It's Game Day! The 2016-2017 NBA season opens tonight, so it's time to look at some inaugural power rankings. With no games to go by, it's mostly a consensus that the Spurs are the third best team (for now), despite losing Tim Duncan during the off-season, and are only looking up at last year's finalists: the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. Here's a look at what some of the most respected writers in the NBA think of the Spurs ahead of their season opener against the Dubs:
John Shuhmann, NBA.com - 3 (last week: N/A)
The Spurs always find a way. Last season, they figured out how to build a top-five offense around a high-volume, mid-range shooter. Now, they'll need to maintain a top-five defense without the guy who's been their anchor for the last 19 years. As they deal with (rare) trade rumors, they'll need young guys beyond Kawhi Leonard to help them transition into the next era. Danny Green (quad strain) is out a few weeks and their first-week schedule somehow takes them from Northern California on Tuesday and Thursday to South Florida on Sunday.
David Aldridge, NBA.com - 5 (last week: N/A)
Don’t think the Spurs are actively shopping Cousin LaMarcus. Pretty sure he’s still a big part of their future. But I also don’t think anyone save Kawhi Leonard in the post-Duncan era is a sacred cow and untradeable.
It is, without question, our favorite stat of the month heard here at Power Rankings headquarters. Courtesy of the aforementioned Adams: San Antonio is about to play its first season opener since Nov. 1, 1996 without Tim Duncan starting at power forward. That was back when Carl Herrera got the assignment. With any luck, we'll get a chance to ask Gregg Popovich if that's trivia knowledge he possesses at Pop's pregame press gathering before the small matter of Spurs at Warriors on opening night.
Matt Moore, CBS Sports - 3 (last week: N/A)
I have a world of concerns about them going into the season, but they have built up so much credit I'm starting them here. Tim Duncan's gone, Danny Green is hurt, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker are going to have to guard pick and rolls. But they are the Spurs, and they deserve the right to have to lose their standing.
Andrew Lynch, Fox Sports - 4 (last week: N/A)
If Gregg Popovich can turn this roster into a top-three defense (the Spurs were first in points allowed per possession last year), he deserves immediate induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Forget the waiting period. Kawhi Leonard will do his best to make that defensive dream a reality; Pau Gasol might not.
Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated - 3 (last week: N/A)
Things will look a bit different without Tim Duncan and others, but who wants to second-guess this organization?
Jonas Nader, Yahoo! Sports - 3 (last week: N/A)
Tim Duncan is gone, but the Spurs are in good hands with the ageless Pau Gasol taking over at center. Kawhi Leonard will continue his meteoric rise amongst the league’s best, but the key for the Spurs is to make sure they keep LaMarcus Aldridge happy — recent reports have indicated that the Spurs will trade him for the right price because he wants to be "the guy" on his team. Tony Parker has lost one, maybe 10 steps, but Gregg Popovich will squeeze every ounce of talent out of his guys and they still have the look of a top-3 team.
Kurt Helin, NBC Sports - 3 (last week: N/A)
LaMarcus Aldridge denies the rumors, but the buzz he’s not thrilled blending in with the Spurs come from quality sources. True or not, there is no way the Spurs are trading him during the season — they just paid Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili a lot of money to make anther run at a ring. Aldridge is key to that. Fall short of the conference finals again and next summer things get interesting.
Fred Kerber, New York Post - 3 (last week: N/A)
Despite the huge change of no Tim Duncan, the Spurs have basically the same team back — from a 67-win team. They’re replacing Hall of Famer Duncan with Hall of Famer Pau Gasol. They’ll never replace what Duncan meant but if you’re going to try, Gasol is a nice piece to attempt it with. And there’s still Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge and Tony Parker and…