Hidden Keys to the San Antonio Spurs' Continued Success This Season
A famous Benjamin Franklin quote reads, "The only things certain in life are death and taxes."
Well, recently, it has seemed as though Franklin's list has been revised:
Death, taxes and San Antonio Spurs dominance. In an occurrence that is too frequent to deem impressive, the Spurs have opened the 2012-13 season on a bright note, sitting atop the Southwest division with the third-best record in the NBA.
After dismantling the Los Angeles Lakers, the Spurs moved to 28-10 on the season, and as always—title hopes remain on the horizon.
However, with an increase in talent in the Western Conference, as well as another year added to their veterans' ages, their improvement is conspicuous, as the original formula just wouldn't cut it this season.
A resurgence by Tim Duncan has certainly helped the case, but other factors have helped them maintain their contender status throughout the first few months of the season.
All stats are accurate as of January 9, 2013.
In season's past, foul shooting has been the Spurs' kryptonite, especially late in close games.
When everything seemed to be going right for the veteran quad, a trip to the free-throw line would often prove fruitless, inclining team's to use this inability against them.
Fast forward to 2013 and the entire scenario has changed.
Shooting a combined 79.3 percent from the charity stripe, the Spurs rank fifth in the NBA, sporting their best percentage since the 1979-80 season.
It's almost as if Gregg Popovich spent the entire offseason working on free-throw shooting—which, in all honesty, is very likely.
Tim Duncan has been the most impressive case of change for San Antonio, as the career 69 percent foul shooter is no longer a hopeless cause at the line.
His 81.6 percent accuracy is a career best, as is Tony Parker's 81.9. Kawhi Leonard leads the attack, sinking over 90 percent of his attempts, with Manu Ginobili adding his consistent 82 percent as well.
The Spurs are a team of strategy, and with such an improvement from the foul line, it's no wonder that they're making it a habit to get there, and capitalize off of the free shots.
During the height of the Spurs' success, Tim Duncan and David Robinson show, forming one of the greatest post tandems that the league had ever witnessed.
Since Robinson's retirement, the Spurs have struggled to find Duncan a partner—as the many potential candidates have not lived up to their expectations.
Tiago Splitter entered the league as a similar pawn in the same strategy. The 6'11'' Brazilian prospect showed flashes of potential early on, but inconsistency and unintelligent mistakes seemed to be too frequent for the prospect to emerge as a star.
This season, Splitter has not only lived up to his expectations, but surpassed them by a considerable amount.
He and Duncan have developed excellent chemistry in the post, with both's extraordinary passing ability making it hard for defenders to stop them down low.
He has been on of the team's most reliable defenders, and a decent scoring option, especially when he gets hot.
He isn't one of the league's best big men, but he runs the pick-and-roll effortlessly and knows his role—an undeniable contributor to the team's success thus far.
Tim Duncan has been the team's leader—that isn't even a question.
But unlike last year when it seemed as though the Spurs' star—Tony Parker, at the time—had minimal help.
Now that Duncan has reclaimed the reins, Parker has willingly become his sidekick again, while posting superstar statistics.
Despite not being the team's top option, Parker's 19.1 points per game are the second best of his career, and his assists differential from last year is only .5.
When Duncan struggles, Parker picks up the slack, and vice versa.
Even when the pair struggle collectively, the team has found other reliable options, such as Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green—even Gary Neal.
They rarely find themselves at a shortage of talent, and with a multiple options from everywhere on the court, the Spurs remain one of the most dangerous squads in the league.
Back in their championship era, the Spurs were praised for their top-of-the-line defense, in which they held opponents to around 75 to 80 points per game consistently.
Since then, the Spurs have evolved with the times, adapting to the high-scoring fad that has become the norm.
They've done so with ease, effortlessly transitioning into one of the league's best offensive teams, showcasing this new-found talent last season.
However, in addition to its continued offensive prowess, the team has stepped up on the defensive end, relying on a mix of offense and defense to help win games.
Instead of lying in the middle of the pack, as they did last year, the Spurs have jumped into the top 10 in terms of points allowed and fourth in defensive rating.
They have also jumped from 24th ranked to 15th in blocked shots and from 20th to fifth in steals.
The Miami Heat proved last season that a delicate balance between defense and offense is needed to win championships, and the Spurs have revamped their defense to ensure their chances at a title.