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Are the 2016 Spurs the best San Antonio team ever?

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In this week's In The Bonus the PtR staff discusses whether the 67-win 2016 Spurs are the best in franchise history and more.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

1 - Are the 2015/16 Spurs the best team in franchise history?

Michael Erler: Oh heavens no. I think the 2014 version would dust them. The Big Three still had something left and Leonard wasn't that different from the current version. The 1999 Spurs might give them a run for their money too. They also played a slow-down pace but who would you take the '99 Duncan and Robinson or the current tandem of Leonard and Aldridge? I think that's a no-brainer. The '05 Spurs weren't overly deep but they also were a damn good defensive team and The Big Three were in their primes, and they had Robert Horry too. I know what the numbers say but I guess on principle I just can't accept the best Spurs team not being the best team in the league, and it's incredibly hard for me to come to terms with Duncan not being a major influence in their success.

Bruno Passos: They're the best regular-season Spurs team in history, in that they've been built and conditioned to take on the NBA gauntlet like many other health-conscious Spurs teams have. Are they the best ever, period? The 2014 team was really good. All Danny Greens being equal, I'd take this year's, but since Green (and the team overall) has misplaced his three-point stroke, I give 2014 the edge.

Jesus Gomez: It's so hard to answer this, because we know other teams have won the championship. Would this iteration be considered the best if they beat the Warriors and get the Larry O'Brien? I think that's very likely. If they don't win, though? Other teams will be remembered more fondly. That said, I think 67 wins is ridiculous and the defensive and margin of victory numbers are great. I have them up there with the 2014 Spurs and the 99 Spurs right now.

Chris Itz: Well, we haven't seen them play yet, so it's impossible to answer that. The idea that the 2014 Spurs would dust this current team, as Erler put it, is silly. Go look at the numbers for the 13-14 regular season and compare them to the 15-16 regular season and show me how they were better. Now, that 2014 team did play the greatest basketball I've ever seen and the April 2016 team would lose to that June 2014 team, but we don't know how good the May 2016 team will be. I think this team has the potential to be the greatest Spurs team ever, but let's wait until we see the show to judge them.

J.R. Wilco: This year's Spurs record is so good because of how much talent is on the bench. This year's Spurs net rating is due to the strength of the reserves. When Pop pulls the starters at the end of a lopsided game, the bench extends the lead. That doesn't make this year's team the best, just the most well-rounded.


2 - Kawhi Leonard was the MVP and LaMarcus Aldridge wasn't far behind. Who was the third most important Spur in the regular season?

Erler: Love this question. Instinctively I wanted to say Ginobili, but they were really good without him in February. By the on/off numbers he's CLEARLY the answer, but he just hasn't played enough minutes for me. By default I'll go with Duncan, because he still makes a huge difference defensively. But it's very close. The real answer is that there is a MASSIVE gap between Leonard and Aldridge and then another sizable one between Aldridge and the rest.

Passos: My heart says Tim Duncan -- who's still been a steadying force on the defensive end and transitioned well into a supporting role on the other end -- but I think some consideration has to be given to Tony Parker who a) played a big role in getting Aldridge settled in with their pick-and-roll game, b) has played in the most games since the 2010-11 season, c) has shot 49% from the field and 41% from three and d) has been underrated in his efforts as a defender. (I also really like this question.)

Gomez: I'm going to go with Duncan, simply because of his defense. We've seen him struggle against teams that go small late in the season but that doesn't take away how huge he was earlier. Duncan is still a good defensive anchor and without him, this team would have struggled on that end.

Itz: The answer is LaMarcus Aldridge. The correct order is 1) Timmy 2) Kawhi 3) LaMarcus. Kawhi is clearly the much better basketball player now, but Duncan is still the foundation of the franchise . And it's not like Tim a slouch on the court or anything, he captained the best defense in a decade and he had the best defensive rating in the league, led the league in defensive box plus/minus, led ESPN's defensive real plus/minus, and was 13th in overall real plus/minus. Remember that eight-game stretch Duncan missed? The Spurs defensive rating was 104 during that time. It was 96.6 for the entire season. That seems important for a team that hangs its hat on defense.

