2014-15 IN REVIEW
3rd in Southwest Division
6th in Western Conference
The San Antonio Spurs entered the 2014-15 NBA season as the defending champions, coming off of their fifth title since 1999 and ready to make a run at doing something they've never accomplished - repeat as champs.
Unfortunately, things did not go as well as they would have hoped in the postseason.
After Doc Rivers and the Clippers took care of business with a 107-92 victory to open up their first round series against San Antonio, the Spurs fired back and split the first two games on the road behind outstanding Game 2 performances from Tim Duncan (28 points, 11 rebounds), Kawhi Leonard (23 points, 9 rebounds) and Patty Mills, who provided a huge spark with an 18-point outing off the bench.
Game 3 was an absolute wash, as the series shifted to San Antonio with a completely one-sided 100-73 blowout to give the Spurs a 2-1 advantage in the series. However, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin went on to combine for 54 points, 22 rebounds and 14 assists in Game 4, evening up the series at 2-2 heading back to Los Angeles for a pivotal Game 5.
As you would expect in a game of that magnitude, it was a war. Los Angeles got off to a hot start, but their five-point first quarter advantage was washed as San Antonio went on to win each of the remaining three quarters, earning a 111-107 win thanks to a cool double-double from Tim Duncan along with an outstanding performance from the Spurs bench. San Antonio's second unit tallied 48 points, including three players in double-figures to make up for a horrid 5-15 shooting night from Tony Parker.
For the fourth time in the series, the road team earned a victory when the Clippers toughened up and forced a Game 7 with a gritty six-point advantage on the scoreboard. San Antonio shot just 43% on their home floor, electing to settle for jump shots while Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan all put together big time double-double performances.
Game 7 came down to the wire, as all series-deciding contests should. Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard combined for 40 points and 21 rebounds, Tony Parker put together his best performance of the series with a 20-point outing, Danny Green scored 16 and blocked five shots and neither side really turned the ball over a whole lot. On the other side, Blake Griffin messed around and got a triple-double while Chris Paul shot 9-13 and absolutely came up huge when his team needed him most.
With the score knotted at 109-109 and under nine seconds remaining on the clock, Chris Paul banked home an absurd off-balance bank shot in the face of two defenders, leaving just one second on the clock and ultimately winning the series with a big time shot from a big time player.
San Antonio was crushed, losing in the first round for only the fourth time since Gregg Popovich was named head coach in 1996.
SUMMER OF 2015
Key Additions - LaMarcus Aldridge, David West
Key Losses - Tiago Splitter
The Spurs were the big winners of the 2015 NBA offseason, going against their history pattern of roster building and finally luring in a star free agent as they inked LaMarcus Aldridge to a four-year, $80 million deal. San Antonio was a serious threat before, but this potentially makes them the overwhelming favorites to win another title in 2016 and this sets their future up beautifully for life after Duncan.
In order to create some financial flexibility to get Aldridge, San Antonio cleared $8.5 million in salary by trading Tiago Splitter to Atlanta. Splitter had a good run with the Spurs, but his departure will be easy for the fanbase to get over with Aldridge in the mix along with former All-Star David West. With his eye on competing for a championship, West signed a one-year $1.5 million veteran's minimum deal with San Antonio. Not only did West accept a smaller role to play for a contender, he turned down an additional $11 million to stick around as Indiana's starting power forward. Not many guys would do that, especially when they are in the latter stages of their productive years.
As everybody expected, the Spurs weren't about to let Kawhi Leonard go and they acted quickly to lock the young two-way sensation on a $90 million contract extension, spread out over the next five years. The 2014 NBA Finals MVP is coming off of his best year as a pro, and he is only going to get better as time goes on.
You were wondering how the Spurs were going to look after their core faded away, huh? With Aldridge and Leonard spearheading the future of the team, it's safe to say they'll be just fine.
San Antonio also retained swingman Danny Green for four-years at $45 million, a generous price tag, but his two-way impact is important and he is another quality young player that they can rely on both in the present and future.
With the way San Antonio reloaded this summer, there was no way Manu Ginobili was about to walk away from a situation this special and retire from the NBA. The two-time All-Star took a selfless hometown discount, as Manu Ginobili would, and re-signed on a two-year, $5.7 million deal on his quest for his fifth championship ring.
Hats off to R.C. Buford, the entire Spurs front office and Gregg Popovich for assembling a seemingly perfect combination of quality veterans and young star talent. As special as San Antonio's run has been since Tim Duncan feel into their laps during the 1997 NBA draft lottery, it doesn't appear that they are about to slow down any time soon. This squad is extremely dangerous in 2016, and they've set up their future as well as anyone could have expected.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
C - Tim Duncan / Boris Diaw / Boban Marjanovic
PF - LaMarcus Aldridge / David West / Matt Bonner
SF - Kawhi Leonard / Kyle Anderson / Reggie Williams
SG - Danny Green / Manu Ginobili / Jimmer Fredette
PG - Tony Parker / Patty Mills / Ray McCallum
X-FACTOR - Tony Parker
Tony Parker is still an outstanding ballplayer at 32 years old, is still very efficient and even shot a career best 42.7% from beyond the arc last season. However, he was not quite himself all year in terms of explosiveness and playing with that relentless attack mentality. Playing in just 28.7 minutes per game, the lowest mark of his career, he put up just 14.4 points and 5.2 assists per game, decent numbers but not the kind of All-Star production we have become accustomed to witnessing from Parker. It's not about the individual numbers, especially when you're talking about the Spurs, but he was not in vintage form last season and it showed.
In the playoffs, the hobbled Parker struggled all series against the Clippers in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, shooting just 36% from the field while putting up 10.9 points and 3.6 assists throughout the seven-game series.
If Parker can return in 2015-16 at full strength physically and get back to knifing his way through the paint at will, the Spurs are going to be even more dangerous than they already look on paper.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2015-16
There is no question in anyone's mind that this team is going to contend for another championship. If you ask me for my personal opinion, I think they are going to get it done and win their sixth title. They'll have plenty of competition, and their road to the Finals will be a challenge as it always is in the Western Conference, but this team is no joke and they have a chance to absolutely dominate the league.
1st in Southwest Division
2nd in Western Conference
Additional Spurs Previews:
Two years ago Tony Parker was coming off arguably his best season as a pro, finishing sixth in MVP voting after averaging 20 points and seven assists while shooting 52 percent from the floor. The basketball gods have not been kind to him ever since, as he's battled a nagging hamstring injury that has limited him severely.
I'm not skeptical that this will work, that the Spurs will again be amazing and that once Tim is done the LMA-Kawhi Spurs will continue to rule. That's all fairly obvious. I am skeptical that the Spurs are now a clear favorite in the West, and frankly I'm skeptical that they are even a step above the Clippers and Rockets. (I'd mention the Thunder here, but we really need to see Kevin Durant back.)