This season has been an interesting one for the San Antonio Spurs for a number of reasons, as they have had to weigh the complications of injuries with the positivity that comes with being one of the best teams in the NBA. While the Spurs are always expected to be at or near the top of the NBA standings, their inability to stay healthy could cost them a chance at a title when the playoffs come around, that also includes their betting odds to reach the title.
The injury concerns for the San Antonio Spurs have largely come at the expense of their star player, Kawhi Leonard. Leonard, a lengthy perimeter defender who is widely considered to be one of the best players in the sport on both sides of the floor, has missed the vast majority of the 2017-2018 season due to various injuries, most recently an issue with his quad that has kept him off the floor on an indefinite basis for San Antonio.
Leonard’s absence impacts the Spurs in a number of ways, with his time off the court having an effect on betting odds for the Spurs as well. Against fellow elite teams like the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors, Leonard’s ability to defend even the game’s best scorers puts the Spurs at such an advantage, as it allows them to defend elite players like Kevin Durant or James Harden one on one, rather than having to commit extra players to stopping them. This makes it harder for opponents to move the ball into corners for open three point shots.
Without Leonard in the lineup, the Spurs lose their stopper on defense, which opens them up to ball movement and open looks from the perimeter more frequently, even if coach Gregg Popovich’s defensive tactics do a good job of reducing those shots as much as possible.
San Antonio also loses a substantial scoring punch without Leonard in the lineup, as he has the ability to score from the perimeter and mid-range, in addition to his quick first step that lets him get by defenders on his way to the basket frequently. Suffice it to say that the Spurs are not the same team without Kawhi Leonard, and they will need him back if the Spurs are to reach the NBA Finals.
With all of those concerns out in the open, it must be mentioned that the Spurs have been great this season even without Leonard in the lineup for the majority of the time. The Spurs are firmly in the top five of the Western Conference standings and don’t just look like a team that will make the playoffs, but look like they will host at least one series in the NBA Playoffs. While a lot can change before now and the start of the playoffs, there is no question that there is a lot to like in San Antonio right now.
When Leonard gets back for the Spurs, they will only continue to improve, and it is not unthinkable to envision the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, or even the NBA Finals if a few things bounce their way during the postseason.