Look, I’m not one of those people who call the Spurs “boring”. I’m not one of those people who overlook this team’s remarkable period of sustained success or Tim Duncan’s incredible NBA career. I’m not one of people who say that this is finally the year when they are too old to compete. But you know what? The Spurs are boring.
To me, that distinction has nothing to do with how they play. The Spurs led the league last year in 3pt shooting percentage, came in 2nd in FG% and AFG% (the second statistic measures the amount of a team’s baskets that are assisted. Miami took the 1 spot in both of those categories by the way), and run the incredibly complicated and diligent motion-offense. They paired their premier offense with the 4th rated defense and feature arguably the deepest bench in the league. If there was a “right” way to play basketball and you wanted to learn that way, watch the Spurs.
The distinction comes from the narrative. This is the best, most complete team in basketball. They are last year’s champions and my pick to repeat again. They have made the playoffs every season since 1998 (!!!!). They have the best coach in the League. Look I get it, they’re fucking good. All this success makes the Spurs an NBA no-man’s land. They have the winning and the talent, but this team lacks any personality or charisma; its essentially a collection of hard-working, quiet, nice guys. It makes them impossible to really root for or root against. And you know what? They’re going to win anyway, regardless of who you’re rooting for.
So why watch them? And this question becomes particularly relevant if you remember Poppovich will rest his starters for at least 15-20 games over the season, submitting you to the Patty Mills, Aron Baynes, and all the other foreign-born, boring, nice guys who will ultimately win the game against another team’s starters.
Well for one, I’ll be watching for Kawhi Leonard. This guy won the Finals MVP and rightfully so (even though I thought they would give it to someone like Duncan out of deference for his legacy) after bottling up Lebron James and averaging 24 and 9 over the last three pivotal games of the series. Leonard is a quiet guy (OF COURSE) so he may not explode into full superstar this season, especially while playing within the confines of Popp’s system, but I’m guessing we see a ton of confidence and some amazing performances.
Other than Leonard and just watching beautiful basketball, I want to see the other young guys on this team. I’m not going to fall into the trap of calling the Spurs an old team, but these guys are going to look very different when Duncan and Manu Ginobili eventually retire. And by that time, Tony Parker will also be fairly old for a starting PG. The Spurs GM R.C. Buford did win the Executive of the Year last year so I’m curious what his long-terms plans could be.
X-Factor= Patty Mills.
Mills torched the Heat from behind the arc during the last two games of the Finals last year, making huge shots to extend the Spurs leads and demoralize Lebron and Co. After the Knicks failed in their run to get this Aussie, Mills is back in San Antonio backing up Parker. I’m going to hazard a guess that Parker misses around 20 games this year and Mills is forced back into the spotlight. I think he’ll be more than capable of living up to the challenge.