The San Antonio Spurs will not be going away next year. They will be towards the top of the heap in the Western Conference. Tony Parker’s excellence, Kawhi Leonard’s emergence, and Tim Duncan’s seeming lack of senescence ensure that. For the rest of the league that just saw the Spurs come within a miracle Ray Allen corner three of winning the title, this should be quite scary indeed. But just how good will the Spurs be next year?
In 2013–14, by xRAPM, combined with my interpretation of Jeremias Engelmann’s adjusted-plus minus aging curve and minutes projections courtesy of the Kupfer method, the Spurs project as a 55 win team. That’s a drop off of 3 games and that’s significant, but there’s reason to doubt its accuracy. This projection expects Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to both decline quite a bit. The Big Fundamental, though, looked basically like the same guy he’s always been this year all the way through the playoffs. The mind reels at his ability to continue to slug it out with Father Time to a draw. Duncan’s the exception and not the rule, though, and if Manu’s playoff run is any indication, he may decline even more than this projection suggests, which may counteract Timmy’s refusal to surrender to age. The regular season’s not the end game for the Spurs, though, just as it wasn’t this year. They will rest their core guys (as these minutes projections suggest) and they will be fresher than just about any other team come playoff time- and have no doubt, the Spurs will be back in the postseason this year. Once they get there, I expect Tony Parker to keep the ball humming to the right spots, Duncan to continue locking down the paint, and Kawhi Leonard to grab seemingly every rebound within 15 feet of him. The Spurs will contend, again. It’s over when they say it’s over.
Featured image via flickr user Keith Allison