espn | truehoop | 5-on-5: Sleeper teams

Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: San Antonio Spurs. The San Antonio Spurs have played one of the toughest schedules in the league and sustained an injury to their best player. Assuming all those teams in the Southwest Division don't beat each other up too much, the Spurs should be primed for a strong end of the season when Manu returns to one of the deepest San Antonio teams in recent memory. Kevin Arnovitz, San Antonio Spurs. If the playoffs were to start today, the Spurs would be facing a tee time. They are ranked 23rd defensively, have been without Manu Ginobili since Jan. 2 and still have their rodeo trip in front of them. But if they can tread water on the road until Manu gets back, the Spurs should experience a bounce. They've rationed starter minutes and have been developing their supporting cast. Does anyone really believe there are eight better teams in the West? Jared Wade, Eight Points, Nine Seconds: San Antonio. The Spurs had the best record in the West last season and have managed to tread water despite losing Ginobili. That may be a blessing in disguise, however, as it is forcing the inexperienced players on the roster (Tiago Splitter, Kawhi Leonard, Gary Neal) into larger roles. The big three can't do it on their own anymore, so coach Gregg Popovich will need these guys come playoff time. And without any truly scary teams across the Mississippi aside from the Thunder, it would shock nobody if the Spurs crawled their way back to the conference finals. Royce Young, Daily Thunder: San Antonio Spurs. It kind of feels like the Spurs are intentionally hovering around .500. Like they're just trying to do just enough to stay in the race while also conserving themselves for a big push in March. They've been without Manu Ginobili for most of the season and have gotten some inconsistent play from their role players, but the Spurs are coming. They're like a racehorse waiting for the chance to get to the inside and make a move.