Biggest Obstacles to San Antonio Spurs Repeating as NBA Champs
However, there are a handful of obstacles standing in the way of the Spurs' quest toward another title.
Save for Aron Baynes, San Antonio returns its entire cast of champions, re-signing Boris Diaw, Patty Mills and even Matt Bonner.
Being the League's No. 1 Target
Every team wants to knock off the NBA's best, which the Spurs were in 2014—and the league will not forget it.
Longtime forward Sean Elliott says the target on the team's back will grow next season, as noted by Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News.
"When you're not the champs," the former Spur said, "you come to town; people aren't as concerned about you. ...But when you come to town as NBA champions, you're getting a high-energy game every night. And it taxes you more so than any other season."
Elliott won the 1999 title with San Antonio alongside David Robinson and Tim Duncan, so he speaks with firsthand knowledge of the subject. The current Spurs were already respected, but the emotion and intensity of each game could get overwhelming.
Though Gregg Popovich knows when his players need a break, fatigue may set in earlier for San Antonio and be difficult to conquer.
Avoiding the Injury Bug
Injuries are random. And like Paul George's nauseating, extremely unfortunate situation, those of the season-ending variety are typically freak accidents.
Yet somehow, the Spurs sidestep crippling ones every year. Throughout 2013-14 alone, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter combined were unavailable for 81 games and missed zero in the postseason.
The franchise is certainly cautious, evidenced by San Antonio electing to hold Ginobili out of the upcoming FIBA World Cup. The Spurs know the 37-year-old may be entering his final season, so they want the Argentine as close to full strength as possible.
Plus, Parker continues to manage avoiding serious damage. Beyond the off-court incident that nearly took an eye, the point guard has been slowed by calf, hamstring, back and ankle injuries in the last two calendar years.
Tim Duncan has been surprisingly durable, but ultimately no one knows when or who the injury bug will bite and how long it will take him to recover.
Patty Mills will be sidelined until January because of shoulder surgery, but San Antonio hopes that's the only significant ailment it encounters in 2014-15.
Eastern Conference Champion
Want to win the title? Gotta beat the East.
Considering its overall competition level, the conference has been the punchline of jokes, and deservedly so in some cases. The Chris Bosh-led Heat have a fighting chance—however small that may be—similar to Carmelo Anthony's New York Knicks and a bolstered Charlotte Hornets.
However, the East remains a two-team show, especially after George's injury.
Miami reigned supreme for four seasons, and LeBron James' departure for the Cleveland Cavaliers simply shifted the East's power to the north. If Andrew Wiggins is indeed swapped for Kevin Love, the reinvigorated Cavs are the clear front-runners over the Chicago Bulls.
Hopefully—and truly, hopefully—Derrick Rose can stay on the court for an entire season for Chicago. If San Antonio manages to win the Western Conference for the third consecutive year, a LeBron-less team wouldn't be a saddening situation.
Los Angeles Clippers
Additionally, head coach (and President of Basketball Operations) Doc Rivers upgraded the frontcourt by adding Spencer Hawes, and he replaced Darren Collison with veteran point guard Jordan Farmar.
In fact, following the signings, Bleacher Report's Michael C. Jones predicts the Clips will take the Western Conference. San Antonio will make it difficult, but Los Angeles' time may be coming sooner rather than later.
Oklahoma City Thunder
"Til Duncan's retirement do us part." -Oklahoma City, probably.
While the Thunder topped San Antonio four times throughout the regular season, the Spurs emerged victorious during the playoffs.
Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson and Steven Adams are joined by three-point specialist Anthony Morrow and draft pick Mitch McGary. Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III are still searching for a role, with which Thunder coach Scott Brooks should happily assist in finding.
Regardless, it's impossible to ignore the road to a repeat goes through Oklahoma City, and the Thunder will be looking for redemption.
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