Pleasant Surprises from San Antonio Spurs' Early Slate of Games

Garrett Jochnau@@GarrettJochnauCorrespondent IINovember 14, 2013

SAN ANTONIO, TX - NOVEMBER 13: Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs dribbles to the basket against the Washington Wizards on November 13, 2013 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Chris Covatta/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Another strong, victory-filled start for the San Antonio Spurs

What a surprise, huh?

For a team that has become the epitome of consistency, San Antonio's 8-1 record is anything but a shocker. Excellence was expected, and like clockwork, the West's top squad delivered.

But amidst a collection of predicted wins lies a handful of surprises that have made the team's sweet start that much sweeter.

Danny Green 2.0

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 11: Danny Green #4 of the San Antonio Spurs reaches for a rebound against Thaddeus Young #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on November 11, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly a
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

It's only a small sample size—especially considering that the beginning of the season produced undesired results—but it's hard not to take notice of the new and improved Danny Green.

Green emerged as a legitimate two-way threat last season, gaining fame for his three-point shooting aptitude and an overall sound defensive game. Those two attributes allowed Green to become a formidable starter, although aside from his defense and perimeter game, there was little depth to him.

His offseason was spent adding new dimensions to his skill set, and after a few games a change is beginning to present itself.

He began the year poorly with a series of unforgettable contests. Recently, however, he has dazzled with back-to-back three-point onslaughts.

A newfound jumper off the dribble has supplemented his pre-existing shooting ability; the North Carolina product has also added a few post moves to his array.

Not to mention, he's become a threat on the boards as well. His statistics are a bit lower than they should be, due in large part to the Spurs' ability to gain a large enough lead that his services are no longer necessary.

However, inconsistency remains an issue, as it has throughout his entire career.

That said, when he's hot, he's hot. More so than last year, this revamped Green can lead a team when he gets going, now that his offensive repertoire encompasses more than a three-point shot. 

Another Backcourt Option

Nov 5, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills (8) drives around Denver Nuggets guard Nate Robinson (10) during the second half at Pepsi Center. The Spurs won 102-94. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Forget Manu Ginobili and Marco Belinelli. The Spurs are famous for their incredible depth each year, and a new second-unit star has emerged.

Patty Mills has always been a sharpshooter, but he's proven himself as a legitimate scoring spark off the bench this year.

The backup point guard position was debated frequently, but the Spurs fanbase is no longer ambivalent.

It isn't just his weight loss that has made the Australian reserve appear to be a different person. Mills is producing in a manner that all backups should strive to emulate.

When given court time—which is far more frequent this season than the last, when he spent the year riding the pine—he's been effective, stretching the floor and knocking down his jumpers while also slashing and distributing in a poised manner. 

Entering the season, most would have looked towards either Ginobili or Belinelli as the bench's most tantalizing player, but Mills' name is undoubtedly in the discussion after a strong start.

Team Defense

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10:  Metta World Peace #51 of the New York Knicks drives against Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs duirng the first half at Madison Square Garden on November 10, 2013 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowled
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

While the hot starts of individual players have been interesting storylines in these first few weeks, so has the overall cohesion of the Spurs' defense.

Ranked second in points allowed, the Spurs' defense has made up for any offensive lapses, allowing the team leeway to score minimally so long as the other team did so as well.

This hasn't been the case every game, however. While the contest against the Golden State Warriors produced two low-scoring totals, subsequent contests against the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and Washington Wizards featured a stifling defense that accompanied—and in some cases, led to—a strong offensive attack.

All four of the aforementioned teams were held to season lows against San Antonio, whose success has been centered around their D.

Tim Duncan is still an effective rim protector, while the combined perimeter abilities of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green have spelled doom for all opposing shooters.

From top to bottom, the roster features a plethora of talented defenders, and while holding opponents to season lows isn't a trend that you should count on, a strong defensive unit may very well become the defining characteristic of this year's team.


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