The Golden State Warriors are the hottest team in the NBA. Coming off a championship season they’re on a torrid pace, poised to set an NBA record for most wins in a single season. Klay Thompson and reigning finals MVP Steph Curry comprise what many are calling the best backcourt ever. Crowning them the favorites to take cake this year wouldn’t be a bad assumption.
But behind the scenes the San Antonio Spurs have earned the league’s second best record and points differential at 22-5 and 13.4 respectively.
It was easy to assume after last year, the aging core of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker and their methodical, calculated offense would eventually be phased out in an NBA that was running smaller lineups that spread the floor. But the Spurs have stayed the course with a rapidly improving Kawhi Leonard and big free agent acquisition LaMarcus Aldridge making up for the statistical downgrade of the Big 3.
Leonard arrived last year for the Spurs stepping into the role of the team’s leading scorer with a 16.5 ppg average and grabbed 7.2 rebounds as well. This year he’s been even better (21p and 7.4r) and is creeping into the conversation about the league’s elite. His defense prowess was well known. His improving offensive patience and skill means hi career is going the way of Andre Iguodala, and that’s good news for San Antonio.
For LaMarcus Aldridge’s part, he’s played well for his debut season with the Spurs but hasn’t yet peaked in this offense. Still defenses respect him on the floor enough to cause matchup problems as coach Gregg Popovich’s perplexing offensive machine dregs along.
Duncan, Ginobili and Parker have been doing what they’ve always done, just at a lesser rate. Point totals are down for all three but the eye test shows they haven’t lost much.
Despite the fact that Tim Duncan and his crew have 5 championships in the Popovich era, he’s too often left out of those ‘Best of our generation’ conversation, which is sort of a microcosm for how we look at the Spurs. We know they’re good, but our attention is better fixed on flashier franchises with newer fresher faces. But while Curry and LeBron steal the headlines, the Spurs have the chemistry and coaching to quietly lead them to another championship.