Now, as the majority of NBA teams are reaching the midway points of their seasons, neither holds the honor of the West's best record.
Following what appears to be a scripted storyline, the San Antonio Spurs prepare to enter the All-Star break with both the best record in their respective conference, as well as the entire NBA.
The feat is anything but surprising, as the franchise's continued success has become a bit of a cliché in recent years. However, in correlation with their storied success is their inability to carry it over into the postseason, as they have failed to do since winning the title in 2007.
Many will credit this to the aging of their once-legendary stars. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili exited their primes years ago as they venture towards inevitable retirement.
Despite this, they have found ways to adapt, ensuring that they remain fruitful in their conquest for victories. Still, they have been dismantled by younger, more athletic teams recently, namely the Thunder in last year's Western Conference final.
Even so, the Spurs remain a tough competitor in the West, with the ability to withstand and outplay any potential opponent in a seven-game series.
Though it is hard to run out of praiseworthy words for the Spurs, the age of their prominent players can certainly be alarming at times. At 36 years of age, Duncan is an old man in a young man's league, but it hasn't slowed him down at all this season.
Duncan finished fourth on All-Star ballots for his respective category and will represent the Western Conference in the upcoming game. The sharp decline that was evident in recent years has been erased, instead replaced with production equivalent to that of his younger self.
Because of this resurgence, the Spurs are playing the big man more than they did last year, and the increase in minutes has in no way slowed his production. Instead, it has allowed him to be a prime contributor to the team.
Still, the veteran forward rarely finds himself exceeding 35 minutes of action on a given night, with his average revolving around 30. In the other 18 minutes, however, the Spurs don't fall apart, as many teams do without their star.
Tony Parker is having another incredible season, and at 30 years of age, the explosive Frenchman has the capabilities to receive a maximum workload once the postseason arrives. He may be a veteran, but he has proved to be as quick as any other superstar in the league, and if the team needs to rely on him to carry them, the All-Star point guard is fully capable of doing so.
Aside from their veteran stars, however, the Spurs' depth ensures that they have the ability to compete with any and all opposing squads. As witnessed in their infamous contest against the Miami Heat earlier this season, the team has plenty of weapons stowed away towards the bottom of their bench, capable and willing to thrive with a grueling workload when given the chance.
Eventual fatigue is expected of a team with so many aging stars, and their incredible depth—as well as the youth of their depth—makes it possible for the team to succeed when the odds are against them.
The maturation of Kawhi Leonard also adds to their ability to compete with younger, more athletic squads, as the breakout small forward has added another year to his résumé. Though he has been inconsistent thus far on offense, he currently leads a revived defense in San Antonio, allowing for the squad to contain opponents more easily than last year.
Leonard's age and star potential also ensure that even when the Spurs are being outworked from a hustle standpoint, their roster contains a member with the ability to give the team a jump start from the athleticism perspective.
Though they are flying under the radar, the Spurs are as dangerous as always, and they are definitely not a team to sleep on once the playoffs come into view. The possibility of an early exit will always exist, but the Spurs are most definitely able to compete with anyone and everyone as they eye the franchise's fifth title.
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