Number crunchers think alike

by

In a post from today, the Express News’ Tim Griffin cites Vegas Insider’s prediction that the Spurs will win 48.5 games this season. Elsewhere, the Spurs are picked to win 50.5 games. Earlier this week, 48 Minutes of Hell’s in-house statistician wunderkind earmarked the Spurs for 48 wins, as well.

The big hairy gnarly-mouthed takeaway is there for all to see: take the over.

Late addendum:  M. Haubs is all over this.  Thanks, GB.

  • Greyberger

    At The Painted Area, M. Haubs take a crack at this season’s O/U and picks the Spurs’ Over as a good target:

    http://thepaintedarea.blogspot.com/2010/10/2010-11-nba-win-overunder-predictions.html

    He includes the predictions of three number-centric NBA wonks too, and there’s some interesting paragraphs about Kevin Pelton’s success in predicting big surprises in recent seasons that everybody else missed. Pelton of course is a stat nerd of the first degree.

  • Jim Henderson

    I’ll take:

    Under – Miami – needs 64 wins or less
    Over – Cleveland – needs 30 wins or more
    Over – Sacramento – needs 29 wins or more
    Over – Minnesota – needs 24 wins or more

  • Hobson13

    Hollinger (the ESPN numbers “guru) predicted the Spurs to win 54 and be 3rd in the West. I think he will prove to be more accurate than others.

    Off the subject, but I am a bit encouraged by the preseason. Here are my thoughts on the 7 game preseason affair:

    1. Blair is going to be a major factor on this year’s team. I wasn’t sure what kind of improvement he’d make over the summer, but from what I’ve seen so far, he has taken two big steps forward. He will be more than a role player this year.
    2. Parker seems to be fine. Like many of us thought, he should have a bounce back year
    3. RJ seems to be the legit 4th wheel we believed we were getting last summer. It just took him a year to figure things out. Pop’s work with RJ looks to be paying off nicely.
    4. I think the Spurs will have a legit bench this year with Splitter (more on him later) Hill, Simmons, McDyess, and Bonner. If our bench lives up to potential, I can see us being able to go 10 deep throughout the entire season instead of last year’s 8 deep team. For the first time in YEARS, we are no longer forced to rely on dead weight players like Bogans, Mason, and last years version of Mike Finley. That should pay dividends later in the season.
    5. We had a decent preseason run with the improvement of 3 players (Parker, Blair, RJ) and yet we haven’t even seen a minute of our biggest offseason acquisition, Splitter. From what I’ve seen, the team will be decent without Splitter, but Tiago could put this team over the top. As many analysts and fans have said, much is dependent upon Splitter. IMO, he is the new Manu-like wildcard. (not saying he will be as good as Manu, but he will be important to our playoff success)

  • zainn

    im pretty sure the spurs are more desperate to get more early wins unlike last season, as parker and ginobili are continuously stating in their interviews, therefore i agree with espn at 54.

  • Jim Henderson

    Hobson13
    October 22nd, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I basically agree with your main points, although the spin was a bit on the optimistic side. You’re right about Splitter. Unfortunately a lot rides on him. Nevertheless, even if Splitter ends up playing as well as expected, I’m sure you’d agree that we still don’t have a very realistic shot of up-ending the Lakers. Right? I assume your main point was that we look to be better, and you’re feeling more comfortable that we have as good a chance as anyone seeded 2-8 of getting to the WCF’s.

    On the win total for the Spurs? I think Hollinger’s a bit on the optimistic side with 54 wins, yet it is conceivable. For me though, there are simply too many critical unknowns on this team to pick a number, so in a previous post on Scott’s NBA Preview column, I picked a range of 50-54 wins. At least the 54 is in that range, but if I had to pick a number it would be 52. The competition should be fierce again in the West, which should keep the win totals for many teams under check. I’d be happy with 52, and it could be enough for a top-four finish in the West, and home court in round one.

  • Bankshot21

    Jim,

    You and I have visited this before…why can’t The Spurs contend for the top seed in the West? The Lakers have just as many…if not more unknowns as our beloved Spurs. Bynum is unhealthy once again. Odom played a ton of ball and is going to be leaned upon heavily in Bynum’s absence. Kobe is fresh off of another surgery. How will their new acquisitions mesh on the court in Phil’s triangle? Has Artest lost a step? Will prime Pau Gasol still be equivalent to “Declining Duncan”? Not sold on the Lakers as a regular season juggernaut.

  • Greyberger

    Bankshot’s got a point. The question marks surrounding the Lakers have incited some people to pick the Blazers or Thunder for the top seed…

    If you really buy that the Lakers are only a contender to win the West, the question becomes, what’s holding the Spurs back from being in that mix? Espn’s full slate of prognosticators went with the 4-7 range, mostly.

    I hope that they’re wrong and #2 or even #1 is a possible outcome for us, but what about you fellas? What’s holding us back from winning even more than 50?

  • Hobson13

    Jim Henderson
    October 22nd, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    “I basically agree with your main points, although the spin was a bit on the optimistic side.”

    It was the optimistic version of my thinking. The Spurs still don’t have a legit backup SF (we HOPE Simmons can be that, but have no guarantee) and we still don’t know what we have with Splitter. Adding to these concerns, the injury bug always seems to be peeking around the corner.

    “I’m sure you’d agree that we still don’t have a very realistic shot of up-ending the Lakers.”

