Year after year, fans and media bury the San Antonio Spurs and say that their window has closed. Yet it seems like they feed off the criticism and prove everyone wrong.
Next year shouldn't be any different.
As long as the Spurs have head coach Gregg Popovich, they're always going to be contending for a shot at the title.
For the second consecutive season, the Spurs finished first overall in the Western Conference and this is with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili way past their primes.
The fact that the team is winning with an aging Duncan and Ginobili shows that the Spurs are successful for other reasons. They're relying on Tony Parker as the team's offensive catalyst and an infusion of youth with guys like Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, DeJuan Blair, and Danny Green.
Let's not forget that they have the best coach in the league. Popovich is a great teacher and he's going to have his boys ready no matter what the circumstances are. He should also be lauded for resting Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker during certain points of the season in order to keep them fresh for the playoffs.
There's no doubt that Popovich's strategy paid off as the team went deep into the playoffs.
The best way to describe the Spurs is efficient and disciplined. They had the league's best offense last season as they finished first in offensive efficiency, scoring 108.5 points per 100 possessions.
This team also doesn't turn the ball over, which is rare for a team that scores more than anyone else in the league. They were third in turnover ratio this past season. Generally high scoring teams run fast paced offenses.
Not the Spurs. They're just efficient and disciplined at what they do and this is why they find it easy to score.
Finally, they're a killer rebounding team on the defensive glass. They make sure other teams don't extend their possessions. They were first in defensive rebounding ratio this season.
What's scarier is that the bigs on this team like Splitter and Blair are only getting older, smarter, and more experienced. They had trouble grabbing offensive rebounds this year but as the duo gets more experienced, they should become more physical on the offensive glass.
Can they get over the hump and get past the Thunder in the playoffs?
Perhaps. It'll be difficult, but they'll be in the running next season. The Spurs could still use some physicality and athleticism on the wings. They don't have a Bruce Bowen-type player like they did in their heyday. A guy like that will be extremely helpful in stopping a guy like Kevin Durant or even LeBron James.
It's not just the Thunder, though. Let's not forget that the Los Angeles Clippers will also be around next season to cause some problems for other teams as their core of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul build their chemistry. And of course the Los Angeles Lakers are one big free-agent move away from being contenders again.
It's not going to be easy. It never is.
That being said, they've drafted extremely well, are well coached, and have veteran leadership to succeed. They also have a star point guard in Tony Parker who facilitates everyone's job. Parker is easily one of the most underrated players in the league and it's baffling how people clump him with Duncan and Ginobili when they call the Spurs old.
Parker's only 30, folks. That's not old. He's in the prime of his career and he's surrounded by a collection of vets and young athletes.
The Spurs are as balanced as it gets and as long as they have that eclectic variety of youth and experience, they're going to be making a title push year after year.