San Antonio Spurs Team Preview

Dark horse MVP?

Last Seasons Record – 47-35

This Seasons Record – 52 -30

What a whirlwind the off-season was for these Spurs. In fact, the last few years have been not rough, but, emotional. For two decades we watched Tim Duncan dominate the NBA, be the face of this franchise and become one of the best 10 players of all time. We thought he was passing the torch to Kawhi Leonard. The finals MVP, we all thought this was a for sure thing. Kawhi was the prototypical Spur. Well a lot can happen in a single season. The Spurs that we knew are no more, and they traded Kawhi away for a pretty damn good basketball player. This is going to be so weird for fans.

Key Additions and Subtractions.

Unless you were living under a rock, you know, as I just mentioned that Kawhi Leonard is now a Toronto Raptor. Danny Green is also a Raptor and Tony Parker decided to take his talents to Charlotte. Manu Ginobili decided that he was done with basketball all together and retired. That is an INSANE offseason. That is so much lost, so much leadership and culture gone from this franchise. They got back DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl, both grey players, but I don’t know if it’s enough to fill that empty void. Not because they aren’t good enough, but unless they got LeBron, no other player is capable of making up for this much loss. So this is going to be a whole new ball game with the Spurs, but if there’s one man for the job it’s coach Pop.

Year Long Question – Can DeRozan reinvent himself?

Being a life long Raptors fan, I will miss DeRozan, but we got Kawhi for him. So I can’t be that upset. That being said, he is a terrific ball player. He has gotten better every single season he has played. This year will be no different. With a new coach and a new system I’ve curious to see how he does. I think he will become more pass happy and really thrive off cutting to the basket. Coach Pop won’t always rely on him and lean on him for late game buckets. That showed the other night in LA. So if he can reinvent his game a bit, become more efficient, there’s no telling how much he can accomplish this year. If the Spurs have a magical season and perhaps get a top 3 seed, DeMar could be in the running for MVP. At least that’s what I think.

Fan Mindset.

Like I mentioned, the house was cleared this offseason, but they brought in a stud with DeRozan. Coach Pop knows the way of the force, he knows how to be a winner and he knows how to mould and shape a player. So he’s Yoda, and DeMar is a young Luke. He knows he has these powers, but he’s never had the proper teacher. This could be a great marriage and fans want that to be the case. This team had won 50 games for almost 20 straight years, all they know is winning. They aren’t ready to give this all up, and how can you blame them? They have been NBA royalty for so many years and every franchise wants what they have. Yes they have 5 rings, but it’s the consistency that is so damn impressive. So don’t think Pop is going to sit back and just let this team die. He’s got to much pride and he’s to damn smart. When Luke figured out how to use to the force, he became the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy. Can the same be said for DeRozan? Can’t wait to find out.

Bold Prediction, Sponsored By Nate – Spurs are a top 4 seed.

I know above I only have them winning 52 games. But this is the bold prediction section so it’s different. Look this is the Spurs. They won 47 games last year and Kawhi played in 9 of them. I repeat he played in 9 games and he wasn’t even fully healthy. They are good no matter what. They have unreal systems and schemes and DeRozan led Toronto to a lot of wins. If no one else gets hurt, this Spurs team can easily sneak into that 4th seed.


The Young Guns – Toronto Raptors. 

For the first time in a long time, the Raptors have some really good young prospects.

As per usual the Toronto Raptors somehow found a way to lose a close game on the road against a Western Conference foe, a game in which they had no business losing. Last night the Raptors blew a late 4th quarter lead to the defending champs – The Golden State Warriors. Now don’t get me wrong, the Raptors didn’t play a great game for 48 minutes, that’s tough to do against the leagues best team. However they had an unbelieveable 4th quarter and down the stretch decided to go against everything they had been doing right in the 4th and blew it.

It’s only 4 games into the season, and the Raps are sitting at .500 with a record of 2-2. I’m not hitting the panic button because well it’s only 4 games into the season and as much as I wanted them to get that win last night (they haven’t won in GS since 2003) there were a ton of positives to take away from this game and to be honest their game against San Antonio on Monday night. For the life of me I can’t recall the last time the Raptors had this much young talent, that can play. Going all the way back to when VC and T-Mac were on the same roster, last night it was Raptors young guns that brought them back, and to be honest their leaders and go-to-guys that were ultimately our downfall.