    If both teams are healthy and playing well in the WCF, I’d give the Spurs a 35%-40% chance of winning the series. Probably won’t happen, but something crazy could occur and change the complexion of the series. I will say this: we may begin to see a different emphasis on the Lakers team this year. We may see the Lakers lean on the front line of Odom, Gasol, and Bynum as opposed to asking Kobe to shoulder much of the load. This concerns me. Even with Splitter, I’m still not convinced we have enough size to beat them in the post. Now, I will say that the game is much more geared toward the quicker, speedier players. Against the Lakers, these rules (hand checking rules, etc.) would tend to favor the Spurs. However, in the end, I don’t believe that would be enough to turn the tide. Perhaps this is one reason why Pop wants us to look for fast break opportunities. We don’t want to face the Lakers front line in a slow-paced, grind-out game.

    I am awaiting anxiously to see a sharper decline in Kobe’s abilities. Kobe’s powers peaked several years ago (either in the 05-06 season or the 06-07 season) and he has since been in a very slow decline. This will be Kobe’s 15th year in the league and in at least 8 of those years, he has played late into the postseason. If Duncan is breaking down (and he is) then Bryant, especially being a wing player, is right behind him. The Lakers will be good, but with Bryan and Bynum they will also have a greater propensity to break down. Only time will tell how good they really become. As a side note, if the Lakers get to the WCF, this will be their 4th consecutive year to play late into the spring. Teams can’t play 100 games/year on a consistent basis without breaking down. Of course who know if this is the breakdown year or not…

    “I assume your main point was that we look to be better, and you’re feeling more comfortable that we have as good a chance as anyone seeded 2-8 of getting to the WCF’s.”

    Yes, I do believe that the current version of the Spurs has the potential to be much better than last year’s version that struggled for most of the year. If a number of things come together for the Spurs, they have a good shot at 2nd seed in the West. Of course nothing is guaranteed for this Spurs team, but then again, there are no guarantees for ANY team in the league.

  • Jim Henderson

    Hobson13
    October 22nd, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    “We may see the Lakers lean on the front line of Odom, Gasol, and Bynum as opposed to asking Kobe to shoulder much of the load. This concerns me. Even with Splitter, I’m still not convinced we have enough size to beat them in the post.”

    If everyone’s healthy on both teams that’s exactly my point. And a dominant, experienced front court usually wins in the playoffs.

    “Against the Lakers, these rules (hand checking rules, etc.) would tend to favor the Spurs. However, in the end, I don’t believe that would be enough to turn the tide.”

    Yes, good point, and I agree.

    “Perhaps this is one reason why Pop wants us to look for fast break opportunities. We don’t want to face the Lakers front line in a slow-paced, grind-out game.”

    Yes, another very good point.

    “If Duncan is breaking down (and he is) then Bryant, especially being a wing player, is right behind him.”

    Perhaps, but Kobe’s a super-tough and durable player. I wouldn’t expect much decline from him this season. And I’d also look for his minutes to be reduced somewhat this year during the regular season with the addition of Blake & Barnes. That extra, experienced depth should help an aging team weather father-time just a bit longer. Those were very astute acquisitions for the defending, but increasingly mature NBA champions.

  • Jim Henderson

    Bankshot21
    October 22nd, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    “Not sold on the Lakers as a regular season juggernaut.”

    Not a juggernaut, but still the likely top-seed in the West, probably with about 3-4 games to spare. Bynum must stay healthy when he gets back, and the team must experience only very limited future injuries, especially in the front court.

  • Jim Henderson
  • rob

    Speaking of odds. What are the odds of this happening:

    http://www.cbssports.com/nba/story/14168647/nba-owners-float-contraction-along-with-huge-pay-cuts

    I’m not sure eliminating teams is the answer. But am in favor of teams being able to get rid of bloated salaries for under achieving/injured players. And though it probably would be rejected by the player’s union…I strongly support a hard cap and performance based salaries along with rookie based compensation to be allocated according to one’s level of production and minutes played until a team and the league has a chance to see if highly touted prospects can ever produce up to expectation.

  • Gebo

    I would trade 5-8 wins and the higher seeding they would bring for a good perimeter defender. In last years playoffs when several Phoenix Sun’s perimeter players got hot, we had noone who could step out and cool them off. At this time I do not see that cooler on this team. For me, the biggest difference between the Lakers and us is not their big front line, but that Koby Bryant, Ron Artest, and now Matt Barnes can all step out and have a better chance of cooling down hot shooters than any player on our squad. If building a strong, complete NBA squad were easy, everybody would do it. Love me some Spurs. Miss me some Bruce.

  • badger

    Last night during Lakers pre-season game, announcer asked Lamar Odom, who was sitting at the press table during the game, what teams he felt would challenge the Lakers. After saying the obligatory words about every team will be gunning for us, blah blah, blah, he mentioned the Spurs as the second team out of his mouth. That was no accident.

    To hell with idiots like Mark Jackson, who didn’t even list the Spurs as any of the 5 teams he picked to challenge the Lakers in the West. I’ll stick with what Odom said. It was sincere, it was obviously something he and the fellas have talked about with each other in private.

    That is, even if everyone else disrespects the small market “old” Spurs, there is no way lamar Odom is going to fall into that ridiculous mindset.

    50-55 wins, 2 or 3 seed in the West. Anything can happen. As Chris Berman loves to say, “It’s why we play the games.”

    Countdown to tip off has begun!

  • Jim Henderson

    Gebo
    October 23rd, 2010 at 8:38 am

    “For me, the biggest difference between the Lakers and us is not their big front line, but that Koby Bryant, Ron Artest, and now Matt Barnes can all step out and have a better chance of cooling down hot shooters than any player on our squad.”

    I terms of impact, I’d say that’s the second biggest difference that favors the Lakers.

