Spurs Will Claim Their 5th Title
2014 is the year for the Spurs
Spurs went down to the Miami Heat in 7 games in last year's finals. Forward one year later and it's apparent the Spurs are deeper, healthier and hungry as ever before. Everything clicked on all cylinders for the Spurs leading them to the best record in the NBA with 62 wins. Their execution and overall play in addition, has been precisely a surreal delight.
Nothing is more dangerous than a team on a mission, as we know the Spurs are disparate to get rid of the bad taste left by an NBA finals defeat last year.
We're on the eve of the play-offs and of course Miami Heat, the top dogs of the Eastern Conference present the biggest challenge for the Spurs, yet again. And Miami knows the team finishing first in the Western Conference is coming to take what they believe should have been their possession, because they were a whisker away from winning game 7. Spurs will walk in as favourite in a rubber match and dethrone the 2 time champions. The team in black and white just seem to be better collectively, with more options.
Why coach Popovich and his players won't be denied a championship in 2014
The foundations were established around the catalysts of the big 3 - Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, which cultivated an amazing winning culture for the franchise.
These days spurs MVP Parker and Duncan have had another blinder of a season. Parker is still in his prime years though, on the other hand the twilight years can't seem to slow down the ageless Duncan one bit. It's an indicative to the sort of professional Duncan is.
Going back to Tony Parker. Any reasonable debate over the best point guard in the NBA begins and ends with Chris Paul. If Paul remains the better player, Parker is having the better season. The argument can even be made that no point guard is playing the position better than Parker has this season. Parker deserves a mention as a bronze medal finalist right behind Lebron and Durant.
The Spurs offense doesn’t rely on Parker’s individual brilliance throughout the game, merely that he executes the offense ably. In this he does a better job than Chris Paul himself, though to be fair the Clippers’ sets are not nearly as intricate as those the Spurs run. To be clear, there isn’t a single point guard in the NBA that executes his team’s offense with the precision that Parker does.
If Parker still lacks the otherworldly vision and creativity that Paul has, he’s mastered the Spurs system to a degree it hardly matters. Parker knows every release valve in his offense for every action a defense might take against him.
Manu can't help but be the renowned unorthodox on the court. With him, the Spurs incorporate an element of extreme unpredictability. The combinations of versatility, talent, unselfishness and Manu, enables their offensive scheme to be more subtle.
Manu was rusty and wobbly in the 2013 Finals, in what was honestly an injury plagued season a year ago. That was the blame for his performance, not because his days were numbered like some analysts suggested. 2013-14 has been a kinder season, hence, the form of the old Manu has reminiscent. A 100% Manu eager to make a statement becomes a very dangerous weapon on your side.
Not without a mention from the stellar supporting cast
1) Kahwi Leonard: The small forward has upped his scoring average in each season since he's been in the league in 2011. Though, his statistics after his first 41 games were slightly less significant than his numbers from last season's playoff push. Kahwi averaged 11.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.7 steals on 51.7% before suffering a broken hand and missing 14 games during January and February.
The Spurs went 8-6 during that span.
When he returned, the fortunes for both Leonard and Spurs improved. Leonard averaged 14.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.8 steals on 53% shooting over his final 25 games. His first game back was also the beginning of a 19 game win streak for the Spurs.
Leonard now is undeniably one of the integral pieces for the Spurs. Spurs at full strength with an improving Leonard are developing into a deadlier beast every week that goes by.
2) Boris Diaw: From last year to this year, Mr. Nonchalance dropped a good twenty pounds off his body weight. And it paid dividends. Boris Diaw is looking like a much younger athlete in the process. He regained his speed and bounce back (after years of neglect) and that ignited confidence in his overall game, including 3 point shooting; up 40.1% from last year's 38%.
In his first two years with San Antonio, Diaw averaged 5.25 points per game, his third year was his breakout moment where he averaged 9.1 points per game.
Diaw is as versatile as a Swiss army knife and in his current form, he might be another influential ingredient for the Spurs title hopes come June 2014.
3) Patty Mills: Worked his way up to the second fiddle role behind Tony Parker this season. The laser quick Australian point guard scores from anywhere in the half court, more importantly, fills buckets in a flash. He's the prototypical spark plug needed off the bench.
Frankly the point guard position has never been more secured, operated by the tandem of Tony Parker/Patty Mills/Cory Joseph.
4) Tiago Splitter: The Brazilian starting center complements Duncan quite superbly. Tiago Splitter's ability to put the ball on the floor, particularly in pick n roll plays, frees up plenty of space for Duncan; causing chaos for the opposing defenses.
After four seasons in the league Tiago's offensive output remain very modest. And while it's been a disappointment for a player who hasn't lived up to his expectations, calling him useless would be absurd. Logically speaking, if any player earned his stripes, then in the eyes of Popovic he's serviceable enough.
In fact it's been over a decade since San Antonio Spurs showcased a higher caliber center.
Tiago is coming along strongly and that's been the difference these days. There's a marked improvement in another dimension where its not measured in the stat sheet. Tiago has drawn charges, traded elbows, out muscled who ever and wrestled bodies for position at a substantial higher rate than ever before.
The new found toughness in Tiago now brings some devastation in his play, building an air of increased confidence and jubilation for his teammates in return.
The 3 point shooting is a vital part of San Antonio's offense
The 3 point contest at 2014 NBA All Stars introduced Marco Belinelli as the most accurate long distance shooter. At the end of 2013, Belinelli was supplemented to a stable of 3 point shooters and subsequently, San Antonio Spurs ascended from respectable to exceptional in 3 point shooting.
Not one, not two, not three, but four Spurs were inducted in the regular season's top 12 in 3 point field goal percentage. Marco Belinelli (at 43%), Matt Bonner (at 42.9%), Patty Mills (at 42.4%) and Danny Green (at 41.5%) coincided with the rest of the 3 point shooters on the team, to create an atomic bomb.
When the Spurs knocked down their average of 8.5 3 pointers a game, they ended up winning 70% of the time. Baffling statistic!