Denver, CO – They have won 20 straight games, including 10 straight in the playoffs. They have won 4 championships in the past 13 seasons. They are 6 victories away in these playoffs from another ring. They have largely flown under the radar, as the Lakers, Celtics, and Heat all seem to get much more publicity. This team plays in a small market, with no other major professional teams in their city. We all know who I am referring to, it is the San Antonio Spurs. This Spurs franchise has done some absolutely remarkable things over the past decade and a half, much of which does not get recognized until you take the time to look at the facts. What they have done gives hope to all small to mid market NBA franchises, including our very own Denver Nuggets.
The San Antonio Spurs are on an all-time roll right now. I heave heard the question come up over the last day or so….will they go undefeated in the playoffs this year? They are 10-0 and are simply picking apart the opposition with precision passing and disciplined overall play. I don’t believe they will go unbeaten, as the Thunder are very talented and should come out strong and win tonight to temporarily save their season. But the likelihood that the Spurs do win the title this year is very high, which again would give them their 5th since 1999. How has San Antonio done it? How has one of the smallest market teams in the NBA sustained this level of play and not fallen into mediocrity over the years? Their blueprint is really amazing, and it may surprise you to learn how they have done it.
Ok, yes they have Tim Duncan. The Spurs were lucky enough to get the #1 pick in 1997 and select a guy who has proven to be a future Hall of Famer. Having a cornerstone like him has been crucial to their success of course. But did you know, of the remaining 4 teams in the playoffs, that the Spurs have the least number of lottery picks on their team? One, and it’s Duncan. The rest of San Antonio’s roster was put together with great drafting, smart trades, and wise free agent pickups. These elements are essential for a small market team to compete against the likes of L.A., Miami, and Chicago. Lets look at each key player. Tony Parker? Taken with the 28th pick in the 2001 draft. Manu Ginobili? Taken with the 57th pick in the 1999 draft. All 3 of the Spurs best players were drafted by them, and developed over time into what they are today. How about the supporting players that are currently doing the little things for them to win? Boris Diaw? This starting forward was waived by the awful Bobcats on March 21 of this year and picked up by the Spurs two days later. Danny Green? This young guard was a free agent in 2011, and didn’t garner much interest. The Spurs signed him and he is now a starting guard for them. Stephen Jackson? This 34 year old veteran, who is now giving Kevin Durant fits, was traded for back in March for an all-but-done Richard Jefferson. Tiago Splitter? This 6’11″ Brazilian was taken with the 28th pick in the 2007 draft. Gary Neal? Neal was undrafted in 2007, played overseas for a few years before being signed by the Spurs in 2010. Matt Bonner? He was taken with the 45th pick in 2003 by the Bulls, who a few years later traded him to the Spurs for a guy named Radoslav Nesterovic. As you can see, San Antonio put this all together with a great plan, patience, and development.
The Denver Nuggets will have to do things the way San Antonio has done them. The NBA is a league where the big time free agents will, more often than not, go to big market teams to get that huge paycheck and endorsement deals. The moves the Nuggets have made are very promising, drafting Lawson and Faried, and trading for Afflalo, Gallinari, and McGee. They have the pieces to now develop into stars, and it’s up to these players to do what it takes to get to that championship level. We just need two simple things to happen as well….For Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili to retire….and for Durant and Westbrook to under-perform and disappoint for the next decade. It’s really not too much to ask, is it?
Denver Sports by J Simp