  • mailboogie

    I was at the Houston game in SA. I was impressed not only with Blair,but also Neal and Anderson. Both played defense the way Pop asks his players. Blair will hold his own with the bigs in the middle. He looks like he grew an inch over the summer. His body looked like to be rock hard. NOBODY moved him out of the play. Neal and Anderson got a lot of playing time and showcased their skills on offense and defense. Simmons has not shown me a thing this preseason. I prefer to keep Gee who does have the upside to compete for the future. Simmons will only be a Spur 1 year and be looking for a better contract somewhere else if he does anything with the Spurs.

    As for the season, the Spurs could compete with any team in the LEAGUE. I repeat ANY team. The lakers included. We are far from old, as many would say, but the Lakers and Celtics are at the point of being really old. I would say we will be #1 in the SW and either #1,2 or 3 overall in the West.

  • Jacob

    LA -58 wins – 1
    OK – 55 wins – 2
    SA – 55 wins – 3
    DAL – 54 wins – 4
    UT – 52 wins – 5
    POR – 50 wins – 6
    HOU – 50 wins – 7
    PHX – 47 wins – 8
    MEM – 44 wins – 9
    LAC – 44 wins -10

  • GitErDun

    If the Spurs and the Lakers are “getting old”, what can you say about the Mavs – they are already old. Notice the over/under guys had nothing to say about the Mavs. Another middle of the road, out in the first round to the Spurs season.

  • td4life

    This year’s Lakers are basically the perfect basketball team, albeit though Bynum is somewhat unproven, but the above points concerning their advantages are dead on. Unfortunately!

    As for Bryant’s decline, that’s premature.
    With Bryant, he is simply too smart and too dedicated to not make it work for another few years, and with the talent on his squad, he has every advantage. Furthermore, while players like Timmy hate to lose, Kobe is really at a different level in that respect… he has an essentially pathological need to win… you guys may doubt that sheer willfullness can trump luck in the health department, but Kobe is full-tilt determined to get 7 rings, and he wants to go through the likes of Boston, and Miami’s Super Three to get those last two. (Manu is the closest thing we have to Kobe in the will-to-win department, but alot more fragile physically. And the truth is, though he is an inferior basketball player, Kobe does stand alone with MJ for this reason alone.) Aside from that, replace Kobe with any number of other players around the league, and that team is still a contender. I can’t say all that without repeating that I am not and never will be a Kobe Bryant fan.

    True, the Spurs have never failed when they were healthy, but this is really a new team… Spurs optimist’s need to remember that in addition to health, all our younger guys need to really overachieve, and RJ has to be rock-soild. For the Spurs, given the roster’s shortcomings, everything needs to go right when it counts, whatever the opposite of a perfect storm is, and no mistakes. For the Lakers, it’s the opposite, very many things need to go very wrong. Plain and simply, it’s their’s to lose.

    But it is an exciting season for San Antonio, from James Anderson all the way up. I have us as far and away the most likable team in the league… if only we could play some world-class defense, even with the players we have!

    If Tiago pans out, and we are healthy, I think we are good for just over 50 wins, and maybe a 3rd round exit. Though, I’ll inevitably start believing we have a real shot if we make it that far, which would be thrilling.

    LA may sleep against lesser teams, and get upset occassionally by Utah, SA, Houston, etc, but they should fall just short of 60 and then start turning it on by the second round. Too bad Stern’s not calling for contraction of the league by eliminating the big market teams, ha ha, simply because they are a blight on the world. (At least the Yankees lost! Pray they don’t have Sabathia + Lee next year.)

    I have Phoenix missing the playoffs. And it may be a battle for the 8th spot, but I think Memphis will make the cut. Sacramento will lose a lot of games, but they will end the season better than their record. Golden State will be dead last, despite the horror show in Minneapolis.

  • Searching for Slava

    Badger,
    For what it’s worth, I’m a longtime Lakers fan and always view the Spurs as a major threat. L.O. had it right, San Antonio’s just never a team you want to disrespect.

  • Hobson13

    td4life
    October 23rd, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    I agree that the Lakers are very good but, given certain conditions, they are beatable. Last year many “experts” claimed the Lakers would 65+ games and easily take the title. They won far fewer games and were very fortunate to win the championship. As you well know, nothing is remotely close to a sure thing over the course of an 8 month season.

    There were three very important take-aways from the Finals for me: 1) Game 7 showed that a huge front line is necessary to compete at the highest level (something I’m not sure the Spurs have unless Splitter proves to be VERY good). As far as a physical basketball game goes, that game was damned near a rugby match. As a side note, the lack of a big front line is why the Heat won’t lift the trophy anytime soon. 2) The Lakers were very fortunate to come away with that series being down 3-2. If Ray Allen had hit his normal shots, the championship would be going through Boston not LA. 3) The Celtics laid out a blue-print for defeating the Lakers. Teams have a chance if they can slow the Lakers front line and force Bryant into being a volume shooter. Not easy to do, but possible for some teams.

    As far as Kobe goes, no amount of working out, will power, or offseason regimen will fully stop father time. Perhaps his production doesn’t drastically decline this year (I expect at least some decline though), but certainly by next year, we will begin to see Kobe transform into a mere mortal.

  • Jim Henderson

    Jacob
    October 23rd, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    You really think Denver’s out of the top ten?

    The Suns lost Amare & Amundson. They now have virtually no rebounding, or dominant low post scorer. You think they’ll still win 47 games?

    Let’s take a moment to break down your numbers by comparing them to what happened last season in the West:

    You’re predicting that DEN falls out of the top-ten, and the LAC move into the top-ten.

    You’re predicting that the top-ten wins 509 games this year. Last year the top-ten won 504.

    Last year the bottom-five won 156 games. On average that leaves 151 wins for the bottom five this year.

