The San Antonio Spurs’ deep playoff run was, for many, ended to abruptly by an offensive juggernaut in Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
For the basketball purists, and surprisingly for the average basketball fan, the Spurs precision ball movement was surgical-like and easy on the eye. How can you not love watching the crisp and calculated passing by the Spurs offense. Their philosophy is simple but overwhelmingly effective- make the extra pass and if you have a good look you better take it or it will be bench time.
Forever the master of squeezing out every drop of talent on his roster, Coach Pop completed another wonderful season as the head coach. Led by Pop and the Big Three, the Spurs fast tempo offense destroyed the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers in the post-season. The Spurs reached 20 consecutive wins in the Western Conference Finals and it seemed San Antonio was on the verge of becoming America’s team as the Miami Heat looked the likely foe in the Finals.
Leading 2-0 against OKC, the other Big Three, Durant and Co, went whack, and sent the once red-hot Spurs fishing. Big shot after ridiculous shot, the Thunder just had the answers down the stretch as the old fellas of San Antonio could only watch as the new kids on the block took control.
Since 2007, the Spurs have been written off. The headlines were always the same- “Spurs are too old” or “its time to break up the core”. Actually, if you ask any of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili or Tim Duncan, they would all tell you that America has been ignoring them since their 2003 Championship. Yet, despite plenty of media pundits writing off the Spurs, General Manager R.C. Buford and Coach Pop continue to put together championship contending teams.
We should not expect anything different for next season.
Of course, the Spurs’ title hopes hinge on the Big Three’s health, starting from the top with Duncan. Yes, as the Spurs acknowledged this season that this is Parker’s team. Very true. Yet, the Spurs have no Championship aspirations if Duncan is not healthy. Duncan, 36 years, is close to retirement and there is a possibility that he will call it quits on his Hall Of Fame Career this offseason. No Duncan, no championship. Its all pretty simple.
If Duncan decides to play on then the city of San Antonio can still dream of Number Five.
If healthy, the Big Three can be the most devastating trio in the NBA.
For those who think Duncan is not capable of being a productive player next season, one should only have to look at this last game of 25 points and 14 rebounds against OKC.
However, the problems that lie with San Antonio is finding role players who can withstand the bright lights and pressure of the playoffs.
Guard Danny Green enjoyed a breakout season to say the least. He stepped up when Ginobili endured a stretch of injuries and continued to play solid basketball up to the WCF. His three-point shooting, athleticism and defence was his hallmarks. Yet, when the pressure was at at its most intense, he faltered. He shot below 25 percent from long range and lost his starting job in game 5 and never got it back. Green has time on his side, at the young age of 25, this playoff experience should only make him wiser. But can the Spurs bank on Green not to go missing again when the heat is really on? In the first two rounds he shot 43 and 58 percent from beyond the arc. Yet, the Spurs swept those two series. Hardly pressure-cookers.
Another important role player went missing, but not for the first time. The Red Rocket Matt Bonner enjoyed another solid season, perhaps, his most complete season yet, as his defensive awareness improved and his 3-point shooting continued to be a weapon throughout the regular season. Unfortunately, Bonner was nowhere to be found in the post season, again. He shot poorly at 31 percent from 3-point land throughout the playoffs. In the WCF, he shot a pathetic 11 percent from beyond the arc. If his threes are not falling he has little use. When he does shoot the ball well he spreads the floor and gives Duncan room to work in the post. In previous playoffs, his stat line reads similar to 2012. Unlike Danny Green, his papers are surely stamped. With the reported likelihood of European big man Erazem Lorbek making his way to the Silver and Black, Bonner might be the casualty.
So what do the Spurs need to do to stay in the top echelon of NBA teams? As the WCF’s showed, the Spurs need more productive play at the Power Forward position. A PF with length and an ability to run the floor will keep the Alamo City still dreaming of another championship. If Duncan decides to play on and take a pay-cut then San Antonio should be hunting a talented PF like a Roy Hibbert or Javale Mcgee.
This offseason shall be very interesting as we might see some roster changes.
What will not change is the Spurs’ championship aspirations will be pinned to Duncan’s summer of decisions.