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The Ugly Question: Are the Spurs still Competitive Enough?

Patty Mills and Tony Parker High Five


With the Kawhi Leonard situation among other things, it seems that things are falling apart for San Antonio

Ever since Gregg Popovich became the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, they have yet to miss the playoffs. They have won 5 NBA titles along the way with the recent one being against LeBron James and the Miami Heat back in 2014. Since then, the Spurs have yet to return to the Finals and last season, Kawhi Leonard got injured during the playoffs against the Golden State Warriors. Kawhi missed the rest of the series in which the Spurs got swept.

Heading into this season, there were many questions about the Spurs' chances of challenging the likes of the Warriors and the Houston Rockets owing to the fact that Kawhi Leonard was still out to open the season aside from the Tony Parker injury problem. As the 2017-2018 season progresses, changes slowly took place in San Antonio. Tony Parker returned and is able to play but was demoted as a role player off the bench with Dejounte Murray being promoted as the new starting point guard. 

Then, Kawhi Leonard returned to the floor, too. But after playing a few games, Kawhi Leonard got hurt, again. In addition to this, there has been a denied rumor about a rift between Kawhi's camp and the Spurs' front office. While the said rumor has been constantly denied, there's no denying the fact that whatever situation Kawhi Leonard is in right now, it's clearly affecting the Spurs whether they admit it or not.

Right now, the Spurs are in the third spot in the Western Conference with a 35-23 record. They are now just half a game ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves after the Spurs absorbed their second successive loss at the hands of the Utah Jazz after rookie, Donovan Mitchell drained the go-ahead jumper with under 40 seconds to go. The win enabled the Jazz to continue their winning streak which now stands at 10 wins in a row. On the other hand, the Spurs have dropped 5 of their last 10 games including two against the Jazz and one each against the Warriors and the Rockets.

So here's the question: Are the Spurs still competitive to challenge the best teams in the NBA right now?

Like it or not, the Spurs are no longer the same competitive team that won the championship against a super team back in 2014.

Sure, they beat the Cleveland Cavaliers but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. One may even point out that injuries to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Dejounte Murray have played a big factor in the Spurs' inability to play as a whole with players missing a big chunk of the season.

Statistically, this is one of the worse seasons the Spurs have endured. They are 27th in points per game, 10th in rebounds per game and, 18th in assists per game. Fortunately, they are still top team in terms of opponents' points per game.


Prediction

If the playoffs started today and the Spurs remained at the third spot, they would be meeting the Portland Trail Blazers. If the Spurs fell to the fourth spot, they would be facing the Oklahoma City Thunder. Now, given how inconsistent the Spurs are as of late, it would be a miracle if they make it past the first round with OR without Kawhi Leonard in the lineup. But then again, the Spurs still have one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NBA in Gregg Popovich and we can pretty much expect he won't allow his team to be swept out of the playoffs, again. 

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