    Base on your top-ten predictions for this year, the following would be your bottom five in random order, with their win totals for last year:

    …………2009 wins ……………..Exp. 2010 wins

    DEN…….. 53……………………………. < 44
    NOH……. 37…………………………….. ?
    SAC……… 25…………………………….. ?
    GSW……. 26…………………………….. ?
    MIN…….. 15…………………………….. ?

    Total ……. 156 …………………………. 151

    I put in Denver as less than 44, otherwise they would have made your top-ten. So you're expecting at least a 10-game slide from the Nuggets. Maybe you expect Melo to not last there past the all-star break and you're concerned about their injuries? In any event, let's just say that you think they will just miss your top-ten, and come in with 43 wins this season. That leaves 108 wins for the last 4 teams. Those four teams won 103 last year, thus by process of elimination you're expecting the bottom FOUR teams combined to improve by just 5 more wins, an average of 1.25 wins per team.

    NOH – One of the most valuable players, and highest "win producers" in the league, Chris Paul, missed almost half the season last year. Having him back healthy alone propels NOH to more than 1.25 more wins. More like at least 6-7 wins better, in my view.

    SAC – This is a young, well-coached team that is only going to get better. They have the reigning rookie of the year (Evans), top-three leading candidate for this year's rookie of the year (Cousins), acquired a veteran center who's one of the leagues best rebounders, low-post defenders, & shot-blockers (Dalembert), plus they have Carly Landry for the full year, and a number of players primed to make a jump this season (e.g., Casspi, Thompson,…). The 25 wins from last season is not very good. I expect them to improve much more than 1.25 wins. More like 8-10 wins better in my view.

    GSW – They picked up 20/10 guy David Lee, defensive pest & shot-blocker Amundson, the defensive-minded SF, Dorrell Wright, another defensive-minded guard (Charlie Bell), have one of the top rookies from last season (Curry), a great scorer in Monta Ellis, and thank God for the Warriors, a new head coach. Again, I would be surprised if this team did not improve by more than 1.25 games over their dismal 26 wins of last season. More like 4-8 wins better, in my view.

    MIN: If preseason performance is any indication of how a team will perform in the regular season, then the 6-2 preseason of the T-Wolves bodes well for meaningful improvement for this team from their pathetic 15 wins for last season. I'd say the Wolves are heading in the right direction with 3rd year, USA FIBA player K. Love, 4th pick in the draft Wesley Johnson, Corey Brewer, FA and/or trade acquisitions of Ridnour, Webster, & Beasley. This team will win much more than 16-17 games this year. More like 24-27, in my view.

    I would put DEN back in the top-ten, and take the LAC out of the top-ten. Thus, this would be my predictions for the bottom five:

    NOH – 42 wins
    LAC – 37 wins
    SAC – 35 wins
    GSW – 33 wins
    MIN – 25 wins

    Thus, I predict 172 wins for the bottom five, versus last year's 132, an average of eight wins better per team. As you can see, I think the bottom five have gotten much better going into this year.

    Here's my top-ten break-down:

    LAL – 57 wins
    OKC – 52 wins
    HOU – 51 wins
    SAS – 51 wins
    POR – 50 wins
    DAL – 49 wins
    UTH – 49 wins
    DEN – 44 wins
    MEM – 43 wins
    PHO – 42 wins

    And so I predict 488 wins for the top-ten, versus 504 for last year. As a result, I predict that the top-ten will lose on average 1.6 more games this season compared to last, simply because they will lose at a slightly higher rate against bottom-five teams than they did last year.

    With your predictions, you must think that the bottom-five have actually gotten worse compared to the top-ten, since under your win scenario for the top-ten, your bottom five would end up winning 5 fewer games this year compared to those same five teams last year. Is that correct? What would then be your predicted wins for your bottom five (must add up to 151)?

  • Jim Henderson

    td4life
    October 23rd, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    “Spurs optimist’s need to remember that in addition to health, all our younger guys need to really overachieve, and RJ has to be rock-soild. For the Spurs, given the roster’s shortcomings, everything needs to go right when it counts, whatever the opposite of a perfect storm is, and no mistakes. For the Lakers, it’s the opposite, very many things need to go very wrong. Plain and simply, it’s their’s to lose.”

    Well put. I agree with what you said about Bryant as well.

    Hobson13
    October 23rd, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    “There were three very important take-aways from the Finals for me:”

    All fine points, but just remember the following caveats:

    (1) It was Artest’s (not the brightest guy in the world) first year in the triangle offense last year. Look for him to be a bit more comfortable & efficient this season in the triangle.
    (2) Bynum was injured during the later part of last season, and was much less than 100% in the playoffs. If he’s healthy after the all-star break, and throughout the playoffs, look out.
    (3) The Lakers probably had their worst bench in years last year, including in the playoffs. Their bench is much improved this year, and Artest should be more efficient, which should take more of the offensive load off Kobe (e.g., Blake can be an excellent scorer, S. Brown is improving, and even Barnes can have some productive nights on the offensive end — and we know what Odom can do).

    The Lakers are still the prohibitive favorites in the West in my view. They’d have to have injury problems for anyone else to really threaten them, except for perhaps Houston if Yao comes back stronger than expected. Yao at 95% is the best offensive center in the league, and one of the best defensively as well. Healthy, in game shape, at 30 years old, Yao “could” make Houston into an elite team with a bonafide shot at the title.

  • rob

    Jim Henderson

    “The Lakers are still the prohibitive favorites in the West in my view. They’d have to have injury problems for anyone else to really threaten them, except for perhaps Houston if Yao comes back stronger than expected. Yao at 95% is the best offensive center in the league, and one of the best defensively as well. Healthy, in game shape, at 30 years old, Yao “could” make Houston into an elite team with a bonafide shot at the title.”

