Big-name moves headlined the Western Conference during the 2013 edition of the NBA offseason, and a handful of teams improved their likelihood of making a run deep into the playoffs next year.
Dwight Howard signed with the Houston Rockets. Doc Rivers is now coaching the Los Angeles Clippers. Andre Iguodala was traded to the Golden State Warriors. Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans were acquired by the New Orleans Pelicans.
But how about Marco Belinelli and Jeff Pendergraph signing with the San Antonio Spurs?
Is that impressive or what?
Or what? Oh, OK.
The Spurs' front office is often totally contented by the makeup of the team, so San Antonio rarely, if ever, considers making a big splash in free agency.
Of course, most teams do not have the luxury of having a trio like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili on the roster for 11 consecutive seasons. Plus, with the emergence of Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs did not need to make a nationally eyebrow-raising transaction.
Related: Bleacher Report's Stephen Babb discusses whether or not Leonard's ascension can cover for an aging Ginobili next season.
San Antonio's addition of Belinelli is a slight upgrade over since-departed Gary Neal, and Pendergraph provides some experience, but the acquisition was mostly for depth purposes.
But the Spurs' advantage throughout each roller-coaster offseason is that their team chemistry is rarely affected.
According to Basketball-Reference, San Antonio's offensive rating has been 107.2 or higher every year since 2004-05—the only team in the league to accomplish the feat. In other words, the Spurs score at a very efficient rate each season.
But efficiency can only take a team so far.
During the aforementioned streak, San Antonio won league championships in 2005 and 2007. The 2012-13 season, however, resulted in the franchise's only finals appearance over the past six years.
So, is the Spurs' collective ceiling high enough to make a deep run into the playoffs and finish off a championship even after standing pat this offseason?
Tim Duncan is "old," but he hasn't shown any signs of regression. The 16-year veteran had one of his most productive seasons last year while playing just 30.1 minutes per game.
Similarly, Tony Parker had a fantastic season, and it was considered an MVP-caliber year before an ankle injury in March sidelined the point guard for three weeks.
Despite Ginobili's collapse during Games 6 and 7 of the finals, he provided 4.6 assists and 1.3 steals per contest beyond his double-digit scoring output.
Leonard's versatility and Tiago Splitter's development were major factors in San Antonio's playoff successes. Additionally, Danny Green, Matt Bonner and signee Marco Belinelli have each proven they can hit three-pointers at a 40-plus percent clip for an entire season, so the Spurs are loaded on offense.
Considering San Antonio was mere seconds or rebounds away from an NBA championship a few short months ago, the team certainly has the potential to win a title.
Though a quick scan of the Western Conference and its teams' respective upgrades shows the Spurs are not a lock for the conference finals.
Beyond the always-dangerous Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston is expected to be particularly improved due to Howard's post presence in combination with James Harden's scoring abilities. The Rockets' fast-paced attack plays right into the hands of San Antonio, though. Howard's skill set does not match Houston's uptempo offensive scheme, so the Spurs may ultimately render D12 ineffective, especially in a seven-game series.
Surprisingly enough, Golden State's trade to acquire Iguodala may be the most threatening roster move to challenge the Spurs' championship aspirations. The Warriors gave San Antonio all it could handle throughout the conference semifinals, and a rotation of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Iguodala is a small step up compared to the Dubs' 2013 playoff roster.
New Orleans snagged a couple of stars in Holiday and Evans, but the Pelicans are still a season or two from making serious playoff noise.
But even with a couple of big-name acquisitions being made around the conference, the Spurs electing to not make a high-profile move during the offseason was the right decision. San Antonio improved the depth of its roster and will remain one of the teams to beat in the conference.
Those headline moves by other teams are not to be taken lightly, and a return trip to the finals will be all sorts of difficult for the Spurs. But as Popovich's team reaches the latter stages of the playoffs, experience and team chemistry will be a defining factor in a competitive series.
Ultimately, San Antonio's title chances did not drop; other teams saw their respective odds rise. Simply, the Spurs just have to earn it a little bit more.
Every last second, and every last rebound.
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