15 Bold Predictions for the San Antonio Spurs' 2013-14 Season
Tim Duncan will score 28 points per game and lead the league in minutes played.
All right, some bold predictions can be extremely illogical, but the 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs can achieve plenty of headlines by season's end.
Although individual and team accomplishments will happen, the Spurs are focused on one goal—returning to and winning the 2014 NBA Finals.
But while San Antonio is working toward the ultimate prize, it will see returning players shine and new teammates step up.
Kawhi Leonard Named to All-Defensive Second Team
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Kawhi Leonard has been one of the league's top defenders since entering the league in 2011, but he emerged onto the national scene by locking down LeBron James during the 2013 NBA Finals.
Leonard played just 58 games last season, but he matched pace with All-Defensive Second Team member Paul George. The Spurs' small forward averaged 1.7 steals and 0.6 blocks per game while defending a given opponent's top offensive weapon.
Ultimately, after playing a full slate of games for the first time in his career, Leonard will be recognized for his stellar defense.
Tony Parker Named to All-NBA First Team
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If Tony Parker can elude the injury bug, he will maneuver past defenders for a full season.
Even though his minutes per game have not risen drastically, Parker has consistently improved his offensive output over the past four years.
The point guard entering his 13th season tallied his second-highest points and assists per game during 2012-13. He also raised his field-goal and free-throw percentages 36 and 46 points, respectively.
Parker will benefit from Russell Westbrook and Kobe Bryant missing (an unknown amount of) early-season games, so a battle with Chris Paul and James Harden awaits, but barring injury, Parker will do it.
Tim Duncan Named to All-NBA First Team
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Tim Duncan was selected to 13 consecutive All-NBA teams to start his career, including nine first-team honors.
Although the four-time champion was not selected to any of the three teams during 2010-11 and 2011-12, Duncan played his way onto the first team last season.
Of course, being listed as a center on the ballot did not and will not hurt Duncan's cause, either.
Duncan averaged 17.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in just 30.1 minutes per game throughout 2012-13, and the same production can be expected from him this season.
Cory Joseph Plays a Significant Role for the Entire Year
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Last year, point guard Cory Joseph waffled between San Antonio and the NBA D-League's Austin Toros throughout the regular season.
He played 28 games with the Spurs, averaged 4.5 points, 1.9 assists and 1.9 rebounds in 13.9 minutes per contest.
During the playoffs, Joseph appeared in 20 of 21 games, occupying a limited-action role as a garbage-time point guard and occasionally spelling Tony Parker near the end of a half.
This season, however, due to Gary Neal's departure and Joseph's consistent play, the third-year guard is Parker's backup and is poised to play upwards of 16 minutes per game for the entire season.
Danny Green Leads the League in Three-Point Percentage
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Yes, Danny Green knocked down a finals-record number of three-pointers.
No, that's not specifically where this hype comes from.
Green connected on 177 of his 412 long-distance attempts last season—good enough for the seventh-best mark in the league (42.9 percent).
While hot-shooting Stephen Curry—who hit an absurd 45.3 percent of 600 three-point shots—will battle Green for the title, the Spurs' shooting guard will make better shot decisions this season and edge Curry at the top.
Marco Belinelli Sets a New Career-High
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Marco Belinelli is a career 38.7 percent three-point shooter, and his best individual season came in 2010-11 when he connected on 41.4 percent of his attempts.
This season, the seventh-year pro will rarely, if ever, be on the floor without one of Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili. As Belinelli returns to a non-top scoring option role that allows him to create shots by using off-ball movement, he will find more open looks and better opportunities.
And by doing that, Belinelli will force fewer outside shots and set a new career-high three-point percentage.
Manu Ginobili Plays His 800th Career Game
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Manu Ginobili has been in the league for 11 years and played 727 career games with San Antonio.
But the Argentinian shooting guard has an injury history, missing 117 games over the past five years, including 48 contests during 2011-12 and 22 more in 2012-13.
Ginobili will avoid a setback and play at least 73 games—something he hasn't done in three seasons.
Oh, and I predict Ginobili's bald spot does not grow in diameter this season. Bold, I know.
Aron Baynes Appears in 50 Games
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Aron Baynes held down a spot at the end of the bench throughout 2012-13, playing just 141 minutes scattered over 16 games.
This offseason, DeJuan Blair left for the Dallas Mavericks, and the Spurs signed Jeff Ayres (or Pendergraph), but Baynes deserves more time on the court.
