Here's a preview I did for an NBA Blog Preview site. There's a lot of good information there from many talented writers. Check it out.
Author: Matthew Powell
Last Year's Record: 63-19
Key Losses: Rasho Nesterovic, Nazr Mohammed
Key Additions: Nick Van Exel's Retirement, Francisco Elson, Jackie Butler, Matt Bonner, Eric Williams
1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?
The Spurs moved quickly, trading Rasho Nesterovic's bloated contract and some cash for the fossilized remains of Eric Williams, Matt Bullard v2.6 and Toronto's 2009 2nd round draft pick, which, knowing the Spurs drafting habits, will be used to draft a kid who currently is 15 years old and lives in the hinterlands of Herzegovina. He's never even seen a basketball, but he's already a long 6'-4" and shows good lateral quickness while herding his village's flock of goats.
The Spurs, betting they could acquire 85% of the player for half the price, also let Nazr Mohammed go in free agency.
SA briefly flirted with the likes of Joel Przybilla but ended up making small offers to restricted free agents Francisco Elson and Jackie Butler. Denver legitimately had a glut of big men and let the former walk. The Knicks, on the other hand... At this point aren't there any number of high school kids who could write a simple computer code that would run the Knicks better than Isiah Thomas? I'm thinking it would start like this:
If (NumberOfPG w/ salary > $15000000 >= 1)
Then TradeForAnotherPGw/Salary>$15000000 = FALSE
Let us not underestimate the benefit of Nick Van Exel's retirement. Towards the end of last season I took to calling him Stumpy:
"I believe that Pop is not sold on Van Exel, probably because he cannot guard anybody and a large portion of his shots fall between "ill-advised" and "really fucking stupid." Look Nick, you aren't Tony Parker: the teardrop has abandoned you. And so has your first step. And second. I'm not sure you even have feet at this point. Check for bloody stumps. And stop shooting the ball with more than 14 seconds left of the shot clock. You're going to give me a polyp."
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
Without a doubt the biggest key to the Spurs continued success is Tim Duncan's ability to anchor a defense. He's the quintessential help defender and allows the Spurs perimeter defenders to play ultra-aggressively in terms of one-on-one defense as well as when rotating to the open three point shooter.
Tony Parker's offensive abilities will hopefully continue to blossom this year. Contrary to popular opinion, he didn't add much of a jump shot last year; he just took the ball to the rack a larger portion of the time with increased success. He's reportedly worked on his 3-point range during the offseason and will likely have plenty of opportunities to test it during the regular season. The backup PG position is sketchy at best (with Udrih being injured and buried deep, deep in Pop's doghouse) and Tim and Manu will take a backseat until the playoffs begin.
And the most mercurial of Spurs' strengths; Manu Ginobili's occasional ability to become unstoppable. Oh, how I miss the 2005 playoff version of Manu. Twas a sight to behold.
3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
The Spurs are old, and it showed in their series against the Mavericks. Barry, Horry, Finley and even Bowen had trouble keeping up with the likes of Howard, Terry and Harris. Ginobili, while under 30 years of age, seemed far removed from the player he was during the Spurs' last championship run.
There's also the question of finding a starting center from the likes of Elson, Oberto and Butler. Or maybe somebody could remind Tim Duncan that guys who are 7' tall and play predominantly with their back to the basket (which he did in the playoffs when he wasn't (understandably) babying his injured foot) are actually centers. Look for Pop to experiment a lot with smaller lineups.
Oh, and free throws of course. Goes without saying.
4. What are the goals for this team?
Predicted Record: 58-24