It’s nothing new to see the San Antonio Spurs undervalued, counted out, or disrespected. Five championships over fifteen years, the longest tenured coach in the NBA, the greatest power forward to play the game of basketball found themselves with the lowest of expectations season after season.
But the franchise has not won a ring in seven years (ironically, the same amount of time between the fourth and fifth titles). The longest tenured coach is scheduled to extend his reign, but the great Tim Duncan is a thing of the past.
This version of the San Antonio Spurs has something to prove.
ESPN ranked all thirty NBA teams considering the moves franchises made during free agency. It should be very little surprise that the Brooklyn Nets ranked first overall, considering they landed Patty Mills this summer. Okay, so Patty may not be the only player bolstering their top seeded prediction, there may be a couple of other noteworthy players in the borough.
The Bucks, Lakers, Suns, Jazz, 76ers, Nuggets, and Heat round out the top eight showing a clear picture of what the second round of the playoffs might look like if everyone stays healthy.
And that is the key- player health.
Every season a team slated to make a big splash loses ground due to injury. Just ask the Golden State Warriors who went from the NBA Finals to a high lottery pick after three of the best players in the NBA succumb to injury. (Kevin Durant left, but his last game in Golden State ended with injury.)
It must be hard for Spurs fans to envision their team near the bottom of a success-driven prediction (or maybe it’s not), the question is — is the ranking justified?
The Spurs have parted ways with the elder statesmen and finally gone all in on a youth movement that has so far struggled to hit its stride. Injuries to players have cost a season or two as well as time dedicated to star players who have now exited.
This is the season where the Spurs lay it on the line. The spotlight will be brighter as San Antonio has added more players who can serve in support roles immediately, but no viable star on which to hang the proverbial hat.
So, if we can take off our Spurs-colored glasses for a second, does ranking the Spurs in lottery-bound bottom third of the NBA make sense?
It isn’t an insult to say it may take a year or two to gel these guys. After all, as John Hollinger pointed out, the “win-now” mode of today may bankrupt this season’s top franchises by over the next three seasons, making way for the Spurs to rise up the rankings with tomorrow’s star players.
Is it right to count out the Spurs season, or is it just ESPN doing what ESPN does?
You can read all of the rankings here.
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