Best team in the West?: ‘It’s the Spurs. And it’s not even close.’
If you don’t buy everything we write here, well, I guess I don’t blame you. You SHOULD, but I don’t blame you. This is a blog, after all, and we’re not quite as connected as the professional journalists who cover this league (though we’re trying to be); but if you’re not willing to take my word for the fact the Spurs are just fine despite these losses to other ‘elite’ teams, consider the opinions of a professional NBA scout.
The Spurs are the best team in the West, “And it’s not even close,” an Eastern Conference scout tells Marc Stein in the most recent Stein Line Live over at ESPN. All of the issues this team has faced this season aren’t anything to be concerned about at this point, and even in the wake of Friday’s loss to the Blazers, the Spurs are in fantastic shape at the moment considering the current rash of relatively minor injuries.
Here are a few more of this scout’s takes on the Spurs as presently constituted:
“There are only three teams that have a chance to win the championship [this season]: Miami, Indiana and San Antonio. I guess if [Russell] Westbrook comes back and they get on a roll, OKC can be in that mix. But assuming we don’t see any more major injuries, those are the only three teams you need to worry about.
“They look like the same ‘ol Spurs to me. I know you, Mr. Power Rankings (Stein), are going to tell me that they’ve lost a bunch of games to the other top teams. But they know how to approach the regular season. You might call it pacing themselves, but I’d just say they’re in their usual good rhythm. I’ve seen [Tim] Duncan a few times and I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference from last year to this year. And I’m pretty sure I saw a clip of [Gregg Popovich] jumping all over Tim’s butt the other day, so he’s still Pop.
“The one thing the Spurs are really missing is that Stephen Jackson or Michael Finley who can play the four when you’re going up against a team that plays real small. Kawhi Leonard is going to have to be that guy, but he still defers a lot when I’ve seen him. He was very good last year, but he hasn’t made as big a step as I was expecting.
“The other thing is Danny Green. He’s obviously hurt right now, but they need him to be more consistent than he has been. [Marco] Belinelli is an upgrade on what they had before, but Kawhi and Green are the keys … as long as Duncan and [Tony] Parker and [Manu] Ginobili are healthy.”
Does this all sound familiar? It should, as we’ve broached each of these topics here at 48 Minutes of Hell. There are major factors in play, however. If Westbrook is healthy come playoff time, that’s a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE deal. If the Blazers find a way to perhaps add one more piece to supplement their depth, that affects things in a major way. But these are definite question marks.
Right now, even with the losses to the West’s best teams in mind, the Spurs are just fine. Despite what it felt like, the way they played against Portland was progress. One of the things they failed to do this season against those other teams was come from behind and actually take the lead in the second half. The Spurs did that against the Blazers, but they ran out of gas with their eight-man rotation. It was still a big step.
Anyway, take my word for it, or take what this Eastern Conference scout is explaining: all things considered, the Spurs are the best team in the Western Conference. And I personally believe that come playoff time, if everyone is healthy, this group is better than the one that should’ve won the NBA Finals last season.