Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Once again back is the incredible ... Ball Don't Lie's NBA previews, outlining offseason moves, projecting win totals, spinning tracks and much, much more. It's a fun, hot mess. Right now, the San Antonio Spurs.

2008-09 Record: 54-28, first place in Southwest Division
Head Coach/Facial Hair: Gregg Popovich/Training Camp Beard 2.0
Key Additions: Richard Jefferson(notes), DeJuan Blair(notes), Antonio McDyess(notes), Theo Ratliff(notes), Keith Bogans(notes)
Key Losses: Bruce Bowen(notes), Kurt Thomas(notes), Fabricio Oberto(notes), Drew Gooden(notes), Ime Udoka(notes)

We've done it before, with the Boston Celtics.

The entire season rests on the knee of the legendary big man. If Tim Duncan(notes) can't come through then the Spurs are toast. And he's in his 30s, he's got quite a bit of wear and tear on his treads, the entire team revolves around his contributions, plus the Spurs are in "win-please-now" mode. It's all or nothing.

So why did I give the Spurs 57 wins, in the crowded West, and the C's just 56 in the East?

Well, though the upside to KG's knee injury might be a bit higher (Garnett's might be a fluke thing, something he fully recovers from; fatigue-based tendinitis and swelling doesn't usually go away unless you decide to call it a career), the downside is much lower. We don't know what to expect from Garnett, but we've an inkling as to what a B-level year from Duncan can look like.

And we think a B-level year from Duncan, assuming the others are healthy, could be pretty special.

You caught that. "Assuming the others are healthy." Fine, we're pie-eyed optimists. Fine, we're wound rather tightly, and it depends on what day you catch us on, even if we figured all the projected standings in one fitful afternoon. Fine, we're going with both Duncan and Manu Ginobili(notes) as healthy for most of the year.

And Tony Parker(notes). He missed time last year, too. We're nutters.

Wave away the black clouds, though, kittens. This could be real. And the upgrades? Manu's ability to get to the line, Antoino McDyess' ability to bat out those offensive rebounds, DeJuan Blair's seeming ability (based on the preseason) to lead the NBA in scoring and rebounds all at once ... it's all there!

Apologies, but I just think this is a fine last hurrah, a fantastic 10-man rotation with defenders like Keith Bogans and Theo Ratliff just missing the cut. I know that 80 percent of that 10-man rotation is due for a hip flexor, and that's no exaggeration, but I also can't help but like this team, working at this level, after a summer's (and, for most of these guys, a spring's) rest.

Richard Jefferson's the one most will look to, and while he can help in someone like Manu's absence in a screen-and-roll attack, there's a good chance his presence might not be as overwhelming as his somewhat-famous name suggests. Rather, look for hotter shooting than we saw from the corners in years past from Jefferson, plus the ability to bring an above-average touch in all areas for close to 40 minutes a night and that should be enough. No miracles, please, but he'll be a fantastic fit.

Otherwise, McDyess is the big helper here, assuming he keeps up that otherworldly offensive rebounding. Blair will help, George Hill(notes) should improve, and did you hear? Manu's coming back!

This just feels like a low-drama, all-game sort of team. But one with an actual payoff, instead of way too many shots being taken by Mike Finley. Or possessions ended with a missed shot and all five guys immediately getting back on D. They'll be a fun watch, an effective team and a danger out West come spring.

Prediction: 57-25

Kelly Dwyer

Can Manu Ginobili shake off an injury-plagued season to return as the X-factor in the Spurs' lineup?

The Spurs are excited about their three new additions in Jefferson, McDyess and rookie Blair. They should all give San Antonio athleticism and much-needed punch in the lineup. But when you sort through everything, it is still the shot of adrenaline that Ginobili provides — whether it's in the starting lineup or coming off the bench — that lifts the Spurs to the level of title contender. He's playing for a new contract and he's playing to prove the point that he's still got it. In that case, the Spurs are back.

