San Antonio Spurs' Second Unit Keeps Tim Duncan's Title Hopes Alive

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistNovember 12, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JUNE 06:  Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs talks with teammates Kawhi Leonard #2, Manu Ginobili #20, Tim Duncan #21 and DeJuan Blair #45 of the San Antonio Spurs against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Six of the Western Conference Finals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on June 6, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It seems like no matter the opinions of the population of the basketball world, the San Antonio Spurs always end up doing the opposite. You think they're boring, they switch to a faster-paced offense; you think they're old, they go retool with young dudes; you think they can't possibly contend yet again, they go run out to a 6-1 start with middle fingers extended the entire time.

Basketball gods just love Tim Duncan; it's a fact of nature. There's gravity, the whole equal and opposite reaction thing and then the law that states any time Duncan steps on a basketball court his team will be one of the five best in the league.

Duncan's season thus far has been rather impressive. He looks spry, he's getting out and blocking shots, he's running the floor as well as he has in two years and he's continuing to knock down shots, something he could probably do well into his 40s.

Perhaps most impressive of all, the Spurs, who have spread things out like butter on toast so far this season, are being led by Duncan in points and rebounds per game, and he's got both by a lot. Duncan's 18.9 points outpaces Tony Parker by six points, and his 9.7 rebounds puts him more than three boards ahead of Dejuan Blair.

If Duncan can keep this up all season long, the Spurs will win 50 games easily this year, and they'll be hellacious to play in the playoffs.

The Spurs continue to rely on a core of three main players with Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili, but they're so much more than that this season.

11 players on the Spurs have averaged at least five points per game this season, and of those 11 guys only two have played fewer than six games. Even more impressive, they're still working Nando De Colo into the lineup. He's not going to be a big part of the team for a while, but he's shown some impressive flashes in the limited minutes he's played so far this season.

San Antonio doesn't have to lean heavily on their three best players this season because they've got a bench capable of keeping the game close or even extending a lead if they need them to.

It's hard to point out the most impressive aspect of this bench, as they've been impressive all the way around so far. They play the sixth-most minutes in the NBA, yet they're in the top five bench squads in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

What has made their bench so effective is the play of Danny Green. Green has continued to prove that he can hold his own as a starter, so Ginobili continues to come off the bench. Even though Ginobili has slowly gotten back into things after back problems sidelined him early, he's continued to be a threat coming off the bench.

The real star on San Antonio's bench so far this season has been Gary Neal, which just goes to show that even the guy completely buried on the Spurs is capable of big things. Neal is averaging nearly 12 points per game on 58 percent shooting, including a 27-point, seven-rebound game against Portland on Saturday.

Their bench embodies what a Greg Popovich coached team's bench should look like. They play defense well, they score efficiently and they don't let leads slip away. It's like he's taken what is normally a team's weakness and turned it into another strength.

After the playoffs last year when the Spurs were eliminated by the Thunder in such a drawn-out, emotional way, I legitimately thought that the Tim Duncan era had ended. It was a passing of the metaphorical torch.

But the Spurs stuck with their team and decided to take another run with the team they had, another thing that seemed like a bad sign. Right now, however, it seems that the only thing that can ever kill Duncan's title hopes is retirement. Until that comes, I'm done doubting Tim Duncan.