Going into this season, Dwayne Casey was preaching a new offence and a new style of play for the Raps. More passing, less isolation plays for Lowry and Demar, and more 3 point shooting. Right now the Raptors are averaging 36 three point show attempts a game, and have 144 total attempts on the season. They have only made 44 of those attempts, as a team they are shooting .306 percent, which isn’t ideal. Last season they were shooting roughly 24 threes a game, and finished the season shooting .363 from behind the arc. So now they are shooting more and making less, way, way less. They brought in CJ Miles in the off-season because he is a great perimeter shooter, and so far he’s shooing .400 from distance. Not bad, but when three of your guards (Powell, Lowry and Van Fleet) are all hovering around 27 percent, something might need to change. I’ll admit its nice to see the new much improved passing, and looking for the open shot, but when they aren’t falling, you need to simply go to plan B. As a team, they are averaging close to 6 more assists a game than last season. Something the team really lacked last season was a a trust in one another to make a shot down the stretch or just trust one another to make the right play. They really are sharing the rock more, except when it matters the most. Up 5 last night with a minute remaining, the last two Raptor possessions feature iso plays from DeMar followed by Lowry. Neither play feature  a single pass from the player. NOT ONE PASS. This is why the Raptors are easy to defend and stop down the stretch of big games or in the playoffs. DeMar and Kyle you two are allowed to shoot the ball at the end of games, but move the ball around, make the defence work a little bit before shooting. They become so predictable and I wonder if its Casey and him not drawing anything up, or do our two best players just want to do it all themselves when the game is on the line. The reason the Raptors were winning last night was because they were playing team basketball and trusting one another. So why go ahead from that when all you needed was one more bucket to seal the deal?

The thing I took away from last night, wasn’t the bad, it was actually the good. Poeltl last night remember me of a young Pau Gasol, and that is such a compliment. He has come a long way in just under the year, and looks comfortable on the floor this year. He is just a phenomenal rebounder and works his butt off on the offensive glass. We haven’t really had a great offensive rebounder since the AD and Oakley days. He also has quick feet and didn’t have that difficult of a time guarding guys like Steph or KD when switched onto them, and that really impressed me. I think if he continues to grow, not only will it be harder to play JV, but maybe it’s time really try to get something good for JV, while they still can. It’s early I know, but Poeltl can play smaller, simply because of his quick footwork, something JV has always had a difficult time doing. I often criticize Ujiri on his drafting abilities but Poeltl and Delon and now OG look to fuel the second unit. Delon’s career didn’t start off the way he wanted bogged down by injuries and getting off to a slow start. With trading Corey Joseph in the off-season, they looked at Delon and told him, you’re the guy off the bench now and I think he is relishing in this role. He’s a great two way point guard, and we need a great defender like him coming off the bench. He knows he isn’t the best shooter, and has a great ability getting into the lane and creating his own shot that way. OG is another guy, the Raptors haven’t had on their roster in a while. A long versatile guy who comes off the bench and brings a ton of energy. Watching that game last night OG did not look out of place or even look like a rookie. He is fitting in nicely with his role with the team, and seems very mature for a NBA rookie. Those three guys got the Raptors back into the game, with CJ, Norm on the bench looking on. Those three and DeMar and Lowry is a fun line up, that can defend and score, and when they were playing together, it was actually a lot to handle for the Warriors. Siakam also dropped a career high last night and was a massive boost in the second half for the Raps. He started and decided that he needed to prove that he might be worth some minutes and was just overall fantastic.

I’m all for this new style of play, tons of passing and shooting a ton of threes, but when the game is close, the Raptors can revert back to what is ultimately their weakness, which is trying to do everything one-on-one. Going into the season, I thought the biggest weakness would be the bench, so I couldn’t be happier and I think the front office deserves a lot of credit for believing in these young guys, because they are proving their worth right now. Lowry and DeMar just need to stick to whats working at the end of games, and trust in these guys. They want a chance at the big moment, and they can’t work their tails off all game, to only have it taken away like that. Get excited Raptor fans because I haven’t seen a young bench core of guys for us in a long time, so come the end of the season, when these guys have gotten a ton of run and reps in. And we have finally found our true identity, maybe we could see LeBron the ECF like Drake said!

We The North.