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Spurs The Favorite To Repeat As NBA Champs In 2014-15, For Now

While the rest of the NBA is filled with questions, the San Antonio Spurs will go into 2014-15 with the same lineup and mindset – and as the champions.

Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The morning after a championship is captured, we immediately begin to look ahead to next year. A new season, new storylines, but the same goal.

For now until October, the San Antonio Spurs are kings of the NBA world — the defending champs, everybody’s mark and to me, the favorite to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy again next June.

Yes, I believe the San Antonio Spurs should be considered the favorites to win the title again next season, and the logic is simple. What team is better constructed than the Spurs? Which NBA coach do you trust more than Gregg Popovich? And who is going to knock them off their post at the top of the ladder?

San Antonio is comprised of the perfect mix of experienced veterans and budding young stars. Tim Duncan doesn’t need to be Tim Duncan circa 2005 these days, but he still produces consistently night in and night out, and does so under a minutes watch so he’s fresh when the summer rolls around. At the start of every NBA season, I forget how much I love watching Tony Parker play. He’s a traditional pass-first kind of point guard that we tend to overlook (until the playoffs) with the likes of a flashy Russell Westbrook and Steph Curry grabbing the spotlight.

There’s Boris Diaw, a rare breed of big man able to dish out and make the rest of his teammates better. Diaw, too, can make shots from all over the floor, but also battle for rebounds. And Manu Ginobli, who last NBA Finals looked like a shell of his former self while battling injuries, resurfaced this playoff run and reminded us he’s still capable of being that Sixth Man of the Year, and he looks able to continue in his role for as long as Coach Pop lets him.

Then there’s the “next generation,” the one that the broadcast teams gleamed over throughout the Finals, and rightfully so. Kawhi Leonard, the series MVP, is one of the few players in the league capable of defending LeBron James. Then on the other end of the floor, he displays a well-rounded offensive skill-set where he can drain 3s or drive to the rim. And Danny Green, who never shies away from taking a big-time shot and has proven the past two years he’s capable of hitting it. The comparisons are obvious, but Green could certainly be the next Ray Allen-like scorer.

I can also give you a long-winded spiel about the importance of Pop, but it’s probably not even necessary. There is barely a handful of NBA coaches that I consider to be “elite” in their profession. Pop headlines that group. The way he manages his veterans’ minutes, how he draws up plays in critical situations, how he preaches team basketball and relies on a deep bench with role-specific bench players. It seems easy to think of it, but it’s different to actually do it, and do so effectively.

As for next year, who is going to stand in San Antonio’s way? Right now, it’s anybody’s guess.

In the West, the major players are the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Houston Rockets, and Portland Trailblazers.

When you have Kevin Durant and Westbrook on your team, you always have a chance, and when NBA analysts begin to make their predictions for next season, it’s likely OKC will be mentioned as the favorite to go to the conference finals. But the Thunder couldn’t keep up with the Spurs in the WCF. They aren’t nearly as deep as San Antonio, and the MVP can single-handedly win a lot of regular-season games, but it’s a different animal trying to do that in the playoffs.

Portland, too, couldn’t keep pace with the Spurs in the postseason. Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge will have the Blazers in contention, but they’re not nearly as deep as San Antonio. The team needs a bench, and that was the difference when they fell to the Spurs in the second round. And the Rockets — they’re a wildcard. The Rockets are one of the front-runners to land Carmelo Anthony, and adding the All-Star forward would certainly bolster their stock. But if it’s another defenseless Rockets team lining up against the Spurs, you know which way I’m leaning.

In the East, free agency is key. Will Miami be able to reassemble a roster around LeBron, or will LeBron be wearing a different uniform at the start of next season. Will Anthony join up with ‘Bron and sway the power balance of the conference? Or is he heading to the West? Staying with the Knicks? Does Derrick Rose come back to the Bulls healthy? Do the Indiana Pacers re-tool, turning this past year into a valuable learning experience?

Until new dominoes begin to fall into place, you have to rely on what you know: the Spurs are the champs, and they made the Heat look like a very, very mediocre opponent in these NBA Finals. I trust Pop. I trust Parker to remain underrated until June. I trust Leonard to continue to develop. I trust Timmy Duncan will continue to utilize the glass. And I trust the Spurs to remain the same team they’re assembled to be — champions.

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