Culture of Hoops

It’s Early, But We Always Forget About the San Antonio Spurs, Don’t We?

Image courtesy of Kawhi Leonard/Facebook.

Image courtesy of Kawhi Leonard/Facebook.

Oh, these San Antonio Spurs. We non-Spurs fans always seem to take them and how good their system is for granted, don’t we? What are the NBA basketball odds for them again? Does it really matter? They’re always going to be contenders as long as R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich are a part of the machine. Let’s just make that a definitive truth the same way we know that the sun rises everyday somewhere on earth.

It’s only about four or five games in for most NBA teams, but a look through the standings as of this writing and you won’t see the preseason favorites sitting atop any of the divisions: Brooklyn Nets in the Atlantic, Milwaukee Bucks in the Central, Orlando Magic (actually tied with majority group think choice, Washington Wizards) in the Southeast, Portland Trail Blazers in the Northwest, Los Angeles Clippers in the Pacific, and… oh wait. It’s those pesky and undefeated Spurs in the Southwest. So, there you go, one team most of us thought before the season started that would win their division (apologies to the Houston Rockets and savvy addition of Chris Paul) is actually leading their division this very, very early part of the NBA season.

Did I mention that perennial NBA MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard hasn’t played a game yet, including preseason with a thigh injury?

It seems that no matter the situation, the Spurs are always going to excel because it’s just in their make-up, passed down from team-to-team; David Robinson and Sean Elliott to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili to Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge has been the Spurs main man, averaging a career-best 26.0 points (yes, I know, ridiculously small sample) and 8.8 rebounds per game. Before the season, there was some talk about whether or not the Spurs would/should re-sign him, especially considering how relatively disappointing he’s been while with the Spurs the past couple of seasons. However, they did, and it looks like he’s responding while stepping up without Leonard around.

But, if you pay attention, you’ll know, it’s really about the role players in San Antonio, those that always seem to come out of nowhere. Last year it was Jonathon Simmons and Dewayne Dedmon, both of whom received very nice contracts from other teams this past offseason. So, which forgotten/role players will be the Simmons/Dedmon of last season?

While a star of sorts in the past, but definitely having fallen, it looks like Rudy Gay is feeling that Spurs vibe and is playing efficiently, owning an outstanding 25.9 PER, while scoring 14.8 points a game. Even when Kawhi comes back, Gay should continue to be an integral part of the Spurs’ success as a veteran scorer. The real standout player though has to be second-year point guard, Dejounte Murray, who has been starting at the 1 with Tony Parker sidelined, after beating out former standout Spurs role player, Patty Mills, for the job. Murray is averaging 10 points, 4.3 assists, and a surprising 8.0 rebounds in the Spurs’ four contests in only 26 minutes per game. He’s shooting an improved and respectable 47.2 percent from the field and owns an excellent 18.33 PER.

How are the Spurs doing it? The way they always do, with efficiency and defense (second-best in the NBA at 93.3 opponents points per game). They own an NBA fourth best 9.8 plus/minus with the top two teams (Clippers at +25.3 and Blazers at 18.2) performing unsustainable numbers. It’s a good bet that the Spurs are able to maintain their plus/minus because if they’re anything, it’s consistent. So much so, it’s basically a “Ho hum, the Spurs are going to Spur” type of attitude by non-Spurs fans with the team easily falling back into our minds until our team plays them. Then the reaction is more like, “Holy crap, these Spurs people are really good!” Let’s try not to forget.

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