    Agreed. Houston with a healthy Yao as well as the other components on that team probably have a better shot at making the finals than do the Spurs.

    Though it will be nice and interesting to see a healthy Spurs team this year making their run unlike last season when 3 to 4 of the Spurs key players were nagged and not completely healthy.

  • rob

    Greyberger

    “What’s holding us back from winning even more than 50?”

    Nothing imo except health issues that may arise to our key players. 50+ wins have been a norm for this team. And even last year with the health issues the Spurs managed that.

    This team’s new and 2nd to 3rd year players will be the tell all. But they have (potentially) the ability to be better than the players no longer on this team that were counted on to being significant.

    Have the Spurs improved enough compared to the other top teams in the west?

    I tend to think so other than a healthy Laker and Portland team.

    My prediction….Spurs with 54 wins. Third to fourth best in the west depending on Houston’s health status.

  • Gebo

    For Jim Henderson
    Regarding the relative strengths of the Lakers interior/perimeter players:

    My thinking is that there is a real good chance that Bryant, Artest, and Barnes will show up and be ready to play hard. With Bynum’s history of injuries and Odem’s history of emotional no-shows I don’t have nearly as much confidence in their ability to play winning basketball in a got-to-have-it game. Gasol is a rock. Artest’s own checkered past, and Odem’s apparent maturation in the FIFA Games may prove me wrong this coming season. I also think that Bryant and Artest (particularly his tough, phyical defense on Pierce) were the biggest reasons the Lakers beat the Celtics last year. Just the fact that we can have a discussion about which aspect of the Laker’s team is the stronger is very telling. They are TOUGH.

  • Pop-a-vich

    I don’t care if Miami ends the season with a 80-2 record…

    …as long as their only 2 losses will come from US.

    DRIVE FOR FIVE!!!

    Go SPURS Go!

  • td4life

    Hobson13,

    Classifying the Lakers as “very good” is an understatement. It is easy to undervalue their talent, because they do not always play to their potential. They are are very often complacent, and as they seem to prove, they can get away with it. It’s a long season if you are tacking on an extra 16 wins for several years running, but they have too much talent at every position. They are even better this year, and we gotta hope that Bynum can’t stay healthy, b/c he could potentially be in the conversation for the league’s best center per 48.

    You are right about your Finals take-aways, particularly regarding size inside… as I said before, for the Spurs to get it done, everything has to go right. The same could be said for some other squads out there, like Dallas and Boston, both who have a ton of size inside. Portland also has a ton of size. We do not. I believe Tiago will be as good or better than say Robin Lopez, Marc Gasol, and maybe even Greg Oden (considering his tendency to pick up fouls), albeit with a different skillset, though he is not quite the physical specimen of those guys… but we just can’t know what he will bring. McD is of some value against the likes of LA, but Blair may have to have to test his offense through a second jersey named Odom or Artest. There is no getting around the fact that SA is a real underdog when it comes to chances at contention.

    Listen, Kobe has already started to decline, he has had a lot of miles. He’ll have a few more off games. But, he will also benefit from a lower true usage rate, and be more of a decoy and coach on the floor, but he’s just in it for the 7 rings. He can pace himself, and still deliver in the clutch more often than not. He, Barne, and Artest can also match up defensively against anybody, to say the least. What’s more, Boston lost that series because Rasheed has no heart, and they came down with an obvious case of doubt, fear, and insecurity when Perkins went down… This is NOT a problem that LA has, they simply feed off of Bryant’s insurmountable confidence. Sometimes, they lose games, but they never doubt they can win, and that, folks, is a lesson for everybody else.

    Do you remember our second round defeat to LA in ’01? Timmy was frustrated and hopeless, nobody wanted the ball except the rookie TP who was sitting on the bench, chomping at the bit. He alone believed in himself. Blair has that. I hope Tiago does. That shit is PRICELESS!

    I think the Spurs will be gunning for #2 in the West, and Pop will only settle in the last two games if it means (a) falling as far as #3, (b) we are nursing key players, or (c) nothing at all, but otherwise we will fight from the start for wins. But come playoff time, size and perimeter defense will be something that will determine who is left standing.

    Does anybody know if we will test drive Splitter in the opener? Hibbert would be an appropriate first trial.

  • Flavor

    I think all teams with the exception of L.A. and Miami should just cancel their season and let them two play for the championship since everyone doesn’t think any other team can compete.

  • Jim Henderson
  • Hobson13

    td4life
    October 24th, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Good points regarding the Lakers. Perhaps they finally have the bench depth to give Kobe a rest. He’s averaged 35+ min/game for most of his career. He needs a rest during the regular season.

    “I believe Tiago will be as good or better than say Robin Lopez, Marc Gasol, and maybe even Greg Oden.”

    If so, he would prove to be a very big pickup for the Spurs. We do have better youth than the Lakers which has it’s advantages and disadvantages. Let’s hope our young guys mature even more this year.

    Jim Henderson
    October 23rd, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    “All fine points, but just remember the following caveats:”

    Those are fair points. However, I would add that I suspect the lakers will have a slower start this year, but get hot later on. With Bynum out, several new players, and Kobe taking it easy, I can see them coming out of the gate at a slowed pace this year in an effort to reserve strength for a playoff push.

    “Yao at 95% is the best offensive center in the league, and one of the best defensively as well.”

    I agree that a Yao/Scola front line would be an interesting match for a Bynum/Gasol front. A healthy Yao is better (and bigger) than Bynum but Gasol is better than Scola. This would be a great matchup. especially if Scola plays as well as he did during FIBA competition.

