LaMarcus Aldridge saw his numbers dip across the board last year. Pau Gasol is well into the twilight of his career. Manu Ginóbili played just 18.7 minutes a game. Tony Parker is recovering from a torn left quadriceps. Rudy Gay is arriving after four lost years in Sacramento with an ailing Achilles. Even San Antonio's free agents are aging and nursing injuries.
It may not matter. If the Spurs have more questions than ever, they also have the single best answer since Tim Duncan in his prime. Kawhi Leonard was a stabilizing force throughout San Antonio's season, and before Zaza Pachulia's size 17 shoe ended his playoff run, Leonard was playing the best ball of his life. After putting up a career-high efficiency rating of 27.6, Leonard's postseason PER of 31.6 was the best in the league.
His offense has become as dominant as his D. With a combination of brute strength, flawless footwork and tightly coiled athleticism, Leonard is in a class with LeBron, Durant, Curry—and that might be it. He will be asked to do more this season, and if he is up to the task—and isn't slowed by the quadriceps injury that cut into his preseason—he could very well walk away with an MVP award.
COACH GREGG POPOVICH
(22nd season with Spurs)
2016--17 RECORD 61--21
(1st in Southwest)
PG TONY PARKER
10.1 PPG; 4.5 APG; 46.6 FG%; 33.3 3FG%
75 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]
SG DANNY GREEN
7.3 PPG; 3.3 RPG; 39.2 FG%; 37.9 3FG%
4 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]
SF KAWHI LEONARD
25.5 PPG; 5.8 RPG; 48.5 FG%; 38.0 3FG%
31 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]
PF LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE
17.3 PPG; 7.3 RPG; 1.2 BPG; 47.7 FG%
65 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]
C PAU GASOL
12.4 PPG; 7.8 RPG; 50.2 FG%; 53.8 3FG%
SF RUDY GAY [NEW ACQUISITION]
18.7 PPG; 6.3 RPG; 45.5 FG%; 37.2 3FG%
SG MANU GINÓBILI
7.5 PPG; 2.7 APG; 39.0 FG%; 39.2 3FG%
92 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]
PG PATTY MILLS
9.5 PPG; 3.5 APG; 44.0 FG%; 41.4 3FG%
• THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP SAN ANTONIO
KAWHI LEONARD is an ideal winner: a guy who knows when to step up and when to accept the development of other players around him.... They made minimal changes this offseason, but I think that almost works to their advantage, just having a year-to-year understanding. They're almost in a class by themselves because of that. I look at matchups against them and I still don't feel completely comfortable. They could have eight guys averaging between eight and 18 points.... We look at the average, but PAU GASOL understands when he needs to score 22 points on a given night. I was watching Pau at EuroBasket—this guy just gets it.... RUDY GAY is such a maligned player. There aren't many guys who score so effortlessly and get less respect. I don't think it's a huge request for him to compromise his offense and fit in. He's not a rabble-rouser. He's a good dude. I just get the feeling he will accept his role and take his foot off the accelerator a bit—kind of like Kevin Martin.... Certainly TONY PARKER's leadership is critical, but they've got players who will be able to make up for his absence [due to an injury that could sideline him until November]. That will benefit them in the long run, conditioning those players to look for other aspects of their game.... KYLE ANDERSON has his limitations, but he can pass. He's got a really good feel for the game.... DEJOUNTE MURRAY is a great raw, individual talent.
TELLING 31.6 STATISTIC
There's not enough to scare Golden State, but the Spurs will be near the top of the West—just like every year.