Enemy Lines: A rival scout sizes up the Spurs
2012-13 Record: 58-24; lost to Heat in NBA Finals
Notable Additions: G Marco Belinelli
Coach: Gregg Popovich (18th season with Spurs)
I'm not going to say the Spurs are done after the way they lost the NBA Finals. But I also think they probably wouldn't have made it to the Finals if Russell Westbrook hadn't been hurt. I thought Oklahoma City was too good for them, but then an injury happened and everything fell right for the Spurs [who beat Memphis in the Western Conference finals after the Grizzlies defeated the Westbrook-less Thunder in the second round].
I do think it's going to be really hard for the Spurs. There's going to be a hangover after they played that long and had the championship in their hands. They put so much into it, so now it's going to be a mental thing for them. Not that they can't do it, but, Damn it, we had it, and do we want to go through this whole thing again?
Tim Duncan had his best season in years. Defensively you get smarter as you age, but Duncan was also a little more bouncy. Duncan had 2.7 blocks per game, second best of his career and the first time in six years he averaged more than two. His free-throw percentage [81.7] was a career high. And two years ago, I didn't think he was as big a go-to guy as he was last year.
At his age  and size, you never know how healthy Duncan really is. He's going to play through a tweaked ankle or a sore knee and you probably aren't going to know it. Gregg Popovich played it perfectly by giving him nights off here and there, and I'm sure he'll do the same this year.
If I were picking a point guard to run a team this year, the only guys I'd take ahead of Tony Parker would be Chris Paul and Derrick Rose. Parker's biggest advantage is the way he can get inside for his points in the paint and that little teardrop he's able to make. He's so effective because he rushes the ball up the court and gets inside before the defense can set up to stop him. He scores a lot that way. Isiah Thomas was able to dominate without shooting -- and then he'd go get you 30. The same is true for Parker. On defense, the Spurs have their system and Parker knows it and executes it.
The problem for Manu Ginobili has been nagging injuries. When do you think he was last healthy? Ginobili still has that explosiveness, and being a lefty makes guarding him more difficult. He's great at drawing fouls and getting into defenders: He knows the old soccer tricks of the Europeans and South Americans, but at the same time -- and I don't know if this is politically correct -- he attacks the basket like an American. He has great size for a 2/3 man.
Kawhi Leonard is super solid. I wouldn't be surprised if he becomes an All-Star. Their role guys usually spot up and you can run them off the three-point line, but that's not the case with Leonard, who can beat you off the dribble in addition to hitting the shot. They're going to run more plays for him in the future. He can pass and rebound. He plays multiple positions and is a terrific defender. I've seen him guard Dirk Nowitzki, who likes to post up smaller guys, but Leonard is able to deal with him because he's strong.
Danny Green is one of those players who would be much less important on another team. I'm not trying to take anything away from him, because he can shoot it. He's going to make shots when he's open. But he can't get those shots for himself. He doesn't create off the dribble. He's just OK defensively; that system covers up for him because it's about being in the right spot. You don't have to shut a guy down but just be in the right spot to help and bump guys, that type of thing. If he weren't doing those things defensively, Popovich wouldn't play him -- it wouldn't matter how many threes he was making.
Going to San Antonio was a great move for Boris Diaw after the Bobcats bought him out late in the 2011-12 season. He is so laid back and he doesn't show up every night, but that team is perfect for him because he's versatile and he has super basketball intelligence. He understands coverages and knows how to execute against them. Being so smart and recognizing what the other team is doing makes him a good defender. He's always been a great passer and pick-and-roll player, going back to his days in Atlanta [from 2003-05], when he weighed a lot less.
Tiago Splitter doesn't need the ball. He's a hard-nosed guy who can score on rolls to the basket or on the block when he has a mismatch. He knows his coverages, he has a physical presence and he's a decent rebounder.
Marco Belinelli is going to stretch your defense because you can't sit there and let him line it up. He's more of a playmaker than Gary Neal, who is a tougher and more physical defender.
They used to rely on Matt Bonner so much more. He's still able to come in and spread the floor with his shooting. He's a good guy to have.
I think teams will be after Nando De Colo. I love how he plays, with his ability to run a team and get the ball up the floor in a hurry and find guys.
If Patty Mills [who averaged only 11.3 minutes last season] went to another team, the perfect role for him would be as a Will Bynum-type scorer off the bench.
They're going to be a top-four team in the West unless they have injuries. I wouldn't be surprised if they got to the conference finals, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them knocked out in the first round if they're not healthy.