Southwest Power Rankings: #1 – San Antonio Spurs


We initiate our series of team forecasts with a look at the NBA’s Southwest Division. Next year’s winner: San Antonio Spurs.

Last Season’s Record: 67-15

Players Added: Pau Gasol, David Lee, Dewayne Dedmon

Players Lost: Tim Duncan, David West, Boris Diaw, Boban Marjanovic, Kevin Martin, Andre Miller, Matt Bonner

Rookies: Ryan Arcidiacono, Davis Bertans, Bryn Forbes, Dejounte Murray

Coaching Changes: N/A

2016-2017 Record Prediction: 60-22

Team Ratings: 110.3 ORtg (4th in NBA), 99.0 DRtg (1st in NBA)

The only true contender of the division, the San Antonio Spurs look to build on last year’s success and vault themselves deeper into the playoffs. The biggest news from the Spurs’ offseason was the retirement of Tim Duncan. Duncan anchored the Spurs’ historic defense last season, holding his opponents to a field goal percentage (FG%) 6.6% lower than their usual percentage in the paint. Though his defensive presence will be sorely missed, his absence will help spread the floor for LaMarcus Aldridge. With Tim Duncan on the bench, LaMarcus’ overall FG% rose from 49.4% to 52.8%. This is not just addition by subtraction; two of LaMarcus’ new frontcourt mates, Pau Gasol and David Lee, have solid midrange shots that also help stretch the defense. What Gasol and Lee add on offense they more than subtract on defense. Lee is infamous for his poor rim protection. In the 2013 season he allowed a FG% of 61% in the paint. Last season, Gasol posted excellent rim protection numbers, saving 1.65 points per game, which placed him 4th in the NBA. His weakness, however, lies in defending the pick and roll; poor lateral quickness means that he can’t effectively cover the pick and roll. This will not be good for the Spurs when Gasol is coupled with Tony Parker. Parker’s own pick and roll defense is notably subpar, but in the past was saved by Tim Duncan’s defensive abilities.

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Out on the perimeter, both Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard are expected to continue their defensive excellence. Fresh off his second consecutive Defensive Player Of The Year award and second place finish in the MVP race, Leonard looks set to become the heart of this Spurs team in Duncan’s absence. Kawhi’s individual excellence last season was apparent; he posted an incredibly efficient true shooting percent (TS%) of 61.6%, third in league out of all players who averaged at least 20 points per game. Though it looks like Leonard could shoulder an even larger offensive load, the addition of Gasol most likely means that possessions that Diaw, Duncan, or other exiting Spurs used last season will be diverted to Pau.

As for their playoff success, the Spurs look primed to attack the Warriors’ small ball lineup with size. Both Pau and LaMarcus are elite low post scorers, who should match up well against Green and Durant. Their rebounding ability will also be felt, last postseason the Warriors posted a -2.6 rebounding differential, 10th in the postseason. The Clippers, the other team I expect to round out the top three spots in the West, will exploit the aforementioned defensive struggles of a Parker-Gasol pick and roll.

In total, the Spurs are set to regress, in terms of their regular season record. Their free agent signings and losses indicate that their historic defense is set to take a hit. Nevertheless, the coaching strength of San Antonio, alongside the continued growth of Kawhi Leonard and their offense, assures them a top three seed in the West and the top spot in the Southwest division.