What We've Learned About the San Antonio Spurs After the First Month
The first month of NBA action is drawing to a close, and in just a short period of time, basketball fans across the globe are buzzing with excitement about the new season.
With surprises including the Los Angeles Lakers' slow start and the Charlotte Bobcats surprisingly decent beginning, the first few weeks of professional basketball have been enough to stir up the fever.
The San Antonio Spurs, however, haven't been too surprising. Still, while a hot start is always expected from the veteran crew, a 12-3 start is nonetheless remarkable.
Despite being plagued by injuries, San Antonio basketball hums on, dominating as it did throughout the majority of last season.
Here are a few things to note in light of the Spurs' hot start.
*All stats are accurate as of November 26.
Tim Duncan Is Ageless
We have known for a while that Tim Duncan is an elite contender, regardless of his age.
Even as he grows older, the Spurs' superstar never fails to impress, and while a decline was noticeable last year, anyone can tell you that he was still remarkable for a veteran.
This year, the Big Fundamental continues to amaze. He was named the Western Conference Player of the Week yesterday, although the accolade barely sums up the true dominance that the big man has exerted thus far.
Through the first month of action, Duncan has averaged 19.0 points per game on 51.7 percent shooting and 10.5 rebounds per game, totals shockingly similar to his career averages, despite playing only 31.4 minutes, a full four minutes less than his career average.
However, the stat sheet can only tell so much. On defense, Duncan has proven a force to be reckoned with, anchoring the team in the post as he did in his early years.
When other players have struggled or have been forced to sit out with an injury, Duncan has picked up the slack. His free-throw shooting has improved tremendously, and any concerns about him running out of gas were quickly erased.
He may be presenting himself in a veteran manner, but this season, Duncan is playing like a young man.
Tony Parker Can Still Be the Team's MVP Candidate
Tony Parker began this season with a lasting impact, nailing the go-ahead three-pointer in the Spurs' season opener and then hitting the two biggest shots—including the game-winning buzzer-beater—against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the team's first home game.
After such a hot start, Parker cooled off slightly, tallying his fair share of off-games before the All-Star point guard found his groove again.
His season averages currently total to 17.7 points per game and 7.5 assists, although his recent performances have been even better.
In the past ten games, Parker's averages haven't been much different, sans his improved shooting percentage. On the year, Parker is shooting at 47.6 percent. However, in the past 10 games, Parker's percentage has jumped to just over 50 percent, a remarkable feat for a guard.
In losses, Parker has performed sub-par, averaging a mere 11.8 points on just 36.8 percent shooting. In wins, on the other hand, Parker has posted just under 20 points per game, sinking half of his attempts.
The differences are evident, and the Spurs' reliance on Parker's success is heavy. Luckily, the team's star has proven that he can still perform at an All-Star level.
Tiago Splitter Is Coming into His Own
One of the biggest concerns for the Spurs entering the 2012-13 season was Tiago Splitter's inconsistency. As the team's best big-man option behind Duncan, the team's need for Splitter to produce rose to an all-time high.
Luckily, Splitter picked the right time to turn on. Inconsistency has remained an issue for Splitter, although his improved ratio of good games to bad ones should certainly please the team.
He was the Spurs' leading man during the beginning of the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks, and since then has had his fair share of eye-catching performances.
Most recently, he nearly finished with a triple-double against the Washington Wizards, posting 15 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists in just 23 minutes of action.
His season averages are nothing to gawk at, but his production on some nights has been incomparable. If he maintains this level of efficiency, the Spurs may have unearthed themselves another gem.
Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard Are Prime Contributors
The Spurs hit a minor speed-bump when Kawhi Leonard was reported to be injured for the rest of November, losing their starting small forward and one of their best players.
Losing their only small forwards has forced the team to use a small-ball lineup, and their overall production has weakened.
The team's Big Three, Parker, Duncan and Manu Ginobili, have stepped up to fill the void, although a lack of supporting production is painfully noticeable.
Jackson's spark off the bench has been desperately missed, and Leonard's tenacious defense and ability to score has left the Spurs shorthanded in several situations.
The upside of the situation is that the two player's value to the team has become even more conspicuous. The Spurs have fared surprisingly well without them, but victories over the lowly Toronto Raptors should not take two overtimes.
Any questions that fans have had about these two studs' production have been eliminated, as the glaring holes in the lineup have been easy to spot.
The Spurs Backcourt Is Still Too Crowded
The San Antonio Spurs lineup features several exciting prospects. However, the limited available spots have given the youngsters few opportunities.
Nando De Colo, Patty Mills and Cory Joseph are all being used minimally, especially Joseph, who was only recently recalled from the D-League.
Injuries to Jackson and Leonard have allowed for these up-and-comers to gain a bit of experience, with the team even adding a "new" guard, James Anderson.
However, once Jackson and Leonard recover from injury, these opportunities will disappear just as quickly as they were created, once again bringing the issue to the fore.
Since Parker, Ginobili, Danny Green and Gary Neal have already solidified their roles as the team's prominent guards, the abundance of extras is unneeded.
Some of these unused players could potentially be valuable trade pieces, and until one of them is dealt, backcourt crowding will remain a major problem.