Highs and Lows: San Antonio Spurs

10.09.08 9 years ago 61 Comments
Tim DuncanTim Duncan (photo. adidas)

The NBA preseason is underway. While we wait for the real games to start, we’re going team-by-team, from 1 to 30, exploring where each team’s ceiling is for the upcoming season and where their basement is. In other words, what are the realistic best-case and worst-case scenarios for each squad?

Additions: PG George Hill, SG Roger Mason Jr., SG Salim Stoudamire.

Losses: SG Brent Barry, PG Damon Stoudamire, PF Robert Horry.

Ceiling: NBA championship
If you’re into quirky stats and neat little trends, the mere fact that we’re going into an odd-numbered year is enough to put the Spurs (NBA champs in ’99, ’03, ’05 and ’07) high on the list of title contenders worth putting money on. Even if numerology isn’t your style, no matter what digit you tack on to the end of the calendar, you still have to recognize San Antonio as a championship favorite. Is Tim Duncan in the midst of that inevitable athletic decline that manifests itself even faster for seven-footers? Sure. But seeing as he registered 19.3 points, 11.3 boards and 1.9 blocks last season — then bumped those numbers to 20.2, 14.5 and 2.1 in the playoffs — there are still, at best, maybe three ballplayers in the entire world you’d rather have on your side if you needed to win a game today. Some of the other “old” Spurs that were exposed in the playoffs (Barry, Stoudamire, Horry) have been replaced by new blood (Mason, Hill, Ian Mahinmi), while effective vets like Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas, Ime Udoka and Mike Finley are still around. Tony Parker is in his prime at 26, and no one remembers this, but he gave it to Chris Paul in the conference semis just as well as he got it. In typical Spurs fashion, they’ll start slow — especially with Manu Ginobili missing significant time following offseason ankle surgery — but after the All-Star break, San Antone will get the wheels in motion to kick it into that “invincible” gear come playoff time.

Basement: Second-round playoff exit
The elements exist for the perfect storm that would result in the Spurs underachieving like they never have in the Duncan era. Ginobili’s long layoff could put San Antonio in an early hole that, as tough as the Southwest Division is (Rockets, Hornets, Mavs), will be harder to climb out of, especially as the Spurs are trying to integrate newcomers into the mix. And what if Mahinmi isn’t as good as the organization thinks he is? What if this is the year Duncan noticeably goes downhill? What if Ginobili is never quite himself after he returns? What if Salim Stoudamire and Mason can’t replace the outside shooting they got from Barry? What if they lost some kind of lucky charm by letting Horry go? If the Spurs end up with a lower seed going into the playoffs (meaning no home-court in the first round), there are definitely a few teams in the West that could take them out. However…Duncan has never in his career lost in the first round of the playoffs. And he still has the NBA’s best backcourt on his side, the NBA’s best coach, and a solid group of vets who know their roles and don’t get rattled. The Spurs-haters would love to see them fall, but this isn’t the year.

’08-09 NBA preview archives
10/8 — Chicago Bulls
10/6 — Oklahoma City Thunder
10/3 — Washington Wizards
10/2 — Utah Jazz
10/1 — Charlotte Bobcats
9/30 — Memphis Grizzlies
9/26 — Toronto Raptors
9/25 — New Orleans Hornets
9/24 — Atlanta Hawks
9/23 — Sacramento Kings
9/22 — Miami Heat
9/19 — Portland Trail Blazers
9/18 — New Jersey Nets
9/17 — Minnesota Timberwolves
9/16 — Cleveland Cavaliers
9/15 — Phoenix Suns
9/12 — Milwaukee Bucks
9/11 — L.A. Clippers
9/10 — Orlando Magic

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