Before and during this season, the Warriors and the Spurs have been the two favorites to come out of the West to play against the Cavs in the Finals, with Golden State having the slight edge at being favored to actually be in the Finals, thanks to their “Big 4”. But anyone who’s been watching basketball for any number of years recently knows never to take the Spurs lightly, as they are never hyped up as much as other teams, yet they are always one of the top teams in the league and usually playing deep into the postseason. And they’ve got a coach by the name of Gregg Popovich, who’s kind of good.
A few weeks ago, Golden State was given some bad news that Kevin Durant would be out for the remainder of the regular season, but would be returning in time for the playoffs. This made a lot of people feel the Spurs could creep up and snag that first seed in the West and have home court advantage throughout the Western playoffs. But Saturday morning, the Spurs were given the bad news that Lamarcus Aldridge was suffering of heart arrhythmia and would be held out indefinitely. While nobody wants to hear this kind of news about any player, the season must go on. So what does this mean for the Spurs?
They’ve still got their MVP candidate in Kawhi Leonard, one of the best young superstars in the league, as well as seasoned veterans in Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Pau Gasol. These three guys are shells of their former selves, but they all, including Kawhi, have the playoff and championship experience which is always necessary to make a title run. Gregg Popovich is also great at squeezing out as much talent as possible out of his players, running one of the best systems the NBA has seen. While none of Aldridge’s replacements are as good as he is, guys like Dewayne Dedmon and Davis Bertans have really shown growth and that they can play effectively for the Spurs, as well as David Lee, who was once one of the better offensive power forwards in the league in his day. Lee is also a shell of his former self these days, but again, I believe Popovich can squeeze out whatever he’s got left in the tank to help the team make it back to the Finals.
While I don’t know about getting that first seed anymore, even without Aldridge, I like the Spurs as the favorites out of the West, for a few reasons, but the main one being Popovich. As good as potential MVP and former Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard is, rotations and matchup adjustments are a big part of the playoffs, and coach Popovich has become a master over the years. The Warriors have an excellent “Big 4” including Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, 2 of the top 5-7 players in the league. But in order to sign Durant this past off-season, they had to clear a lot of their bench, which might come back to hurt them in the playoffs, as that bench was a big reason for the Warriors title 2 seasons ago as well as even making the Finals again last season.