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San Antonio Spurs: Despite Hot Start, No Longer a Contender?

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 08:  Teammates Tony Parker #9 and Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs walk onto the court against the Charlotte Bobcats before their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on November 8, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  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.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Keegan FergusonCorrespondent INovember 18, 2010

The San Antonio Spurs are 9-1 right now, enjoying their best start in franchise history.  They are coming off a big win against the Chicago Bulls, an up-and-coming team in the Eastern Conference.  Manu Ginobili has been inserted into the starting lineup and this move has rapidly paid dividends.  But, despite this start, the Spurs championship window has closed.

 

Weak Schedule

The Spurs are off to such a hot start because of their weak schedule.  True, in their last two games they beat both the Bulls and the Thunder.  Both were playoff teams from last season and both will likely be in the playoffs again.  But, the Bulls were without Carlos Boozer, who's return will make this team more balanced and take the scoring load off of Derrick Rose

Additionally, the presence of Boozer would likely have kept Tim Duncan from rebounding at such a high clip.  But, when you add it all up, the teams they have beaten this season are a combined 33-53.

Like the Heat, the Spurs have yet to really prove themselves against the league's competition.  They lost to the Hornets, haven't played the Lakers, the Celtics, Heat, Jazz or the Mavs.  The Mavs, basically the same team from last year, beat them in last year's playoffs. 

 

They Aren't Getting Any Younger

The talent on the roster is pretty undeniable.  That said, the talent is all aging pretty rapidly and despite their general health, Parker being the obvious exception, Ginobili and Duncan are getting up their in years.

In another few weeks, Duncan will have played over 1000 NBA games, a number that often is accompanied by injury and slowing down.  While Duncan certainly is an incredible player, signs of him slowing down are already evident.  In the three games prior to last night, Duncan had scored a combined 19 points.  This three game scoring stretch was the worst since his rookie season.

As the season moves along, guys like Richard Jefferson, Ginobili, and Duncan may tire.  As the season progresses their age will show, particularly in a grinding playoff series.

 

The Acquisitions Aren't Enough

While Matt Bonner and Antonio McDyess are playing well, the Spurs were excited about the acquisition of Tiago Splitter.  He was the MVP of the Spanish League in 2010 and was expected to insert himself into the lineup and put up solid numbers.  Thus far, hampered a bit by injury, Splitter has been less than impressive.  Bonner and McDyess are outplaying Splitter.  Those guys are proven commodities, neither is that young, and neither will likely play at this high level throughout the year.  If Splitter is unable to replace them in the lineup, the Spurs will likely have no more depth replacing Duncan than they did a season ago.

James Anderson has been a really nice pickup, however.

 

Verdict

I'm not suggesting that the Spurs aren't a playoff team, or that they aren't very skilled.  They have great coaching and three great players.  But, two of those players are aging, and their position, and physical play will wear on them throughout the season.

Ultimately, the Spurs have matchup problems when they faceoff against the big boys in the conference.  The Mavs, in my mind, are still a better team, the Thunder may challenge them, as well as a resurgent New Orleans team.  Most of all, the Spurs have matchup problems against the Lakers (but then again, who doesn't).

I just don't see this team having the horsepower to get out of the West.

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