San Antonio Spurs Have Problems

Posted: 01/27/2014 by levcohen in Basketball

If you glance at the San Antonio Spurs roster and record, everything looks like it is ok. They are 33-11, they have the best point differential in the Western Conference, and they are behind just Oklahoma City in the West. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili have all stayed healthy, and are all playing well. Duncan is averaging 15 and 10 with 2 blocks per game and a 21.5 PER. Parker is averaging 18 points and 6 assists and is shooting 51% from the field. Ginobili has probably been the most surprising and impressive of the three, averaging 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists per game while playing just 24 minutes per game. Incredibly, he’s right at his career per-36 minute averages: 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists per 36 minutes. The Spurs have also been developing their depth, and eight players are playing more than 20 minutes per game. But there are some underlying problems. One in particular, actually: they can’t beat good teams. After their loss to Miami yesterday, the Spurs moved to 1-10 against the rest of the NBA’s top 7 in terms of record (Indiana, Oklahoma City, Miami, San Antonio, Portland, Houston, Los Angeles). They are 32-1 against everyone else. That’s amazing. But again, they are just 1-10 against the top teams in basketball. Are the Spurs truly struggling or are they just cruising until the playoffs?

Consider this: Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili are all playing significantly more (as in more than a minute more per game) in losses. That isn’t enough to prove that this is a big problem, but it does show that the Spurs aren’t just resting their players as they did last season against the Heat in the game that caused such a big argument (remember, the Spurs nearly beat the Heat with their reserves). They have also given up nearly 110 points per game in their 11 losses. In their 31 wins, they’ve given up under 93 points per game. Normally, when the Spurs are slumbering until the postseason, it’s their offense, and not their defense, that suffers. Gregg Popovich is a great defensive coach, so the 17 point difference between their defensive performances against the elite and their performances against the rest of the NBA seems to be more of an issue than just the Spurs cruising towards the playoffs. The Spurs have also been out rebounded in every single one of their losses. It might be that the loss of Tiago Splitter to injury is just really hurting them, but it really seems like Tim Duncan is alone down low, and he is going to have trouble rebounding in the playoffs if he doesn’t have someone next to him helping him out. The big contenders in the West, from Portland (LaMarcus Aldridge) to Oklahoma City (Serge Ibaka) to Los Angeles (Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan) to Houston (Dwight Howard) have elite rebounding and scoring big men. The Clippers, in particular, seem like a bad matchup for San Antonio, but the problem is that ALL of them are bad matchups for San Antonio. The Spurs just might not be big enough to be able to win a playoff series against any of those teams. Luckily for them, their performance against the mediocre teams in the NBA ensures that they won’t have to play any of those teams in the first round. A series against a team like Dallas, Pheonix, or even Golden State would be much easier for the Spurs. I could see them sweeping a series against any of those teams. But I don’t think they’d win a series against any of the top teams in the West.

The Spurs are in trouble. Their big three is still playing well, but they aren’t playing enough and don’t have enough support to be able to carry the Spurs against the best teams. It might just be that the Spurs are being the Spurs. They could just be taking it easy until the playoffs. But I think this is a real problem, and the Spurs have eight more games against the top teams (starting tomorrow night against Houston) before the season ends. Hopefully they’ll prove me wrong, but I’m worried.

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