2014-2015 NBA Season Analysis- San Antonio Spurs
What else can I say about the San Antonio Spurs? Team basketball has made them the most successful franchise over the last 15 years (tied with the Lakers in titles, but better overall results when failing to win the ring). With one of the best coaches in NBA History in Gregg Popovich, the seemingly ever-lasting big three, some young rising stars like Kawhi Leonard and some additional pieces that contribute perfectly to the idea of team basketball, we can assume they’ll be one of the top teams in the NBA once again.
Coach: Gregg Popovich
PG: Tony Parker; Patrick Mills; Corey Joseph
SG: Danny Green; Manu Ginobili
SF: Kawhi Leonard; Marco Belinelli; Kyle Anderson (Rookie)
PF: Boris Diaw; Matt Bonner; Austin Daye
C: Tim Duncan; Tiago Splitter; Aron Baynes; Jeff Aires
Let’s first try to analyze the Spurs’ smooth offense in detail:
Obviously, when you think of the Spurs’ offense, you have to talk about team basketball, ball movement, the extra pass and so on.
It’s interesting how this team has evolved from a team that used to rely mainly on defence and their big three’s production, into one that just kills you with amazing team basketball on the offensive end of the court.
They’re now a team that moves the ball extremely well, always looks for the extra pass and makes a great use of the corners to get open shots for their outstanding shooters (Danny Green, Patty Mills, Belinelli, Ginobili, Matt Bonner, a much improved Parker from downtown…). This threat also allows the veteran Duncan to still get things done in the paint (his production is still amazing at the age of 38). They have also picked several guys with high basketball IQ and great passing skills to support this idea of basketball, mainly Boris Diaw (who seemed to have lost his way in Charlotte), but also Splitter, who can certainly pass the ball well and find the open man.
Another outstanding weapon for them is obviously high pick & rolls for Tony Parker. This is just a nightmare for the opposing team’s defence. If you decide to go under the screen, he can knock outside shots down all night long (even from 3-point range), and if you go over the screen, he will get to the paint, and we all know he’s probably the best in the league finishing at the rim from the guard spot. You can make it tougher for him by rotating over, but he can certainly find the open man in the perimeter and this can really lead to trouble with the bunch of great shooters they’ve got. My suggestion is then to try to switch after every screen; because although he can certainly make you pay for it, I believe that’s the best way to minimize their weapon (we saw the Dallas Mavericks do this in the first round of last year’s Playoffs with some success, although you need to have versatile defenders like Shawn Marion).
Let’s not forget about the last NBA Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard. His improvement is just amazing and he’s become an all around player that can really help them in a variety of ways. I’ll talk about his defence later, but offensively he’s developed a more than decent outside shot, he can really post-up players and he can beat you off the dribble and finish at the rim with authority. So he’s a rising star who has become a great offensive weapon for the San Antonio Spurs.
Also, Ginobili’s ability to handle the basketball and create plays for others makes the second unit stronger and allows the point guards to play off the ball.
It’s now time for the defensive end of the court:
Although they’ve evolved into a great offensive team, the Spurs are still a good defensive team. Pretty much like they do in the offensive end of the court, they mostly rely on team defence, but they’ve got some elite individual defenders in the perimeter in Kawhi Leonard (who can defend any guard or small forward rather successfully) and Danny Green (certainly a better defender than most people think). Also, guys like Splitter, the veteran Duncan, Aires, Baynes o Diaw make things tough for the opposing big men in the paint.
Getting back to Kawhi and Green, it’s such a great weapon to have great, versatile individual defenders who can switch constantly in defence, and even defend point guards to allow Tony Parker to guard just spot-up shooters or less capable offensive players. I believe zone defence can be a great weapon for them when these two players are not on the court, because they don’t have great outside individual defenders in the second unit (arguably just Cory Joseph), and you protect them more this way.
Finally, what really amazes me is the ability of the Spurs and their coach to make unknown, struggling (or call it whatever you want) players improve in such a way that they become completely new players who really help the team whenever they come out and play (we’ve got some good examples in Mills, Baynes, Joseph, even Danny Green, and many more).
Likely Starting Line-up
Parker – Green – Leonard – Duncan – Splitter
You have to be pretty consistent throughout the whole Regular Season to get to the top spots in the Western Conference, but with all the talent they’ve got, their idea of basketball, the deep roster and the great coaching staff, my prediction is the Spurs will clinch #1 spot in the West again (although it’s not gonna be easy and I believe the final standings will be pretty tigh).
Let's finish by taking a look at some of the top plays from the Spurs' players in the past years.