1 - Did the losses to the Warriors and Cavaliers change your opinion on the Spurs' chances to win the championship?
Michael Erler: Not the results so much because you throw out games where Duncan doesn't play and there were very real reasons with the way Pop likes to operate for them to not go full out against the Warriors. In the statistical sense the losses hurt because it dramatically lowers (perhaps eliminates) any chances of the Spurs getting home court advantage, and that will hurt them come playoff time. But my biggest takeaway from the games was how poorly LaMarcus Aldridge played in them. As I wrote in the Pelicans-Spurs recap, his performance against Anthony Davis was an encouraging step in the right direction, but he's still got to do it against the better teams.
Bruno Passos: I'd say they've dropped some, but they were more than likely a bit inflated going into the Warriors game to begin with. I think I'm still slightly underrating what Golden State is doing and the challenge they pose to San Antonio. I'd still pick the Spurs in a Finals matchup against Cleveland, though.
Jesus Gomez: I'm fine with the loss to the Warriors. They are exceptionally good and took advantage of every Spurs mistake. I have to say the loss to the Cavaliers worries me a bit. That's just a talented but inconsistent team and they dominated that game. I guess I'm jonesing for a signature win. I have March 12 circled in my calendar. A win against the Thunder would fully restore my optimism.
Chris Itz: You guys know me, I'm pretty optimistic, so no, those two losses didn't change my opinion much, if at all. Extraneous G, who didn't seem to go after those games with his strange lineups and zone defense, has the team right where he wants them -- humbled, back under the radar, and ready to work down the stretch.
J.R. Wilco: We knew the Warriors were scary good before the game, and now we know just how lopsided it can be if the Spurs play poorly against them. The Cavs game would have been concerning if the Spurs hadn't already beaten them once. All those two losses did was deprive Spurs fans of the mid-season bragging rights that wins would have legitimized.
2 - Had Tim Duncan been available the Spurs wouldn't have lost both games. True or false?
Erler: They were losing to the Warriors no matter what is my contention. There were just too many things set up against them that night. I'd have to think they would've protected the rim a lot better against the Cavs with Duncan, but Cleveland made a lot of outside shots too, so who knows? It'd have been a more competitive game, I believe. Is that a cop-out?
Passos: Probably false, but it's OK to lose to great teams on nights when they're firing on all cylinders. That's not to say the Spurs don't need Timmy back and that he doesn't improve the Spurs' chances on any given night.
Gomez: It's so tempting to say "true." I made it clear that I thought the Spurs missed Duncan against the Warriors and the Cavaliers dropped 52 points in the paint. Duncan would have made a difference. I'm just not sure if it would have been enough. Ultimately, they were both blowouts so I have to say false.
sItz: Now, Timmy's knee...there's something that concerns me a little -- the Spurs can't hang a banner without Big Fun in the middle. With Tim, San Antonio almost certainly loses the Warriors game and probably loses to the Cavs. So, false.
Wilco: Impossible to say, but I'll go with "False" as well, because both losses were no-doubters. My guess is that the games are closer, but they still lose both -- which makes it logical (for CIA Pop true believers) that Duncan would have been held out of both games.
3 - LaMarcus Aldridge made the All-Star game over Damian Lillard. Does he deserve it?
Erler: Heck no, but the Spurs needed two All-Stars and Duncan was unavailable and his numbers weren't good. The league was kind of stuck. There were plenty of guys deserving ahead of Aldridge, but the coaches like to award winning.
Passos: Sure. He's been a big part of the Spurs' success and should only further validate the selection as the season moves forward. Plus, I don't see Aldridge as beating out Lillard so much as I attribute it to Kobe taking a spot, anyway. Is there any downside to expanding the All Star rosters from 12?
Gomez: I didn't have him in my All-Star team. I think Lillard and even Gordon Hayward have better cases this season but I don't think his selection is crazy. There is enough evidence that he can be a volume scorer on a good team and he's showing now that he can be more efficient in a smaller role while playing better defense. He's having a good season and that was enough for the coaches.
Itz: Deserve? I have no idea what the criteria that the coaches use when they vote in the players. It's pretty much impossible to make a case for Aldridge with numbers, but he came into a team where his role dramatically changed and that team has won a ton of games. The Blazers are exceeding preseason expectations, but they're still 9th in the conference. Personally, I think Ginobili, who is putting up insane per-minute numbers at 38 years old, deserved a nod over both players (even though he only plays 20 minutes a night) due to his extraordinary play in leading the league's premier bench.
Wilco: I'm with Itz when it comes to the question of who deserves what. It's an exhibition game with Byzantine voting rules that have hilariously obvious ways to game the system. Any setup where Zaza Pachulia almost starts over Kawhi Leonard has so many issues that I don't know that anyone can say they deserve anything.
4 - At this point, do you expect the Spurs to make a move at the trade deadline?
Erler: Not a major one. I still wouldn't be shocked if they picked up a shooter off the bench, but maybe Pop is satisfied enough with what he has in Jonathon Simmons and Kyle Anderson to cobble together a functional tenth man. Ginobili's injury might further compel them to see if they can get Marco Belinelli back from the Kings, I'd guess.
Passos: I don't expect one but could be talked into something around a fringe rotation player and a first rounder -- if it nets a real difference-maker. I think the emergence of guys like Simmons, Boban and Anderson makes that late-late first round pick a little bit more expendable.
Gomez: I hope they will but I'm not expecting anything to happen. They could use a more battle-tested wing and a quicker back up center but they have little to trade. One possibility that intrigues me would be to send Kyle Anderson somewhere with a need at the wing for a future asset or a young big, since he hasn't been able to carve out a role for himself. I'm not expecting it to happen, though.
Itz: I don't think I've ever expected the Spurs to make a trade.
Wilco: I expect them to be more active picking someone up off the waiver wire than making a move before the trade deadline, and even that would require dropping someone from the roster, which I'd rather not see happen.
5 - Only a few games separate the Rockets, Blazers, Jazz, Kings and Nuggets for the last two spots in the West. Which two will make the playoffs.
Erler: I'm gonna be boring and go with the Rockets and Jazz. Houston has too much talent to not make it and I trust the defense and maturity of the Jazz more than the enigmatic, volcanic Kings, who can blow up at any time. If Utah gets a credible point guard at the trade deadline and stays healthy, they'll be tough.
Passos: The Jazz are healthy again and actually have the best point differential of any team not in the top 4 of the West. I'd feel pretty good about locking them in over the young Blazers and wacky Kings. I don't see how the Rockets don't hold onto that other spot, but nothing would surprise me with them.
Gomez: I think the Jazz, now that they are getting close to being fully healthy, will claim one spot. The Rockets should get the other one but they might also decide to move Dwight Howard for assets, dump Corey Brewer, waive Ty Lawson and punt this season in search for flexibility. If that happens, the Trail Blazers could sneak in.
Itz: I'd be shocked if the Rockets, even with their issues, didn't make the playoffs. In 2016, over 17 games, the Utah Jazz have posted the 8th best net-rating in the league at +4.5. If their injury woes are behind them, I think they'll win the right to play the Warriors in late April.
Wilco: I'm a big believer in point differential, which means Blazers and Jazz, since the other three teams have all given up more points than they've been able to score. With more than half of the season gone, that stat means a lot.