The core of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginóbili and Tony Parker—together for 10 seasons and counting—got some help last year from rookie forward Kawhi Leonard, a defensive stopper in the Bruce Bowen mold who connected on 39.7% of his threes after the All-Star break and 45.0% in the playoffs. Coach Gregg Popovich says Leonard will have an enhanced role this season, particularly in the pick-and-roll, San Antonio's bread-and-butter play.
That leaves the middle, where Pop will—for now, at least—use a committee approach. DeJuan Blair, last season's starter, came to camp significantly slimmed down, but Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner offer more offensive punch. Tiago Splitter more than doubled his scoring average in his second season while his free throw shooting jumped from 54.3% to an almost-respectable 69.1%. If one of those big bodies can own the position, the Spurs will once again be in the title mix in the West.
COACH: Gregg Popovich (17th season with Spurs)
October 29, 2012
2011--12 RECORD: 50--16 (1st in Southwest)
OFFENSE: 103.7 ppg (2nd)
DEFENSE: 96.5 ppg (16th)
PICK-AND-ROLL OFFENSE: 35.8 ppg (1st)
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
|G||Manu Ginóbili||PPG: 12.9||APG: 4.4||FG%: 52.6||3FG%: 41.3|
|G||Stephen Jackson||PPG: 9.8||RPG: 3.5||FG%: 37.4||3FG%: 28.8|
|F-C||Tiago Splitter||PPG: 9.3||RPG: 5.2||BPG: 0.8||FG%: 61.8|
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE SPURS
I think Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginóbili are the best trio in the NBA. Parker and Manu are probably the two best playmakers on the same team.... Gregg Popovich was smart: He took Duncan out of the post more in the regular season and put him in pick-and-rolls, which saved his legs. At the end of the game he'd go into the post, and he'd have the energy for it.... No one is better at getting into the paint than Parker. Defenses always have to collapse, and he has become so good at finishing or making the right pass.... Pop is a master psychologist: He put Stephen Jackson in spots where he could succeed. When he came in, Pop would run a set for him and get him in the flow right away. That would keep his attention. Once he started to drift, Pop took him out. In the past, Jackson would be yakking at the coach. With Pop, he says nothing.... I don't think they have the legs to compete in the playoffs. In one game, they can beat anyone. In a best-of-seven, the top teams in the West are going to beat them.
The Big Three stay healthy and get just enough help from the supporting cast to advance to their fourth Finals together.
Duncan, 36, and Ginóbili, 35, look their ages, and the Spurs' lack of top young talent dooms them to an early playoff exit.
San Antonio's winning percentage when Manu Ginóbili plays, the highest for any active player with more than 150 career games. The next two? Tony Parker (.718) and Tim Duncan (.713).