    However, as much as I would like to see this happen, I’m not convinced that Yao can make it through the season and play heavy minutes in the playoffs. Houston is already worried about Yao to the point of limiting him for 24min/game. I’ve never heard of a team doing this with a player who is only 30 yrs old. Duncan is 34 and yet will play more minutes than Yao this year. Again, I would like to see this matchup, but if Yao only plays 24 min/game in the playoffs, that won’t be enough to beat the Lakers.

  • Jacob

    @Jim

    Thanks for all the thought put in the post. My predictions weren’t calculated, they were based off of my own guessing. The reason why Denver is out is predicated on the assumption that Carmelo leaves Denver sooner than later, leaving them little reason to make much, if any postseason noise. I also don’t expect cp3 to stick around halfway, and I expect the effort of his teammates to follow suit. Thanks again for taking the time to break it all down so nicely.

  • zack in the alamo

    i dont think the lakers will even make the WCF this year i know i know it soundsw stupid but i honestly dont you guys realized the lakers always win championships when they start their season strong. kobe looks about as bad as ive ever seen! he looks like he has no lift whatsoever.

    first of all those of you who dont know how much tiago will help this team seriously need to stop watching the youtube clips and go see the archive of 2 hr film @caja . watch how hard this guy plays when the games on the line how he dominates and does whatever it takes to win. you will see that when hes not playing his team is just waiting for him to come back hes the heart of a team. hes not fabricio oberto people.

    the only thing im worried about is his chemistry with the players but i think he will earn their trust just as ginobili did putting his body on the line for the team. hes all heart and lves to play defense down low and was playing in a physical league and i mean tough compared to “laker ball”

    tiago is another ginobili no joke hes that important .pop is definitely downplaying it i also think pop wants to take teams by suprise with tiago if we stay healthy we will have a chapionship PERIOD

  • miggy
  • Jim Henderson

    As a group they also think that the Suns will finish ahead of Houston & Denver. Not going to happen as currently constructed. NO rebounding, and NO low-post presence.

  • Tim in Surrey

    I’ll chime in on this as well, I suppose, because I for one am not sold on the Lakers as a given in the finals.

    For starters, any time a team is universally assumed by reporters to make the finals or win the title, it’s usually a bit of a warning sign. We only have to remember our own experience in 2006 with probably the best Spurs team of the last six years for a recent precedent. And the Lakers have a few themselves: 2004, when they were crowned by the media in October but lost to Detroit in June and in 1981 and 1986, when the obvious conference champs (and defending NBA champs) lost to the Rockets (in the first round, in 1981). Only Michael Jordan and Bill Russell seem to have been immune to the problems of complacency.

    Second, yes we all know that the Lakers’ front court is long. But that has never been the reason for their effectiveness. The problem is that Odom and Gasol are so skilled and mobile that they can play just as effectively against smaller or larger opponents. This allows them to use their height to dominate smaller lineups and their skill and quickness to dominate larger ones. However, this only really works when Bynum and Artest are BOTH healthy and engaged. I happen to think Artest will have a very strong year, but Bynum? Who knows. The one thing I do know is that the sorts of persistent knee injuries Bynum has had tend to rob players of their explosiveness–particularly in the first year of recovery. And Bynum’s explosiveness, combined with his great size, is what makes him so effective. I suspect he will be a very limited factor this year.

    Further, while what Jim Henderson said about dominant, experienced frontcourts usually winning NBA titles is true, it is just as true of dominant, experienced backcourts. And historically, when the two match up, it is the dominant, experienced backcourt that wins, as long as they have enough inside to keep the other team honest. Why is that? There’s an old basketball saying that goes “If you can’t stop the ball, you can’t stop the team.” Which leads us to what EVERYONE seems to have forgotten about the Lakers: They have proven to be extremely vulnerable to quick, penetrating point guards and quick, hot-shooting wing players.

    In looking back at last year, everyone remembered that the Celtics gave the Lakers trouble. They assumption, then, that only a team like the Celtics COULD give the Lakers trouble. But OKC gave them just as much trouble in the first round. If the Lakers’ front line is so invincible, how could that have been possible for a team relying on guys like Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka inside and a bunch of playoff rookies on the perimeter? It’s simple: Westbrooks, Harden, Durant & Co. are too quick for the Lakers to handle. The dirty little secret of the Lakers is that their backcourt can’t really stop anybody. And it’s not just Fisher, either. Despite the hype, Kobe and Artest are no longer effective defending quicker perimeter players. The Lakers’ experience and length allow them to cover for each other against teams with ONE great perimeter player (e.g. Utah or Denver). But teams with two such players are more of a problem and teams with three cause the defensive system to break down entirely. The only way the Lakers can beat such a team is if they miss their open shots, which is why we should all thank God that Chip isn’t the shooting coach for Russell Westbrooks.

    Which brings us to the Western Conference finals. I can see a few teams that will cause the Lakers fits. Two in particular are in Texas: The Rockets and the Spurs. In both cases, everyone is so focused on the ageing big men that they’ve forgotten that Manu Ginobili, George Hill, Richard Jefferson, Aaron Brooks, Kyle Lowry, Chase Budinger, and Shane Battier are exactly the kinds of players that cause the Lakers fits. Don’t believe me? Ask Kobe what what he thinks about Manu. And a healthy Tony Parker? Dating back to 2001 he has been proven to be the single most deadly player in the entire league when it comes to the Lakers. Mark my words: If Manu, Tony, George and RJ are healthy in May, the Spurs will beat the Lakers–even with a healthy Andrew Bynum.

