When the team hosts training camp at Air Force Academy in the opening days of October, they'll begin their quest for redemption as they look to once again contend for the championship.
A quiet offseason bodes well for the Western Conference powerhouse, as the team's veteran stars will return hungry for another shot at glory, while the rising talents' added experience will make the team as a whole even stronger in the upcoming campaign.
Spurs 2012-13 Results
- 58-24 record (.707)
- First in Southwest Division
- Second in Western Conference
- Lost in NBA Finals to Miami Heat (4-3)
Key Stats: The Good and the Bad
Recently, the Spurs have gained fame for their incredible consistency and ability to dominate on an annual basis.
In comparison to the rest of the league, they rank in the top half—if not the top 10—in just about every key category.
The only outlier is their 29th-ranked offensive rebounding, an aspect of their game that caused much frustration throughout the San Antonio fanbase. Though not nearly as important as other integral components of basketball, offensive rebounding is critical in amassing second-chance opportunities. The Spurs struggled immensely on that front.
Not that it prevented them from being successful—they did, after all, fall a free throw short of a title—but improving on the offensive boards could make an impact big enough to put them over the top.
Where they struggled in rebounding, however, the team made up for it with their passing. As an offense predicated on ball movement, the Spurs distributing is and was a work of art. Having the league's best chemistry doesn't hurt either.
Last year, the team ranked first overall in assists per game—24.8—and assist ratio—19.2. Rarely did they rely on isolation, as they were able to exploit defenses through nifty passing.
Biggest Storylines Entering Training Camp
How high is Kawhi Leonard's ceiling?
You'd be hard-pressed to find a single Spurs fan with a negative thing to say about Kawhi Leonard. As the franchise prepares for the new era, it is apparent that Leonard will be an integral contributor towards any success in the coming years.
He is one of the league's best defensive stoppers, as evidenced by his impressive defense on LeBron James in the NBA Finals. Offensively, his game is constantly evolving. His ball-handling and mid-range jump shot improved immensely prior to last year, while his three-point shot continues to be a reliable source of scoring.
In only the third year of his career, Leonard is bursting with potential. The only question is: How much does he have?
It has become almost a foregone conclusion that Leonard will be an All-Star down the road. Most expect that honor to come in a few years, though it wouldn't be shocking if he finds himself on the West's roster this season.
His work ethic is highly praised, so you can expect that he has been improving his skills over the summer. Whether he's in store for a Paul George-like breakout season or something slightly above or below it, you can bet that all eyes will be on the Spurs' budding superstar in 2013-14.
What should be expected of Tim Duncan?
Tim Duncan has become an enigma in recent years. It is beyond explanation how someone whose age should correspond with an evident decline seemingly improves year after year.
In 2012-13, he averaged over 17 points per game and 9.9 rebounds per game despite accumulating an average of 30 minutes of playing time. He was an All-Star and was awarded with an appearance on the All-NBA First Team.
Oh yeah—and he recently turned 37.
Every year the dilemma arises concerning Duncan's expectations. How can one ask so much of a 37-year-old, yet at the same time expect anything less than consistent excellence from Duncan's part?
He's another year older, and yet age has never been a challenge for Duncan.
In what may be his final season, the world will be watching to see whether or not the greatest power forward ever can turn in another historic season.
Key Additions and Losses
Key Additions: Marco Belinelli, SG (two years, $5.6 million); Jeff Ayres, PF (two years, $3.5 million); Sam Young, SF (contract unknown); Jim Boylen, Assistant Coach; Sean Marks, Assistant Coach
Key Losses: Gary Neal, SG (two years, $6.5 million with MIL); DeJuan Blair, PF (one year, $1.4 million with DAL); Tracy McGrady, SF (retired); Mike Budenholzer (Head Coach of ATL); Brett Brown (Head Coach of PHI)
Biggest Addition: Marco Belinelli
As expected, the Spurs used the majority of their cap space to re-sign key components of their 2012-13 team. Of the two new additions, Marco Belinelli will undoubtedly accept the bigger role.
Given the terms of his contract, Belinelli was a steal for San Antonio. The 27-year-old NBA journeyman presents a multitude of skills, headlined by his shooting and distributing abilities.
Though a shooting guard by name, he—like new teammate Manu Ginobili—provides the team with a formidable orchestrator, specializing in passing and ball-handling. He is also a capable scorer from multiple spots on the floor.
