The San Antonio Spurs have three NBA Championships this decade and four since the end of the Chicago Bulls dynasty and have been one of the most consistent teams in the league since then, but have never won back-to-back rings. This is because the Spurs approach things differently than most organizations.
Many teams in the NBA try to put together a team that can make a run at the finals for a few years, then they blow it up, unload salary and start over in a rebuilding process.
Not the Spurs.
The Spurs choose to retool their roster year after year and are constantly developing young talent under the tutelage of Gregg Popovich.
Written off the last couple of years as too old and lacking talent to compete for a title, the Spurs have become contenders again this year by tweaking their roster while keeping their core together.
All of the usual suspects are still there.
Tim Duncan, three-time finals MVP is as healthy as ever and playing at a high level. Tony Parker, another finals MVP, is playing at what many are calling the highest level of his career. Manu Ginobili is doing what he always does as arguably the Spurs best player.
It is the ingredients they have added and developed the last couple of years that are making the difference.
They have added depth in the frontcourt behind Duncan by drafting DeJaun Blair and Tiago Splitter. Blair is a relentless rebounder and defender who can explode on offense some nights.
Splitter is an example of something the Spurs do better than any other team in the league—Scout and develop European talent. The list of European players they have drafted that reside in the NBA is long and impressive. It includes Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Leandro Barbosa, Beno Udrih and Goran Dragic. Splitter is expected to be the next big name on this list. A true 7-footer with athleticism and good hands. He is expected to pair with Duncan at some point in the near future and become a new version of the “Twin Towers” and with the Spurs solid history of drafting foreign talent it is hard to argue.
Two other former draft picks are contributing in the backcourt as well.
George Hill, drafted out of IUPUI in 2008 had developed so much last year that he was starting over Tony Parker for stretches. With Parker back healthy and playing at a high level, this now gives the Spurs a deadly sixth man. James Anderson out of Oklahoma State before this season has also been making a contribution off of the bench.
Most overlooked, however, has been not only the re-dedication to the game that Richard Jefferson has made, but how much it has actually helped the Spurs. Jefferson made a big splash this summer by completely revamping his game after a down year, but the results are staggering. He is currently averaging 17.6 points per game—up more than 5 from last year. This has given the Spurs another top-notch scoring option and pushed them back into contention.
After a victory over the Thunder on Sunday, the Spurs are 8-1 and riding a 7-game winning streak.
"They were just getting to the basket at will and making shots from the perimeter," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "That's a deadly dose of offensive basketball."
With all of the weapons on the Spurs and their recent history, we have no choice other than to consider the Spurs as legitimate NBA title contenders again.