Wilco: I'm with Itz on this one. Duncan covers up so many mistakes on defense, and he's the grease that keeps the offense moving smoothly. The reason he often fails the eye test is that there's an ever-widening list of plays that he used to make regularly, but can't anymore. That doesn't mean he's not productive. It just means he's not in his prime.


3 - Which stat describes the Spurs' regular season the best?

Erler: They lead the league in most mid-range shots taken and allow the most on defense.

Passos: They held opponents to under 93 points per game. We won't remember this team's offense (and sometimes we'll want to forget it) as much as how well it put the clamps on teams on a nightly basis.

Gomez: Only 18.5 three-pointers a game, good for 26th in the league. The Spurs were never among the leaders in shot attempts beyond the arc but they were never this low in past years. It came at a time in which everyone else decided to base more of their offense on three-pointers, too. That's what, in my eyes, made this team unique, especially compared to other contenders.

Itz: Like Erler said, the Spurs taking the most midrange shots while, like Gomez said, taking very few threes makes this team stand out in today's NBA. Add in their 26th slowest pace and their commitment to defending today's style, limit threes and protect the rim, and we get a team that is remarkably effective today but would be right at home playing in 2003.

Wilco: One home loss all year. About as impressive as a stat can be.


4 - Where do you rank Kawhi Leonard in the MVP race? How about Gregg Popovich in the CoY race?

Erler: Second for Leonard I would think. The Spurs have won 65 games after all. I don't think a legit argument can be made for Westbrook, not with Durant on his team and his awful defense. LeBron James has come on strong late, but his three-point shooting has been abysmal and he's acted like a weirdo off the court. As for Pop, he has a strong case, especially because the Warriors have had two coaches, but I would think that Steve Clifford in Charlotte and Terry Stotts in Portland are the favorites. Brad Stevens in Boston has a shot too. Voters probably have Pop fatigue by now.

Passos: Kawhi: 2nd; Popovich: 3rd. Pop goes up to number one in my books if he eventually figures out the Rubik's cube that is the Warriors, but a 1-3 record against them (for now) leaves room for a coach like Terry Stotts, Brad Stevens or Steve Clifford to join Steve Kerr in the top 2. Kawhi is my MVP runner-up because his defensive impact, advanced statistics and the Spurs' team success trump the resumes of LeBron, Russell, KD and CP3.

Gomez: I have Leonard fourth, behind Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Those other two guys simply have a much bigger role on offense. It's extremely close, though, and I would not be surprised at all if Leonard leapfrogs them next year if his passing improves. As for Pop, I have him second behind Terry Sttots. Pop did a great job integrating Aldridge and changing the offensive style. What Sttots has done in Portland with that young roster, however, is extremely rare and deserves to be celebrated.

Itz:  ​Individual awards don't do much for me in team sports, but I'd guess it'll be Leonard in 2nd. The Spurs were pretty good this season and he was easily their best player. As for COY, that award usually goes to the coach of the team that surpassed preseason expectations the most. Brad Stevens has done a great job and looks to be set for a brilliant 30-year coaching career, but the Celtics' over/under before the season was 44 1/2 wins and they won 48, so not a wild overachievement there. The Warriors exceeded their preseason win-total by 13, but Kerr missed half the season and I think voters will look elsewhere. Pop is great, the Spurs exceeded their win-total prediction by 9 wins, but he's won 2 of the last 4 and while he's probably still the best coach in the league, I think the voters will give him the year off. Which leaves Steve Clifford and Terry Stotts. The Hornets won 14 more games than expected and the Blazers won 17 more. I'd lean toward Stotts since he lost 80% of his starting lineup from the 2014-15 season and steered his squad to the fifth seed in the West. That's truly impressive.

Wilco: I like Stotts for Coach of the Year and Stevens for runner-up (who will step in as coach of the year if Stotts is not able able to fulfill his duties). Both have good cases and great stories to give them momentum with the voters. If it was less about recognizing good stories and more about the job done in coaching, then Pop would have won 10 times by now. And I don't know where Kawhi will rank, but he won't win the MVP until voters start recognizing that defense has value -- or until he closes the gap on Curry's offense. (Don't hold your breath on the first, and time will tell on the second.)