The Best of the West: Reserving Judgement on the Sizzling San Antonio Spurs

Josh DelpContributor INovember 23, 2010

The San Antonio Spurs have the best record in the NBA at 12-1. They are off to the best start in franchise history and they show no signs of slowing down.

After losing their second game to the two-loss Hornets, the Spurs have ripped off 11 straight wins against hapless teams, as well as more elite ones.

Quality wins against the Suns, Thunder, Bulls, Jazz and Magic prove this team is no slacker. But before everyone starts dubbing them the favorite to topple the Laker dynasty, the verdict is still out.

There aren’t many Spurs apologists out there, so I don’t imagine many people outside of San Antonio would take this indictment the wrong way. I am one of those supporters. One certainly cannot accuse me of being a homer or showing bias. I am simply covering every conceivable base.

I picked a Spurs-Celtics NBA Finals matchup at the beginning of the year. It was a combination of fan bias and an educated opinion. 13 games into the regular season, things are starting to fall into place: The Celtics are off to their usual start, but the Spurs are sprinting out of the gate.

I predicted Richard Jefferson would have a much better second year. Averaging 15.6 points per game and six games with over 18 points already, he has to this point.

I predicted Tony Parker would have one of his best years as a Spur and that he would bounce back from the injury-laden 2009-2010 campaign. Averaging 19.5 points and 7.8 assists per game, he has to this point.

Somehow Gregg Popovich manages to throw a handful of curveballs every year throughout his tenure in San Antonio. After his team bore the label of being slow and boring, Popovich has realized the potential his team has in the transition game.

The Spurs have always been a half-court team, but Popovich has figured out the best way to maximize Jefferson’s talent.

He has inserted Manu Ginobili into the starting lineup to bolster the starting frontcourt scoring attack. Boy, has it worked.

Ginobili has never ceased to amaze me. I believe he is one of the best guards in the world. He is averaging a team-leading 20.4 points per game and has turned back the hands of time. The last time I saw him this explosive and dangerous was back in 2005.  

Let’s take a look at some other eye-popping numbers: The Spurs are ranked third in offensive efficiency behind the Heat and Lakers; they have the second highest three-point percentage in the league behind the Lakers. As a consequence, Matt Bonner is shooting a remarkable 69 percent from behind the arc.

They are one of only three teams with a point differential over 9.0. Finally, they are averaging 107.8 points per game, good for second in the league behind, you guessed it, the Lakers.

These are the facts. Another fact is that they haven’t even played one-quarter of the 82 games on the schedule.

There is a ton of basketball to be played. Things can still turn for the better or worse.

The Spurs are playing the most exciting brand of basketball this year. It’s a far cry from the days of their defensively focused, tediously sluggish identity of their championship years.

Let’s face it, teams like the Hornets and Spurs can go win as much as they want in the winter months, but the big question is whether they can win in the spring and summer.

Everything comes down to competing with the Lakers in the West. Since they got Pau Gasol, it’s been them and everyone else.

Can the Spurs finally break through with the balance in veterans and youth they’ve struck? Can the absence of the trademark tenacious defense be covered up by the increase in transition offense and three-point shooting accuracy?

This is why I can’t wait for spring and summer, because it is at that time where the Spurs’ true colors will be on display against the best of the West.

With the way the silver and black are playing right now, it sure looks like the Lakers' reign could be in jeopardy.

June, come quickly.