When the NBA season was in its infancy — rather, before its infancy — I made 21 bold predictions which you can find here. That was ages ago.
I revisited my predictions and, well, I didn’t fare very well. (Don’t shoot the messenger!)
Feel free to make fun of me in the comments. Or not do that. That would be nice, too.
1. Kawhi Leonard will average 2.5 steals per game.
Well, not exactly. Kawhi averaged 1.7 steals per game, 11th in the league and sixth in percentage, but he didn’t play nearly enough minutes to reach the 2.5 steal threshold — a feat achieved by just 40 players in NBA history (and once this season). He upped his steals percentage a few ticks from his sophomore season, as he matured into one of the stingiest perimeter defenders in the league.
Still, steals aside, Leonard had a fantastic defensive season. He finished 23rd in defensive win shares (11th among perimeter plays) even though he missed 16 games with injury.
He deserves All-Defense consideration.
2. Kawhi will smile.
3. Manu Ginobili will play in at least 70 games next season.
Sooooo close. This prediction was “bold” because, though Manu has six seasons with 70+ games, he hasn’t had one since the 2010-11 season. He came dangerously close this season; he played 68 games and likely would’ve exceeded the mark if Gregg Popovich wasn’t proactive with his rest timetable. (Which is probably a good idea.)
4. Manu will also post career-highs in points, rebounds and assists per-36 minutes.
Nope. Manu sniffed his per-36 career-high in assists (season: 6.8, career-high: 7.0), but he wasn’t anywhere close in points (19.5/22.6) and rebounds (4.7/6.0).
The good news: San Antonio’s offense improved by seven points per 100 possessions with Ginobili on the floor per NBA.com — the seven-point margin is equivalent to the gap between the top-ranked Los Angeles Clippers and 19th-ranked Detroit Pistons.
Manu remains a very important player, and one whose playmaking ability hasn’t depreciated like many expected.
5. Tiago Splitter will finish in the top five in pick-and-roll efficiency.
Splitter scored 1.13 points per pick-and-roll this season, good for 26th in the league. Well above-average, but not quite efficient enough to be in the top five.
6. The Spurs’ starting lineup will lead the league in net rating.
Another close call, but no dice: In 262 minutes together, the Parker-Green-Leonard-Duncan-Splitter lineup — one that was being outscored at one point — turned it around and finished third in net rating, among lineups with 250+ minutes.
They outscored opponents by 14.7 points per 100 possessions, a mark 3.4 points fewer than last season. (Which is remarkable.) It took awhile, and with a little help from Green and Leonard, the lineup rediscovered its two-way goodness.
7. Nando De Colo will play in fewer than 10 games this season.
I’ll eat a bunch of crow for this one. Nando played in 47 games this season. 47! (Though he played in just 26 games with the Spurs, which would still make me very wrong.)
The San Antonio Spurs were 21-5 in his 26 games. Long live the (short lived) Nando De Colo era. It was a fun one while it lasted.
8. De Colo will also average more turnovers per game than assists.
A long shot prediction, sure, but I had a punchers chance until he was traded to Toronto. De Colo averaged 1.2 assists and 0.8 turnovers with the Spurs, while his assists “spiked” to 1.6 in Toronto. Somehow, he played fewer minutes in Toronto and he assisted on a much higher percentage of shots in the little time he did play.
9. Patty Mills will cede “lead towel waving duties” to De Colo.
Also very wrong. Moving on.
10. Tony Parker will lead point guards in Player Efficiency Rating.
There were nine point guards with a higher PER than Tony Parker, listed in order: Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley, John Wall and Ty Lawson.
Patty Mills, his teammate, was within two decimal points of tying Parker. It wasn’t a “bad” year for Parker, per se — his per-36 numbers are in line with his MVP-caliber seasons — but he didn’t play the requisite amount of minutes to post gaudy per-game numbers. The point guard pool is deeper than ever before, and with Pop limiting Parker’s minutes, he has little latitude to catch up to his peers. Not that he needs to.
11. Tony will just play basketball.
The Quenelle controversy aside — which was nothing more than a minor blip — Parker just played basketball. No clubs. No eye injury. No divorce. No rumors. Just basketball.
I’ll pat myself on the back now.
12. Aron Baynes will play more minutes than Matt Bonner.
Baynes played 491 minutes … 199 fewer than Bonner. The gap was larger before Bonner’s injury sidelined him and as Baynes drew more minutes than Jeff Ayres.
13. Marco Belinelli will teach Baynes Italian, and it will be kinda cool. And weird.
PROVE THAT IT DIDN’T HAPPEN.
14. Boris Diaw will SHOOT THE DAMN BALL … more than six times per game.
Bingo! He attempted 7.3 shots per game, shattering his last season mark by nearly three attempts. He attempted the most field goals per 36 minutes since the 2008-09 season. Scorin’ Boris was in action from the get go and he rarely let up. He still didn’t shoot very often, but he didn’t approach each potential shot with the vigor of an apathetic high school junior anymore. It was a start and a pleasant surprise at that. The Spurs are better when Diaw poses the threat of scoring.
15. Danny Green will lead the league in 3-point percentage.
He was barely in the top five on his own team. He attempted 318 3-pointers this season, so it wasn’t like he stopped shooting. Green converted 41.5 percent of his 3-pointers — a healthy percentage — marking his third consecutive season shooting 40 percent or better behind the arc.
16. DeJuan Blair will gobble up 20 rebounds in a 11-point Mavericks victory over the Spurs.
The Mavericks didn’t beat the Spurs this year, and Blair’s best outing against the Spurs (14 points, 11 rebounds) came in a nine-point loss. No #DeJuanBlairRevengeGame here.
17. The Spurs won’t make a trade.
As the trade deadline neared, it seemed like the Spurs would stand pat. Or venture into the buyout market instead of making a deal.
The trade — De Colo for Austin Daye — was more about De Colo than the piece they received, after all. The deal simply meant to appease De Colo, who was increasingly unhappy in his role (he played less with Toronto, but alas!)
The Spurs were rumored to be “aggressive” and they dipped their toes in the Evan Turner sweepstakes, only to get out of the pool and try for something else.
18. The Spurs will lead the league in defensive efficiency.
Even though Indiana’s defense slipped, they had a massive margin for error. They were the best defense in NBA history (relative to league-average) and any ground the Spurs made up in the final legs of the season wasn’t enough to topple the sinking Pacers.
The Spurs finished fourth behind Golden State, Chicago and Indiana.
19. Gregg Popovich will average more than one sentence per sideline interview.
I’ll chalk this up as a yes.
20. Tracy McGrady will un-retire, re-sign with the Spurs, jump into a time continuum vortex and score 35 points a game during the postseason.
You know, it’s still a possibility.
21. We will get over last year’s NBA Finals.
What NBA Finals?
Score: 5/21 (23.8%). Still better than Andris Biedrins’ free throw percentage this season. I’ll take it.