1 - Considering the Grizzlies' struggles and the fact that the Spurs play the Rockets twice, how likely is it for the Spurs to finish with a top three record?
Michael Erler: Still unlikely because they have some tough road games and they've been crummy on the road all year. Plus it's not like Pop at all to push the team hard right before the playoffs. I'm more curious what they'll do if they find themselves in the 4-5 position. Does Pop tank out of it or does he not care? I'd rather slide to 6-7 than be 4-5.
Chris Itz: I'll stick to my role as Spurs optimist. The two games against the Rockets leave the door open for the Spurs to win the season series and obtain the tiebreaker in the event that the two teams finish with the same record. For the Spurs to jump over the Grizzlies they will have to finish with a better record due to the split series and Memphis' superior conference record. In the eight remaining games, the Spurs will be the favorites in every one except for the game at Houston and with the way they're playing, it's not too hard to imagine a 7-1 finish to the season. I'm going really high here: 88%.
Bruno Passos: It's certainly possible with the way the team's been racing towards the playoffs, and obviously a dream scenario, given the combination of home-court advantage and avoidance of the Warriors in round 2. The back-to-backs against Houston seem to be what it'll hinge on.
Jesus Gomez: It would obviously be ideal but I don't see it happening. There's still one back-to-back, so some players might rest in the first game against the Rockets. Without that game, it would be really, really hard to climb all the way to third and even if the Spurs win them all, the Clippers are playing very well lately and have a much easier schedule.
J.R. Wilco: Not probable, but quite possible. It all hinges on those two games against Houston. Win both, and we can still dream of hosting one -- or even two -- postseason series. Lose either and it's time to pack those suitcases.
2 - The Spurs have recently won their games by a large margin, which means their crunch time lineup hasn't been tested. Considering all the close losses early in the season, is that a problem?
Erler: Yeah, probably. Specifically the Duncan-Diaw-Leonard-Ginobili-Parker lineup they closed with all last year has been a trainwreck this season. Pretty much any Ginobili-Diaw combo has been terrible. Spurs quietly had problems in close games last playoffs too, going 0-3 in games decided by three points or fewer. The wonky free throw shooting and the opponent shooting 98% in threes when down three and less than 10 seconds left is not helping matters.
Itz: The crunch-time lineup of course features Tim, Tony and Whi, but whether it's Splitter/Diaw or Ginobili/Green I think is a decision that will come based on the opponent and their in-game play. Splitter and Diaw have been playing really well lately and Green is having a career year, though he can be a little inconsistent. 95% of my crunch-time concern is with Ginobili. I'm not sure it's going to be a problem, but with so many close losses, I'm definitely worried.
Passos: I don't think you can compare the two versions of this team, and I'm not sure how much testing these guys need at this point. I'd rather them rest and save it up for when it matters.
Gomez: I think most of the lineup problems from early in the season stemmed from underwhelming individual performances. With Diaw hibernating for months and Parker and Leonard coming back from injuries, the sample size we have to judge that lineup might not be accurate. Ultimately, it will come down to how Manu Ginobili is playing. When Manu plays well, most of the lineups he's a part of play well.
Wilco: For a been-there-done-that team like San Antonio who brought everyone back for one more run, I'm not going to worry about close games until they're in the middle of playing one with their playoff lives at stake.
3 - Marco Belinelli has been as inconsistent as ever lately. Will he see his minutes disappear in the playoffs once again? And if it happens, should the Spurs bring him back next year?
Erler: They're gonna play Kawhi until his legs fall off so how much Belinelli plays will depend on how Green, Ginobili, Diaw and Mills are playing in front of him. Right now he's the ninth man but he could move up the totem pole to seventh or slide down to 11th. If Ginobili retires I'd bring Beli back at the right cost but my sense is he'll move on.
Itz: I'd be surprised to see him get significant minutes in the postseason. He's great at moving without the ball and may still be the best cutter on the team, but his defense is a negative and if his shot isn't falling he doesn't bring much. He should be at the bottom of the list of guys to re-sign if they bring him back.
Passos: The rotation will be smaller come playoff time, obviously, but I still think it's worth keeping him around. He knows the system and we've seen some guys just take a bit more time to shine.
Gomez: I think Marco is playing his last few games with the Spurs. Green, Ginobili and even some two-point guard lineups are probably in his way to playoff minutes and as good as he's been in terms of salary vs. production, I can see some team throwing something like $5 million a year his way in the offseason and I doubt the Spurs will match that.
Wilco: His value on the team is his ability to light up the scoreboards at a moment's notice ... if he's hot. Whether that happens in the regular season or in spot minutes in the playoffs, he still has value. With Mills struggling to regain his form, this postseason could be Marco's opportunity to shine. But he'll have to get the chance and capitalize big, because Mills already has his contract.
4 - We all know Kawhi Leonard is not going anywhere. But if he hypothetically were to leave, where would you like to see him land?
Erler: Somewhere East on a team I don't dislike, so not Cleveland. Orlando, Toronto, Washington, Philly... Any of those would be ok.
Itz: In China. It took me a long time to come around to Whi-as-the-future, but if he left, it would be heartbreaking. If we have to go NBA teams, then I'm 100% with Erler.
Passos: Hypothetically, I think it'd be best to see him end up around guys with similar temperaments to his Spurs teammates. I'd say Toronto, but then again the idea of being associated with Drake in any way put me off. So... Portland?
Gomez: Come on. There's only one right answer, people: The 76ers. Kawhi would get 20 shots a game and Mudiay, Leonard, Covington, Noel and Embiid would make the playoffs in 2016/17. If we have to suffer, at least let Brett Brown be happy.
Wilco: Not even going to consider this.
5 - The Pelicans and Suns will probably miss the playoffs despite having a better record than all but five Eastern teams. Is it time to do away with conferences?
Erler: I don't know. Putting the 16 best teams in the playoffs sounds like a pretty hare-brained scheme to me. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for my daily constitutional on the neighborhood penny farthing.
Itz: As a Spurs fan, it's hard to really care about this issue because the team has never missed out. Just because a team from the West is left out every year isn't enough for me to want to shake it up, I mean, it's not like the team that missed out on the playoffs would have gotten anywhere. Honestly, I'm really just scared of change.
Passos: As resistant as I am to change, it is a shame to be seeing the sub-.500 teams in the East play on, while we miss out on Anthony Davis getting his first taste of the postseason. Maybe a system where the last two slots are wild cards would be a bit less radical and worth trying out.
Gomez: At some point things will right themselves. The East can't keep being terrible with all those draft picks and cap room they are hoarding. While some teams like the Knicks and the Nets have no idea where they are going, I think the Celtics, 76ers and Pacers have smart front offices. I wouldn't be against the top 16 teams being in the playoffs but all the scheduling realignment that would be necessary to accomplish that seems like too much to go through when in 10 years the trend could be reversed or there could be balance between conferences.
Wilco: It's time. The situation won't ever self-correct since the mid-tier teams in the West are getting great draft picks, while needy teams in the East are being treated like playoff teams, getting nothing but a first round exit, and suffering because of it.