As everyone who follows professional basketball knows, the San Antonio Spurs have long been considered the best of the best. An organization that inspires greatness from their players, espouses a “team first” attitude in all things and has enough hardware and championship banners to show everyone that their way of thinking works on a long-term scale.
It’s why whenever you talk to any of the many NBA franchises that are rebuilding, they talk of using the “Spurs model” or of trying to do things the “Spurs way.”
It’s a big part of the reason why the Spurs are the early favorites to repeat as champions. When ESPN wrapped up it’s Summer Forecast for the NBA, the Spurs got the most votes as the team that will eventually win the title this season with 186. The Cleveland Cavaliers were next with 121 followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder with 115.
It would seem the Spurs are finally getting the respect they deserve from the media and, looking at the roster, there is no reason the Spurs couldn’t repeat and win back-to-back championships for the first time in franchise history. With the core of the roster returning and NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard looking more and more like the apparent heir to the Spurs dynasty, what could stop them?
Well, several things actually.
If the Spurs are going to repeat as NBA Champions, it’s going to have to be case of everything going right for them over the course of the 82-game season and them being able to compensate when things do go wrong.
Tim Duncan is 38 years old. Manu Ginobili is 37. Tony Parker is 32. Danny Green is 27. Do you notice a trend forming? This Spurs roster is old, older than almost all the other franchises in the NBA. It gives them a depth and experience that other teams can’t match, but also makes them very vulnerable to injury and just running out of gas. It’s something the team was able to manage very well last season on the way to a 62-20 record that landed them in first place in the Western Conference, but things have changed.
The Thunder and Kevin Durant are desperate to win a title and to do it now. The same can be said of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Dallas Mavericks have improved with the addition of Chandler Parsons and the Portland Trail Blazers are on the edge of becoming one of the NBA’s elite teams again.
Plus, for the first time, the Spurs have a target on their back.
For years the Spurs have been an organization that flew under the radar. The rest of the league knew they were good and a viable threat, but a threat no one really took seriously. Bill Reiter from FOXSports.com may have put it best when he said:
“For more than a decade, the Spurs have won championships and helped to largely shape this era’s history of the game despite being wholly unappreciated. They are too boring, they play too slowly, they are from too small of a market, there is no there there …”
In other words, no matter how good the Spurs played, no one gave them much respect. But that is no longer the case.
After beating LeBron James and the Miami Heat 4-1 in the NBA Finals last year, the rest of the league stood up and took notice. Now everyone is well aware of just how good this team is and what they are capable of doing to even an elite franchise on any given night.
That means teams are going to be gunning for the Spurs. They will be ready for what the Spurs bring to the table and how to shut it down, especially in the Western Conference. There will be no easy victories for San Antonio this season and the road to the Finals will be a lot more complicated than it was last year.
But this is the San Antonio Spurs we’re talking about. They know what it takes to win and it would appear they are already taking steps to improve, which, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, includes trying to sign three-point expert Ray Allen and looking at power forward Gustavo Ayon of the Atlanta Hawks.
The Spurs are one of the NBA’s elite teams. Of that there is no question, and winning back-to-back titles is completely doable for this roster. The question then becomes how much more difficult the rest of the NBA is going to make it for them.