It's going to be very odd seeing the Spurs without Tim Duncan in the lineup. He has been wearing that distinctive uniform, and winning titles, for nearly half my life. But now he has moved on. He hasn't been as effective on the court recently as he was in his prime, but he was still more than solid. More significantly, he was the face of the franchise on and off the court. It's definitely not going to be a fatal blow - there is no such thing as a fatal blow for this team as long as Gregg Popovich is still in charge. Things will be at least a little different, though. Our job is to figure out how, different, and what it means for this team.
2016 San Antonio Spurs Betting Storylines
I'm concerned about Tony Parker. He's 34 years old now, and he's looking every bit of his age and more. He's still a smart, savvy player, but he has lost a step or three along the way, and he isn't able to be nearly as aggressive as he used to be. He can't do what he once did, and that puts this team behind others on the point. The good news, though, is that Popovich is no dummy when it comes to constructing his team, so Parker, and fellow aging vet Manu Ginobili, don't need to do as much as they once did. They are new kids in town to carry the burden.
What a duo this team has in Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Leonard is as good a two-way player as there is in the league right now, and Aldridge is a big man with beautiful touch. They complement each other nicely, and in the tradition of the Spurs are a couple of big guys to build around. Also in the tradition of the Spurs, they are about as egoless and trouble free as players can be. They have both bought completely into what is being done in San Antonio, and they will be the biggest parts of it this year. A system like this only works if the players accept and embrace it, and that is certainly the case now. Aldridge in particular should be on tap for a big year this year. He looked good last year, but the adjustments - both in playing style and team culture - were significant for him in his first year in San Antonio, and he should be more comfortable and entrenched now. Given how good he looked last year, a more comfortable and effective Aldridge surely factors into the nightmares of Western Conference rivals.
Pau Gasol is also an intriguing addition to these two up front. He's not young by any means (he's nearly two years older than Parker), and we can't know how much more he has left to give, but if he can fit in and get comfortable in a hurry then he could really make this frontcourt something special. This isn't a team built to overwhelm athletically, so Gasol's age should be less of a factor up front than it could be in some spots. They also need Danny Green, who was far from his best last season after being so good the season before, to mesh with this front court and play a big role.
2016 San Antonio Spurs Additions and Departures
Aside from Duncan, notable departures included Matt Bonner, David West, Boris Diaw, Kevin Martin and Andre Miller. Nothing to lose too much sleep over. Gasol is the marquee addition, with guys like David Lee and Joel Anthony coming on board as well. In the draft the highlight was point guard Dejounte Murray, who left Washington after a strong freshman year. They obviously won't hurry him, but he has the game to be an impact player down the road. There is also a good collection of undrafted free agents and European players looking to break through. One of the more interesting is former Michigan State sharpshooter Bryn Forbes. He has the feel of a guy who could fit in with the Spurs.
2016 San Antonio Spurs Futures Odds and Trends
San Antonio was quietly reliable against the spread last year - they were 44-38 ATS to produce a small profit. The "under" was where the money was, though - they went under the total 45 times and over just 35. In the playoffs they were not so good ATS - just 5-5 - but again produced a profit on the under, going below the total in six of 10 games.
San Antonio Spurs Futures Odds (from Bovada)
NBA title odds : +900
Western Conference title odds : +450
Kawhi Leonard MVP Odds : +1000 (sixth best)
LaMarcus Aldridge MVP Odds : +10000
Season win total (from Westgate): 56.5
2016 San Antonio Spurs Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
The Spurs are the Spurs. Their issue is that they don't seem to have kept pace with the juggernaut that is the Warriors, but then neither has anyone else. They still have the best coach in basketball, though, and a strong core along with a cleverly-built bench. They are positioned to be the second-best team in the conference again, and it would be far from surprising if the conference came down to a finals between them and the Warriors.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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