After signing LaMarcus Aldridge to a max contract and David West for the veterans minimum, the San Antonio Spurs will be one of the favorites to win an NBA title next season.
Some people, however, are willing to take it a step further; they believe that the Spurs are automatics to win it all.
But are they really? Especially after losing in the first round of the playoffs this past year?
“I don’t think there’s any such thing as automatic in sports – and definitely not the NBA when over the last two, three, four years, we’ve seen how injuries have really hurt contenders,” NBA.com writer Shaun Powell said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “You would think that Oklahoma City would have been somewhat of an automatic last season, (but) Kevin Durant gets hurt. You would think that the Cavaliers – with that lineup and the way they finished the season – would be pretty much an automatic. But then Kevin Love goes down, and then Kyrie Irving goes down. If you look at the Spurs, they’ve been lucky with injuries. Tim really hasn’t been hurt. He’s had little bumps and bruises but never had a major injury. Same thing with LaMarcus Aldridge. I know he had an injured hand last year, but he played through it. Tony Parker, I know he hurt his hamstring last year in the Clippers series, which was the best series of the playoffs. So there’s no such thing as automatic when you take injuries into account.”
Even if the Spurs avoid major injuries this season, they’ll also have to contend with Father Time. Duncan is 39. Manu Ginobili turns 38 in a few weeks. Even West, who turns 35 in August, is no spring chicken.
At some point, this team is simply going to look its age, right?
“Well, there’s an interesting battle going on between Father Time and Gregg Popovich,” Powell said. “And when I say that, it’s because Gregg Popovich has done his best to fend off Father Time the last couple years by basically fossilizing Tim Duncan during the regular season and giving all his other guys rest and really keeping them preserved for the playoffs.”
Only one Spur, Kawhi Leonard, averaged 30+ minutes per game last season. Duncan and Parker averaged 28.9 and 28.7, respectively – and those numbers will only decrease going forward.
“So really, that’s what the game is going to be with the Spurs this season,” Powell said. “Can they really win 50 games or 55 games and Tim Duncan plays, say, 25 minutes a night?”
Let’s also not forget that the Spurs parted ways with several key reserves, including Tiago Splitter, who was traded to the Hawks.
“Right there is when the other factor comes into play,” Powell said. “The Spurs had to get rid of a good part of their bench in order to get LaMarcus Aldridge. So if you’re saying you’re going to rest these guys, who’s going to be on the floor for them?”