    (Of course, the Spurs will probably have to get past OKC, Dallas or Utah to get the chance, which is an entirely different kettle of fish…)

  • Jim Henderson

    Tim in Surrey
    October 26th, 2010 at 12:47 am

    “I for one am not sold on the Lakers as a given in the finals.”

    Nobody is a given. The league is too talented now. Nevertheless, by any measure the Lakers would have to be considered the prohibitive favorites this year. They’re in a sweet spot for titles: a great coach, and “experienced” players with years playing together, but not “too old”.

    “Only Michael Jordan and Bill Russell seem to have been immune to the problems of complacency.”

    I would add Kobe to that list.

    “The problem is that Odom and Gasol are so skilled and mobile that they can play just as effectively against smaller or larger opponents. This allows them to use their height to dominate smaller lineups and their skill and quickness to dominate larger ones.”

    Good observation, and I concur.

    “I happen to think Artest will have a very strong year, but Bynum? Who knows……..I suspect he will be a very limited factor this year.”

    Bynum is an x-factor, but he’s been limited in the past two years as well, and LA has still won the title. And the Lakers are stronger this year with Blake & Barnes, and even Ratliff might help some in limited duty.

    “Which leads us to what EVERYONE seems to have forgotten about the Lakers: They have proven to be extremely vulnerable to quick, penetrating point guards and quick, hot-shooting wing players.”

    The PG’s yes, I don’t know about the wing players. Certainly this year they have one of the best wing-defensive-tandems in the league with Artest & Barnes at SF. And any back court with Kobe Bryant is not an an overall disadvantage. What they lack at defending the speedsters they make up for with clutch shooters, and guys that can post-up their opponent on the offensive end.

    “It’s simple: Westbrooks, Harden, Durant & Co. are too quick for the Lakers to handle.”

    But OKC’s too quick for the great majority of the teams in the league to handle. The strength of the Lakers is their overall balance as a team compared to their competitors. And if you remember, the Lakers were simply not playing well at the end of the season when they entered the playoffs against the upstart Thunder. They’ll be better prepared for them this year. Even so, I expect OKC to be a tough out for any team this year. They’re simply very talented. But their “balance” and experience does not match the Lakers, and that should ultimately be the difference.

    “But teams with two such players are more of a problem and teams with three cause the defensive system to break down entirely.”

    Not this year with the addition of Barnes & Ratliff, and of course if Bynum can stay healthy from December on. And by the way, I expect Vujacic to continue to revive himself off the bench, and in limited minutes he can be a pain in the ass as a perimeter defender as well.

    “Which brings us to the Western Conference finals. I can see a few teams that will cause the Lakers fits. Two in particular are in Texas: The Rockets and the Spurs.”

    A healthy Rocket team is dangerous (a healthy Blazer team could be as well); a healthy Spur team less so. Not enough size on the front line, and the players we do have are either getting too old or don’t have sufficient experience.

    “Mark my words: If Manu, Tony, George and RJ are healthy in May, the Spurs will beat the Lakers–even with a healthy Andrew Bynum.”

    Totally disagree with you on that one. LA has a healthy Bynum, they win it all.

  • Tim in Surrey

    For verification of what I was saying, look no further than last night’s Houston-LA game! LA managed to escape with a win, thanks to last-minute three by an obviously jacked-up Steve Blake. But still, they trailed by 15 and very nearly blew a ring-ceremony home game against a Houston team playing without Kyle Lowry and Jared Jeffries and with a very, very rusty-looking Yao.

    Why was it so tough? Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin torched LA’s perimeter defense. They combined for 50 points on 7/12 3-pt. shooting and 13/13 from the free throw line, despite a low number of fouls for LA’s perimeter players. In other words, they were able to penetrate AND get open 3s. It’s a small sample size, of course, but Bryant, Fisher, and Artest were -8, -8, and -7 respectively.

    LA can absolutely be had this year, with a healthy Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

  • rob

    Tim in Surrey

    “LA can absolutely be had this year, with a healthy Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.”

    Houston looked scary good last night. With a completely healthy Yao and full slate of players, the Rockets just might be in contention to win this division if not the conference.

    But I’m in contention with Jim Henderson on this one. Without a healthy formidable front court for the Spurs…as good as our backcourt may be if healthy….I think the team’s chances of beating L.A. aren’t quite as likely as you may be thinking.

    L.A. looked scary good too. Their biggest improvement is their bench. Which torched Houston’s bench (and at times their starters) last night. L.A. with a good bench is a scary thought and would be harder to beat than last year.

    So…while the Spurs and other team’s may have improved their roster…L.A. improved theirs as well. In today’s nba…my thought is a team just can’t only have a stacked backcourt or frontcourt and expect to be in serious contention to win it all. A team has to have a well rounded roster with top talent in both the front and back court.

    None the less, a fun game to watch last night. And speaking of last night…I think Miami just may have proven a point as well. Without a decent (legit) big on that team…there might be more outcomes for Miami like last night regardless of having the most stacked backcourt in the league.

  • rob

    From Alvin Gentry of the Suns.

    “When you look at a team like the Lakers, they run (Andrew) Bynum and Pau (Gasol) and Lamar (Odom), a bunch of 7-foot guys, and they added Theo Ratliff. I just think you can’t ever have too much size on your team.”

    http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/sports/articles/2010/10/08/20101008phoenix-suns-exploring-erick-dampier.html

    I would add to Gentry’s comment…”I just think you can’t ever have too much size (That Matters) on your team.”