— Fran Blinebury, Yahoo! Sports 2009-10 NBA Preview magazine

Pounding The Rock: "Where I hope we see the biggest improvement in the team is in the intangibles. The new roster changes infuse the team with desperately needed athleticism, length and energy. The additions of Jefferson, Ratliff, McDyess and Blair, and the emergence of George Hill, should help the Spurs with all the smaller things we didn't do well last year. A team that scraps for offensive rebounds. A team that tips rebounds. A team that challenges shots in the paint. A team that collects loose balls. A team that creates turnovers. A team that gets some easy baskets. A team that can win a game against a good team without playing a perfect game. The Spurs will be good this year. They will be very good this year. But, they will need to be great. Will we see greatness? That is the question to be answered and I really like our chances." [more]

Project Spurs: "Having four starters that average close to nine years of NBA experience can certainly be seen as a weakness, especially when all four have had their share of injuries the past couple of years. While the front office did add youth, they also added two players with over 13 years of NBA experience, which tips the scales a bit. Pop will also have to learn from his mistakes last season and play his younger players when they are in a position to contribute." [more]

HOOPSWORLD: "Only when you're the Spurs can you turn two second-round picks, Kurt Thomas, Bruce Bowen and Fabricio Oberto into Richard Jefferson and DeJuan Blair. The Spurs down time was short-lived to say the least as they're right back at the top of the Western Conference with the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. The amount of talent and depth on the team is overwhelming and they're absolutely equipped with what it will take to dethrone Hollywood's team. As long as they stay relatively healthy the Spurs should have the Southwest crown locked up." [more]

Steely Dan, "Barrytown"

For 12 years now, the Spurs have been doing things their way. Tim Duncan, defense and ... Tim Duncan. It's not that they're afraid to change, after all they've added athleticism and youth; it's just that things have worked out pretty fine the Spurs' way. They know the league is changing, and they really don't care. They'll just stick to what they know best, and odds are, it's going to be alright.

— Trey Kerby, The Blowtorch

While less might be more for the Spurs in their pursuit of the NBA championship, it doesn't exactly translate into good things for fantasy owners who happen to be pursuing a crown of their own. Duncan's fantasy production has been like clockwork for the past dozen seasons, but fewer minutes and sporadic games off, in an effort to keep him fresh for the postseason, means he's not exactly without risk in the second round. The team still has Matt Bonner(notes), brought in Antonio McDyess, and were gifted DeJuan Blair in the draft, so they have the tools to work with in an effort to limit his court time whenever possible. That said, McDyess' reliable 30-minute production is a bargain in the late rounds, so target accordingly.

The Spurs brought in Jefferson to lighten the load on Parker and to ensure that Ginobili won't feel the need to constantly over-exert himself in advance of the playoffs. Parker is coming off career highs in scoring and assists, but fantasy owners should expect his scoring to once again dip below the 20-point mark. His fantasy impact tends to be overrated in general, but he's a reasonable selection in Round 6. Ginobili played in just 44 games last season and will get the kid glove treatment from the team throughout the season. He's always been among the best per-minute producers in the game, however, and the current fifth-round price tag has enough reward potential to warrant the risk. Jefferson's line has devolved into some scoring, threes and free-throw percentage help at this stage of his career, and sharing the rock with the rest of the Spurs won't be a positive influence on that trend. He's a pretty low-ceiling option in fantasy drafts right about the time you should be aiming for upside, so feel free to let someone else roster him.

— Matt Buser, Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Basketball /

Sign up now for Fantasy Basketball '09.

MrsParker: I find it a turnoff whenever men aren't into some kind of sport. And, no, video games don't count. I'm looking at you, Bonner. #NBA #Spurs
1:35 PM Oct 13th from web


Atlantic Divison: Celtics | Nets | Knicks | 76ers | Raptors
Southwest Division: Mavericks | Rockets | Grizzlies | Hornets

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