The Spurs have been on a roll this year, and if not for the splash the Warriors have been making this year, we would be talking about the Spurs arguably being the greatest team of all time. They are historically looking like they could become the greatest defensive team of all time on top of being one of the most efficient offenses in the league today. After snatching up Lamarcus Aldridge in the offseason the Spurs have had huge expectations going into this season and they have met those expectations with the 2nd best record in the league just short of the record breaking Warriors.
The game always slows down in the playoffs and that feeds right into what Popovich wants as the team is in the bottom 10 in the league in pace, rank 1st in defensive efficiency by a sizable gap, and 3rd in offensive efficiency right below the Oklahoma City Thunder. They have many lineups they are able to throw out there with their loads of depth, and everyone is so efficient across the board that it will be an extremely tall task to bring down that offense a couple of pegs and an even taller task dissecting that historic defense.
Lamarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard are the future of San Antonio and as the season has gone along we have seen Lamarcus show just how well he is coming along. He is one of the most lethal big man scorers in the game today no matter if it is in the post, mid range jumpers, or being the roll man off a pick and roll. He has a lot of versatility to his game and has been able to showcase it more and more since the all star break. He is able to be lethal off of hand offs just like this.
Or he is able to punish his man with his back to the basket
You might be thinking that a team like the Warriors can offset these things with their small ball lineup and that the key is to get the Spurs playing at a higher speed, but that is a lot easier said than done. Aldridge is an elite big man in this league and we have seen him destroy great defensive players. Two years ago he put up back to back 40 point games against the Rockets and a majority of that 2nd game he was guarded by Dwight Howard but there was little Dwight could do. He has such a high arching shot, and has taken notes from Dirk on that one footed fadeaway he pulls in a lot of games. All of that along with his good IQ reading defenses and natural knack for putting the ball through the hoop will make him a nightmare for any team. This is what happens when you run a small lineup with Aldridge out on the court.
Then there is the other guy on the team who has been striving for greatness this season and that man is Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi Leonard is oddly a polarizing player. Many analysts have put Kawhi in the same tier Curry while social media begs to differ.
While my own personal opinion of Kawhi is somewhere in the middle of both sides I do believe he is a tremendous asset to the team with his elite defense, and efficient shot making ability. By the way let’s go ahead and dispel the notion that Kawhi is not able to create his own shot. Kawhi is averaging 0.97 points per possession in isolation plays and that is higher than James Harden, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and Paul George just for reference on how impressive that is. But yeah. you guys got it. This guy cannot create his own shot.
With that debacle out of the way let’s look further into what he brings to the team. Kawhi of anyone who has played at least 60 games and had at least 130 spot up possessions he ranks 3rd in the league in points per possession right behind J.J. Redick and Steph Curry. That is extremely elite company to be around and shows just how lethal of a shooter Kawhi really is. The team relies upon his ability to makes jumpers with Danny Green having his worst season as a Spur shooting 33.0% from behind the arc which is 2% less than the league average. With the amount of minutes Pop is playing him he has got to find some magic to start knocking down shots in the playoffs.
I see this season as a 2 man race. It is between the Spurs and Warriors and the series will be dictated by the pace of the games. If Aldridge is able to dominate the small ball lineup I really like their chances of winning and if they do everyone should be ready for Tim Duncan to earn his 6th ring in his illustrious career.
All stats are accurate as of 3/31/2016 from nba.com/stats
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