Antonio Spurs v Washington Wizards
San Antonio Spurs v Washington Wizards / Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
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San Antonio Spurs Jakob Poeltl / Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

Signs of improvement for the San Antonio Spurs

Despite their emerging roster, however, they haven't been able to regain that identity as a top-five defensive team in the league, but they are closer than people think. Prior to the All-Star break, the Spurs found themselves in the top ten in the NBA in defensive efficiency. By the end of the season, they fell outside the top ten finishing fourteenth, right in the middle of the pack.

A big reason for that decline can be attributed to COVID running rampant through the roster, disrupting the team during their hottest streak of the season and forcing them into an absolutely brutal second-half schedule. It's not crazy to assume they perhaps could have remained among the best in the league on defense had they not have such a hectic schedule after the break.

To go back to being a top-five defense would almost certainly guarantee that the Spurs find themselves back in the playoffs even if their offense continues to lag behind. So what still has to happen? For one, just as the Spurs are all looking for internal improvements from certain players on the offensive end, they are also looking for improvements on the defensive end from certain players as well.

One area the front office must address this offseason is the frontcourt issue. When their starting center Jakob took a seat whether due to foul trouble or just rest, the Spurs defense suffered tremendously. Drew Eubanks is a hard worker and quietly carved out some nice performances, but he is simply not good enough to be a second-string center playing 15-20 minutes a game.

Gorgui Dieng was a solid pickup but didn't really earn Coach Popovich's trust until the end of the season when it was too late. Hopefully, that doesn't factor into his decision entering free agency.