The NBA regular season is coming to a close. Sixteen of the league's top teams are gearing up for the playoffs while the 14 remaining teams are looking forward to an early offseason. The Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder all have the big names and superstar talent, but they do not have the playoff experience that the San Antonio Spurs have. The Spurs currently sit atop the Western Conference standings, yet they often get overlooked despite their proven track record.
To start off, the Spurs have a balanced offense that excels in the half court, but can play up-tempo when needed. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are capable of playing either style while remaining the focal points of the offense. The Spurs' Big Three will always get their share of points, however, the bench and supporting cast will be the difference maker. Danny Green has played well in his third year and contributes in all areas on offense, while Matt Bonner and Gary Neal pose as excellent three-point shooters. The Spurs do not have a prototypical starting center, but DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter make a nice tandem in the frontcourt playing alongside Duncan. Newly-acquired Boris Diaw, Stephen Jackson and Patty Mills can also make small contributions in limited action.
The Spurs score an average of 102 points per game and are third in field goal percentage and second in three-point shooting percentage. Anyone is capable of playing well in the Spurs offense, so opposing defenses cannot key-in on a specific player. In the West, only the Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets score more bench points than San Antonio.
Perhaps a major edge that the Spurs have over the NBA title favorites is their coaching. Gregg Popovich has become one of the winningest coaches of all time in his 16 years as head coach. Having coached 181 playoff games, Popovich has a .597 win percentage. Erik Spoelstra, Tom Thibodeau, Scott Brooks and Mike Brown are all exceptional head coaches, but Popovich has a longer track record of making deep runs in the playoffs.
If the Spurs have a weakness, it's their lack of size and defense. Duncan and Splitter are their tallest players standing at 6'11'' and are not premier defenders. Without a shot blocker protecting the rim, the Spurs give up 96.35 points per game while allowing opponents to shoot just over 45 percent from the floor. If they match up with the Los Angeles Lakers or Memphis Grizzlies, the Spurs will be at a disadvantage facing their low-post scorers. It will be up to Popovich and his staff to mask this weakness.
Still, the Spurs have a legitimate shot at winning their fifth NBA championship with their depth and coaching experience. San Antonio emphasizes the team concept on both sides of the floor more so than any other contender. They may be overlooked by the media and might not have the same star power as the Miami Heat or Oklahoma City Thunder, but that is completely fine with Popovich. The Spurs will just sit back and let their play do the talking.
Travis Chan is a longtime football, basketball and baseball fan. He is also a contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter @Travischan1.
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- San Antonio Spurs
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- Gregg Popovich