Why San Antonio Spurs Will Spoil All the L.A. Lakers and OKC Thunder Hype

Garrett Jochnau@@GarrettJochnauCorrespondent IINovember 8, 2012

Nov 1, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) is defended by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (left) during the first half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-US PRESSWIRE

Prior to the season's start, ESPN published a list compiled of analyst's answers to the frequently discussed question: Who will win the Western Conference?

At a quick glance, the casual onlooker would draw the conclusion that there are only two teams in the West—the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Yet, in the midst of the swarm of yellow and light blue logos lies a single image of black and silver. The San Antonio Spurs drew only one vote—from John Hollinger.

However, before the season began, even San Antonio fans would look past the Spurs, choosing the defending Western Conference champions—the Thunder or the new-look Lakers to win the conference.

Since then, a lot has changed.

The Spurs flew out of the gate, beginning the season with a remarkable 4-1 record. No longer is the veteran squad soaring under the radar, with their hot start pushing them to the top of NBA.com's power rankings.

Meanwhile, the originally-hyped Lakers and Thunder have taken a backseat to the Spurs, with mundane starts of 1-4 and 2-2, respectively.

It took just one week, and the San Antonio Spurs have already spoiled the Lakers' and Thunder's hype.

But can that continue?

Since winning their fourth championship in 2007, the Spurs have drawn the notorious label of being a fantastic regular season team, only to fall apart in the playoffs.

The Thunder, meanwhile, are fresh off a Finals appearance, and the Lakers are no strangers to the big stage either.

However, the win over the Harden-less Thunder proved that the Spurs are very capable of competing with them, and while the Lakers' star-studded roster may seem superhuman, their slow start proves that they are in no way perfect.

The Spurs, on the other hand, are playing some of the best basketball they have played in years. Tim Duncan has been defying time for years, but his play thus far into the season has been truly remarkable.

Defensively, he's anchored the team in the post, the same way he did during his prime, and on offense, he has dominated from both down low and mid-range.

However, he hasn't been alone.

Despite scoring at an inefficient rate, Parker hasn't been invisible from the stat sheet, showing up in clutch situations, while continuing to thrash opponents with his trademarked floater.

The Spurs' incredibly deep bench is also performing at a high level, and showing no signs of stopping.

However, Kawhi Leonard has made one of the biggest impacts yet this season. While he has struggled on offense, his defense has been top-notch, which is critical should the Spurs truly attempt to transition into a defensive minded team.

As long as these players continue to play at a high level, you cannot rule the Spurs out of the equation. 

Despite their loss to the Clippers Wednesday night, the Spurs remain atop the Western Conference standings. 

It's only the beginning of the season, but from what we've seen thus far, the Spurs remain a major threat in the West. On the contrary, the Lakers and the Thunder have struggled out of the gate, and while a turnaround is expected, these early struggles show that they are indeed beatable.

There is still a lot of basketball to be played, and a lot can change between now and April. Still, from what we've seen thus far, the Spurs are playing too well for people to continue to ignore them as potential Finals contenders out of the West.