2009-10 San Antonio Spurs Season Preview
For the past four out of five seasons, the San Antonio Spurs (54- 28) have captured first in the Southwest Division. Despite continuing their dominance of the division last season, the Spurs found themselves in a very different situation than they had been in recent years. 2008- 2009 was the first time in a long time that they could not rely on their core trio of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili to do it all. They needed help from the other members of the team, and they got very little. All three struggled with wear and tear injuries, missing a total of 55 games. Ginobili missed the most: 38. The role players often did not perform as expected and although Duncan played through much of his pain, his knee problems were chronic and debilitating. The Spurs stats were baffling. They had the least number of turnovers in the league and they also caused the least number of turnovers. They were the top defensive rebounding club and, conversely, they were the weakest offensive rebounding team. They were methodical and often boring.
Even with Duncan’s health issues, the frontcourt looks good. The team added swingmen Richard Jefferson (19.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.4 APG) and Antonio McDyess (9.6 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 1.3 APG). Both will be a huge help. Another addition is center Theo Ratliff (1.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.2 APG); he brings solid defensive chops. McDyess will starts at center and Jefferson at small forward as Duncan (19.3 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.68 BPG) continues his dominance in the power position.
The backcourt is the realm of point guard Tony Parker (22.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 6.9 APG). Parker continues to improve, seamlessly using his smarts and technique to run the offense and create scoring opportunities. Shooting guard Roger Mason (11.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.1 APG) and Manu Ginobli (15.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.6 APG) can drain the basket from afar. Ginobili is also a fine slasher when he takes the ball to the basket. Guard Michael Finley (9.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.4 APG) offers solid play off the bench.
The biggest positive for this team is its perimeter shooting. Parker (51%) and Ginobili (45%) are premium point scorers from outside. The addition of Jefferson gives them a deadeye shot from the three-point arc (40%). Swingman Finley is another downtown shot artist, hitting 41% and guard Mason (42%) is also scary good from long range. The pitfall for this team is its age and health. Four players have been in the league 12 to 14 years and other younger guys have health issues.
In this time of decline, head coach Gregg Popovich’s coaching smarts will be tested. His 686- 330 record is third in all-time winning percentage with just Phil Jackson and Billy Cunningham posting better marks. But there’s just so much that a coach can do. The Spurs will still lead the division and they’ll finish third or fourth in the Western Conference. But with age, declining health and a drop off in playing time for some of the older guys, San Antonio will have a tough time going deep into the post-season.