  • Tim in Surrey

    Guys,

    I’m not ignoring the Spurs’ frontcourt strength, nor that of LA. I’m just assuming that both are at full strength for the sake of argument, so that I can focus on the backcourts. The reason I’m doing this is because I’m just tired of hearing people repeat the same cliched argument that the Lakers will win the title because they’re so long up front. It’s not that simple and it never has been. That’s why Chicago and Detroit won 9 of the last 21 championships without dominant frontcourts.

    This year’s Spurs, when healthy, will be one of the few teams whose frontcourt won’t simply be steamrolled by the Lakers’s frontcourt. But in addition, the Spurs happen to have an All-Star calibre point guard whose game is built on quickness, which is the Lakers’ achilles heel. Nothing LA did in the offseason addressed that problem because Steve Blake is just as vulnerable to guys like Chris Paul, Aaron Brooks, and Tony Parker as Derek Fisher is. (If anything, exchanging Jordan Farmer for Black made them MORE vulnerable to penetrators.) Additionally, Manu has always caused Kobe as much trouble as any player in the league. So as long as those two guys are playing well and Duncan can still hold the fort against Gasol, the Spurs will continue to be a particularly difficult matchup for the Lakers, in much the same way that Phoenix was a particularly difficult matchup for the Spurs last season.

    Does that mean that I’m abandoning all reason and assuming the Spurs will win the title? Of course not. There are other contenders who line up quite well against us. In Boston, for instance, Rondo does as good a job as anyone in keeping Parker from penetrating and Allen and Pierce are very effective on both ends against our players. Add in the fact that KG and TD more or less neutralize each other and I think you can see why I think Boston is a more difficult opponent for the Spurs than LA, even though I think LA is generally the stronger team.

    Respect the Lakers but don’t fear them, that’s all I’m saying.

    As for Ratliff? You can’t be serious! You CAN have too many 7-foot guys on your team if some of them are stiffs. Ratliff was a great defensive player once but that was a long time ago, and he was always a Wallace-like liability on the offensive end. Plus he has never been a 7-footer. That’s why the Spurs LET HIM GO last year, even though they really needed another effective interior defender.

  • Jim Henderson

    Tim in Surrey
    October 27th, 2010 at 3:40 am

    I agreed with you about Houston. They are clearly the biggest threat to LA. They have the toughest and deepest group of perimeter shooters/slashers/scorers in the league. ANY team will have a tough time guarding them on the perimeter. I’ve been talking up the Rockets for months while the rest of the sports world has been treating them like an afterthought. But as I said, with a healthy Bynum, the Laker’s are still the team to beat, unless Yao gets back to 95%, and 30+ mpg., then they have a legitimate shot. But the Spurs cannot compete with the Laker front line, their perimeter defense, and Blake now gives them a veteran shooter off the bench.

    rob
    October 27th, 2010 at 4:34 am

    “But I’m in contention with Jim Henderson on this one.”

    I assume you mean in “agreement”, not “contention”?

    Tim in Surrey
    October 27th, 2010 at 8:23 am

    “That’s why Chicago and Detroit won 9 of the last 21 championships without dominant frontcourts.”

    Unless you have an MJ to pull out of your pocket, raising this point is misleading. MJ was by far the most valuable back court player in the NBA to ever put on a uniform, and six of those nine championships were because of him. The three Piston teams had reigning defensive player’s of the year in their front court. Generally speaking, you need dominant bigs, either mainly defensively, or offensively & defensively, to win titles. Even MJ had the rebounding champion & defensive player of the year as an undersized PF on his team. We don’t have that anymore because TD is now 3-4 years past his prime. And while Blair & Splitter have some potential, neither is a proven NBA commodity at a star level.

    “Respect the Lakers but don’t fear them, that’s all I’m saying.”

    I don’t fear the Laker’s. I’m just playing the role of analyst. And I’m sure the Spurs don’t fear them either. But the fact is they’re a very difficult team to beat in a 7-game series, particularly with a healthy Bynum. We would have to maximize our potential at both ends for 7 games to beat them, which would represent a gargantuan effort. Not impossible; just not very likely.

    “As for Ratliff? You can’t be serious! You CAN have too many 7-foot guys on your team if some of them are stiffs.”

    Ratliff is not a stiff. For the Laker’s purposes, he’s a cheap big that’s still a decent defender & rebounder in limited minutes while Bynum is recovering. I’m not sure what the Spurs were looking for in Ratliff, or exactly why they cut him (other than for tax purposes), but this team is clearly missing a younger Ratliff-type player. That’s why I wanted us to get Amundson so badly, because he disrupts, rebounds, blocks shots, and gives the type of special energy off the bench that every good team needs.

  • rob

    Jim Henderson

    “I assume you mean in “agreement”, not “contention”?”

    Yep.

    Tim in Surrey

    “I’m just assuming that both are at full strength for the sake of argument, so that I can focus on the backcourts.”

    Fair enough. But the Spurs current frontcourt even fully healthy is no match for the Lakers frontcourt.

    Are you believing that the Spurs backcourt is that much better than the Lakers to offset the strength the Lakers have over the Spurs in the frontcourt to secure a series win over the Lakers?

    I for one would certainly hope so…but I happen to believe that in a situation regarding a Spur/Laker series…Lakers win that series because their frontcourt in my opinion is that much better than the Spurs while the backcourt advantage of the Spurs isn’t as dominant as the Laker’s frontcourt advantage over the Spurs. Not unless Tiago proves to be starting material by the time that series would be played.

  • Pingback: The Spurs are out pacing Vegas()

  • Daniel

    I calculated 65 wins before the season (65.1, actually) based on an improved bench and a healthy Parker. Blair has regressed, but Jefferson’s minor improvement combined with Manu’s heavy minutes has more than made up for it.