Sunday night LeBron haters rejoiced and LeBron stans copped pleas as the San Antonio Spurs dismantled the Miami Heat in a dominating fashion. Dethroning the 2x defending champs came with ease for the Spurs who won their fifth title four games to one; beating the Heat by an average of 18 points per game. Most of the narratives you will see following the NBA Finals will focus on LeBron James and his inability to carry his team to victory. Thus destroying his legacy at the age of 29.
But what we should be focusing on is the San Antonio Spurs and their potential to reignite their dynasty. Out of all five of their championship teams, this one is arguably the best one that we’ve seen. It’s not their ability to move the ball and their defensive tenacity that gives them that prestige. No, it’s their altruism and willingness to sacrifice their own personal goals for the team’s sake. Despite being in a conference full of young superstars like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Chris Paul; the Spurs once again proved that relatively talented players who play together as a team will always trump individual stardom. Which is the reason I say that so called “old” and “boring” team can find themselves in the exact same position next season.
The number one key to this hypothetical championship run is whether Tim Duncan will retire or not. Although there has been speculation that he will call it quits after this season and go out on top, it’s difficult to see that happening under these circumstances.
1. He has a player option worth $10.3 million on his contract for next season.
2. He is as healthy as he was when he was drafted 17 years ago.
3. He has a great chance to win another championship, tying Michael Jordan with six.
Sure he’s 38 and the fifth oldest player in the NBA, but Tim Duncan seems to be winning his battle with “Father Time”. He is still playing at an efficient level largely thanks to Gregg Popovich. Popovich has done a magnificent job at managing Duncan’s minutes over the last several seasons. Doing so has allowed the Spurs’ role players to develop and get better during the regular season. The offense doesn’t have to run through Duncan for them to be successful. They have handed that responsibility over to Tony Parker, which has allowed Timmy to preserve his body — adding years to his career.
The second key will be the role players for the Spurs. Players like Patty Mills, Boris Diaw, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, made the biggest difference in this year’s finals. Green has established himself as one of the biggest three point threats in the NBA. He drilled three big three pointers in the fourth quarter during game 1 that lead the Spurs to a 15 point victory. Leonard proved to the world that he was one of the rising stars in the NBA. By averaging over 17 points and 6 rebound per game in the Finals, he became the youngest player to win the Finals MVP since Magic Johnson in the 1980’s. The emergence of these two guys over the last two years has proved invaluable for the Spurs, taking immense pressure off of their “Big 3” to carry the team.
A few notable role players will become free agents this year including Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, and Matt Bonner. As far as cap space goes, San Antonio is in a position to negotiate with each player. Diaw and Bonner have both been in the league over a decade. It’s hard to imagine them not opting in to stay with the Spurs next season. Patty Mills on the other hand is still a very young player. He played exceptional in the finals coming off the bench as Tony Parker’s backup, drawing interest from other teams. He might be more financially motivated than the others since he still has plenty of years left to win titles. The question is will the Spurs try to retain all three of them to push for a third straight finals appearance or will they shake things up with a new free agent?
All signs point to San Antonio being legitimate contenders again next season. The biggest question lies with Duncan and whether or not he returns. Popovich has been vocal about following Duncan’s lead. When Duncan goes, Pop goes, leaving two of the largest pieces to this puzzle in Duncan’s hands. Still Tony Parker is confident that everybody will come back next season.
“It will come to an end but I don’t think next year. I think everybody’s gonna come back.”
I’m sure the entire city of San Antonio hopes Parker’s words ring true.