Taking over for the declining Ginobili, Belinelli will be one of the team's most integral second-unit sparks in the upcoming season.
Biggest Loss: DeJuan Blair
Gary Neal may have been used more frequently than DeJuan Blair, but Blair's absence will be missed more than Neal's.
Blair was an undersized center but had an undeniable rebounding aptitude. Over the course of his San Antonio career, Blair's playing time dwindled to the point where he became little more than a garbage-time hero.
Still, when the team was in dire need of action on the boards, Blair was always ready when his number was called. It was evidently clear that he was not in an ideal situation, but his production will be missed nonetheless.
Training Camp Battle to Watch
The specifics of the Spurs' reserve point guard position is a common debate among fans, as Gregg Popovich constantly handed the back-up duties to a different player last year.
All three contestants—Cory Joseph, Patty Mills and Nando de Colo—have a shot to claim the lead reserve spot prior to the season's start.
Each player presents the team with a different skill set:
De Colo specializes in distributing; his flashy and efficient passing is undoubtedly his most touted characteristic.
Mills is a spectacular shooter, especially from long range, where he provides the team with a deadly three-point threat.
Joseph is a top-notch defender who also provides the team with sufficient shooting and a natural ability to run the floor.
As Joseph provides the team with the best mix of scoring and passing, he'll likely beat out the other two. Still, depending on the Spurs' primary needs, it wouldn't be a complete shock if Popovich hands the role to either Mills or de Colo.
Battling For a Roster Spot
The Spurs' recent signing of Sam Young comes as little surprise. The Spurs had inquired about the free-agent swingman, and given the little depth behind Kawhi Leonard, a defensive-minded small forward is a nice addition.
That said, the details of his contract are yet to emerge, and while it is possible that Young is in line to complete the team's 15-man roster, he may very well be one of many names who will compete for the final spot.
Other rumored additions, per Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News' Spurs Nation blog, include Mickael Pietrus, Mike Bibby and Sebastian Telfair. Though none of them have been added, they—along with others—may join Young as temporary additions competing for a spot on the team.
X-Factor: Manu Ginobili
How many times has Manu Ginobili been called an X-Factor? I'm beginning to lose count.
Throughout his entire career, the star shooting guard has provided the team with a scoring spark off the bench. Despite his role in the second unit, though, Ginobili was a primary fixture in the Spurs' offense and often one of their best players.
Recently, however, the former All-Star has struggled with turnovers and inefficient shooting. The greatness of Manu has become a liability, and few know what to expect from him.
Best-Case Scenario: Ginobili's poor 2012-13 campaign was simply a fluke, brought about by injuries and an overall cold streak. A return to his standout sixth-man days provides the team with the necessary depth and scoring to contend.
Worst-Case Scenario: His poor play in the 2013 Finals carries over into the 2013-14 season, where a collection of poor shooting and bad decision-making forces him to the bottom of a deep pool of shooting guard reserves.
Best-Case Scenario for San Antonio
Manu Ginobili makes everyone forget about his playoff mishaps, and Marco Belinelli adds another bench spark as the team enjoys incredible depth. An improved Kawhi Leonard alongside an MVP-caliber campaign from Tony Parker, plus an All-Star season from Tim Duncan helps the Spurs to 50-plus wins, a No. 1 seed and eventually, the title.
Worst-Case Scenario for San Antonio
Ginobili remains a shadow of his former self and Duncan—though still a threat—begins to show his age. Belinelli fails to completely replace Ginobili's production, and Tiago Splitter and Danny Green fail to improve. With only Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard producing as expected, the Spurs fall to the fourth or fifth seed, eventually failing to reach the 50-win plateau and losing in the first or second round of the playoffs.
57-25, No. 1 seed in the West, lose in the Western Conference Finals.
The Spurs have the necessary talent to embark on a journey for redemption this season. Tony Parker is among the best point guards in the league, and his 2013-14 performance won't disappoint. Once again, he'll be a dark-horse MVP candidate.
Tim Duncan begins to show his age, and his playing time will be reduced significantly. Nonetheless, he will remain one of the league's top big men and a fringe All-Star.
Kawhi Leonard will be the 2013-14 version of Paul George, and his production, along with Belinelli's, will help to hide another inefficient season from Manu Ginobili.
With the role players contributing at a high level, the Spurs will remain a top team in the NBA. They'll repeat their regular-season success, but Duncan's age coupled with another no-show from Ginobili, will prevent them from reaching the Finals for a second straight year.
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