Every year, I go into the NBA season think it’s going to finally be the year when the San Antonio Spurs just don’t have it anymore and every year, they prove me wrong.
It just defies logic at this point. Just when Tim Duncan was starting to look like he was heading towards washed up, he puts together a brilliant performance in the 2012 playoffs, then followed that up with his best season in years and a well-deserved All-Star spot.
Manu Ginobili started the year on a rough note, but lately he’s gotten his groove back and once again he’s one of the best sixth men in the league. Even Tony Parker, the youngest of the Spurs “Big Three” is in his 12th year in the league, but he looks as skilled as ever, as his last two seasons have likely been the best of his career?
So, can the Spurs keep this up forever?
Actually, they probably can. Or at the very least, they should be able to keep winning for the next half-decade, even as basketball writers (myself included) continue to predict their impending implosion.
Let’s take a look at the situation: Duncan is 36 now and as he gets older, he will reach a point where he can no longer be a major contributor to the team. The thing is, I’m not sure that’s going to be as soon as we think. Duncan appears to have temporarily reversed the aging process and is putting up great numbers with a relatively low minutes per game.
Duncan will get tired if he logs in too much time, but his ability to be extremely productive when he is on the court almost entirely mitigates that issue.
Keep in mind, Duncan plays in an era where players are frequently able to stretch out their careers far longer than in the old days. Just look at Steve Nash, and Jason Kidd. Neither is in his prime, but both are still playing great ball and contributing heavily to their teams.
Duncan will have to retire one day, but it’s not a huge stretch to think he could play at a high level for a few more years. He’s an extremely hard worker and he plays in an era where extremely lengthy careers are hardly unthinkable.
As for Parker, well, he’s not even that old yet. Only 30 to be specific, so he should have a few more seasons of his prime. People seem to forget how (relatively) young Parker is, if only because the conversation about the Spurs is always about how old they are. Really, the biggest reason why they should keep winning is that they have a top flight point guard will probably seven or eight more seasons–and maybe even more than that. These days, a solid starting point guard is the biggest of component towards putting together a successful team and the Spurs should be set in that department for years to come.
As for Ginobili, he’s getting older, too, and at the start of the season, it looked like his prime had finally reached its end. As the season has progressed, however, Ginobili has looked better and better and he’s proven that he still has a little bit left in the tank. At some point, though, he will fall off, and the Spurs will have a hard time replacing him.
He’s one of the most dynamic, efficient offensive players in the game and you’re unlikely to find anyone else like him. That’s why when they time comes, I think the Spurs will largely attempt to replace him by committee.
Normally, this would be difficult, but with coach Gregg Popovich at the helm, it’s more plausible than one might guess.
Popovich is great at getting production out of players who flounder in other systems. You’d be hard-pressed to find too many players who wouldn’t thrive with him leading the way. San Antonio has more 3-point threats than any other team in the league and I suspect that when Ginobili retires, Popovich will replace him him with two or three efficient shooters who can combine to replicate his production.
There’s only one Ginobili, but Popovich is the rare coach who can create a close replica using multiple pieces.
So, yeah, the Spurs are going to continue being good. I’m done fooling myself into thinking this team is going to fall off every year. Duncan has too much longevity and Popovich is too good of a coach for that to happen. Whether or not they can put it all together and make a legitimate title run is another discussion, but the Spurs will likely be in the hunt for years to come.
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