The San Antonio Spurs were the dominant force in the Western Conference five years ago, reaching back-to-back NBA Finals, including their triumph in 2014 over the Miami Heat. However, since then the franchise have been unable to cope with the rise of the Golden State Warriors, crushing all resistance in the Western Conference.
Even the Spurs’ grip on the Southwest Division has slipped in the past two years as the Houston Rockets take the divisional crown. It shows no signs of stopping soon with the Rockets’ signing of Russell Westbrook to team up with the outstanding James Harden. Having to defend two former MVPs on the court at the same time certainly make life interesting for Gregg Popovich and company. Their hopes for regaining the division title are highlighted in the odds on NBA betting on bet365 at +375 compared to the Rockets, who are odds-on favorites for the crown.
That’s not to say that San Antonio cannot compete with their rivals. Popovich’s men finished five games off the pace of Houston last season. With Popovich, they have the best coach in the NBA, while LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan have the talent to drive a push into the playoffs. San Antonio should have at least enough to secure a spot in the post-season – for the incredible 23rd consecutive year. It could be even better for the franchise if their young players are able to take the next step in their development.
Derrick White enjoyed an impressive campaign last year in only his second season in the league, while his performances in the post-season were even better. He scored 36 points in the Spurs’ game-three win over the Denver Nuggets, although his performances were not enough to advance beyond the first round of the post-season. He will be better for the experience and will be key in easing the pressure on Aldridge and DeRozan. Dejounte Murray had a lot of time on the court last season, and he was not quite as effective as White, but there is plenty of potential there for Popovich to hone.
Lonnie Walker will look to have more of an impact in his second season in the NBA, emulating the performances of White and Murray last term. Bryn Forbes, Jakob Poltl, Rudy Gay, Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills will have to continue to provide support, but the season could be made or broken by the performances of the young players, especially due to the competitive nature of the Western Conference.
The Warriors are going nowhere despite the loss of Kevin Durant. The Los Angeles Clippers appears to be on the charge towards the Finals with the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Los Angeles Lakers will be hoping that Anthony Davies and LeBron James can combine to drive their charge for success. Add those sides to the Rockets and the Nuggets, who have a lot of young talent themselves, it’s going to be a huge challenge for Popovich to guide his team beyond the first round of the post-season. Making progress from last season may be the best that the Spurs can hope for in the coming campaign, playing the waiting game for the spending sprees of their rivals to subside.