With the entire NBA’s gaze focused on the magnificent unbeaten start by the Golden State Warriors, and rightly so, but when you look elsewhere in the league, the San Antonio Spurs are quietly playing great basketball yet again.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Gregg Popovic’s men have started in superb form with their 18-5 record, backed up mainly by their league-leading defence. Through 21 games, the Spurs have allowed an average of 88.7 points per game, 4.9 points better than the next-best team in the Miami Heat.
It’s an outstanding stat, weighed slightly by their 119-68 thumping of the Philadelphia 76ers, but that isn’t the only thing that jumps out at you. They have a plus-11.2 points differential in games, meaning they can put up plenty of offence too and their wins aren’t even close.
They are second in rebounding differential, averaging 5.6 more boards than their opponents and are owning their defensive glass, with 36.6 rebounds per game which is only bettered by the Chicago Bulls.
The team are sixth in blocks but most impressively, they have allowed the least amount of three-points in the entire league. In fact, they have even faced the least amount of three-pointers full stop.
That’s a glaring stat, given the rise of the shooting teams that go for it from beyond the arc and the fact that they aren’t just defending it well but are actively deterring teams from even attempting it is a feat on it’s own that surely has helped teams score much fewer points against them.
They are third in assists, which isn’t too much of a surprise given the Spurs’ tendency to share the basketball, has always helped keep their offence fresh. This team, especially with others in the Western Conference struggling for consistency in the first quarter of the season, will be a real contender come April again.
Their real standout, yet again, has been Kawhi Leonard and consider him an MVP candidate. He’s averaging 21 points a game, 4.5 more than his career-best last season and that’s mainly down to improving his length by adding a consistent three-pointer to his game.
He is .500 from beyond the arc so far, nailing 42 three’s in 21 games after scoring 67 all of last season. That’s a vast improvement for a player that’s already good at driving and a solid jumper, it just makes him such a threat on that end of the floor.
We already know how good of a defender he is, with quality blocking and steals numbers again, and there should no longer be any argument on how good he is. Leonard is likely the best two-way player in the league, he is certainly the second best player in the league at this moment in time and at 24, it’s scary to think that he could yet get better.
Combining that with free agent signing LaMarcus Aldridge finding his place with the team and they have one of the best starting fives in the league. That’s even without talking about the veteran leadership they have in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli. That’s also not talking about some of the terrific contributors on the bench like Manu, Boris Diaw, David West or the returning Patty Mills.
With the quality and consistency they have in the bench, the Spurs are probably the most likely to stop the Warriors in the West. And for good reason, this is a very good basketball team.
They could just be Golden State’s kryptonite, it’s just a shame that we have to wait until next team before they even meet in the regular season.