Baynes brings physicality and a willingness to fight for position—something that caused Dwight Howard to lose his cool and get ejected from his final game with the Los Angeles Lakers. Additionally, Baynes can knock down jumpers—something Tiago Splitter cannot do.
Splitter and Matt Bonner may stand in his way, but an increased role for Baynes gives Gregg Popovich more legitimate lineup options.
San Antonio Leads the League in Assists
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What's a San Antonio basket without an assist?
For a better idea, throughout 2012-13, Danny Green and Tim Duncan were assisted on 85.9 and 66.7 percent of baskets, respectively.
Headlined by Tony Parker—one of the NBA's best facilitators—and the combination of Manu Ginobili and Cory Joseph, San Antonio will be among the tops in the league.
Patty Mills Earns the Third-String Point Guard Spot
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Perhaps best-known as "that annoying San Antonio benchwarmer who is always waving a towel," Patty Mills is actually a solid player.
Recently, Popovich said Mills "came back ready to play," according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News.
And if he becomes a more consistent three-point shooter, Mills will be more than just ready to play—he will receive minutes as the third-stringer.
Nando De Colo Is Sent to the D-League
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Nando De Colo appeared in 72 games as a rookie, and he connected on 37.8 percent of his three-point attempts.
During summer league, however, De Colo experienced his fair share of trouble, committing 3.3 turnovers and making just 22.2 percent of long-distance shots.
Cory Joseph has jumped De Colo on the depth chart, and as just discussed, Patty Mills has been playing well during the preseason.
Unless the 26-year-old De Colo shows major improvement in very limited playing time, he will be on his way to the D-League.
San Antonio Signs a Small Forward
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Sam Young (pictured) and Corey Maggette were invited to training camp, but both players have already been cut.
Consequently, the only small forward on San Antonio's roster is Kawhi Leonard. A rotation of Cory Joseph, Manu Ginobili and Marco Belinelli is to be expected early on, and the Spurs will have plenty of success with the trio.
As it stands, per Hoopsworld, San Antonio has 14 guaranteed contracts, so there is one spot available for another player.
Will the signing last into the postseason? Probably not. But Sam Young or another free agent will suit up in San Antonio for a few games.
San Antonio Sweeps Houston in the Regular Season
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In case the rumors have flown by, Dwight Howard did, in fact, sign with the Houston Rockets.
Adding Howard to a team with James Harden gives the Rockets a superstar shooter and a top-notch defender, but the Spurs will neutralize one of Houston's big names and emerge victorious.
San Antonio hosts the Rockets on Nov. 30 and on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, so Popovich's squad gets two early-season opportunities to attack Houston's weaknesses while the Rockets adjust to playing together.
Although the Spurs' Jan. 28 matchup with Harden, Howard and Co. is sandwiched between meetings against the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls, San Antonio will take down Houston.
Finally, April 14 will be a well-needed momentum-builder for the Spurs heading into the postseason.
Spurs Win the Most Games in the West
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San Antonio won 58 games during the 2012-13 campaign—good enough for the No. 2 playoff seed in the West.
This season, the Spurs have an excellent opportunity to lead the conference in wins.
Yes, Howard signed with the Rockets, Andre Iguodala joined the Golden State Warriors and the New Orleans Pelicans reloaded. San Antonio, on the other hand, only made three moves, but the team is still in prime position to be the top Western Conference franchise.
While the three aforementioned teams will deal with chemistry issues, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Lakers must wait for their respective stars—Westbrook and Bryant—to return from injury.
Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers pose the biggest threat to the Spurs' quest for No. 1, but a hot start from San Antonio will propel the veteran squad to the most wins.
San Antonio Will Win the NBA Championship
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Go big or go home.
San Antonio was one shot away from bringing home the Larry O'Brien Trophy, and the Spurs will be determined to return to the NBA Finals.
Parker, Duncan and Leonard will be San Antonio's key players, while Splitter, Ginobili, Belinelli, Joseph and a handful of others will occupy important supporting roles.
Popovich is arguably the best coach in the NBA, and he always seems to find a way to make the entire team play at peak efficiency.
The Western Conference certainly improved during the offseason, and the return of Derrick Rose in the Windy City bolsters the East, but the Spurs have ample talent to match up with any team in a seven-game series.
And even bring home the title.