How Does San Antonio Spurs' Start Compare to Last 4 Post-Championship Seasons?

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistNovember 29, 2014

Tim Duncan might not remember what happened during the post-championship seasons, probably because they all seem the same overall.
Tim Duncan might not remember what happened during the post-championship seasons, probably because they all seem the same overall.Associated Press

Five times have the San Antonio Spurs earned the NBA title, and the beginning of the following campaign has delivered a few notable similarities and differences in production.

Gregg Popovich has never had the same number of players return from the championship roster, though the 14 returning for the 2014-15 campaign unsurprisingly denotes the highest amount.

This year, despite a 2-3 start—which was the worst five-game stretch to open a post-championship season—the Spurs have recovered to win nine of their last 10.

Through 15 outings, history has essentially repeated itself record-wise. Offensive and defensive outputs have varied during the five follow-ups, but San Antonio has always managed to reverse a shaky launch to a campaign.

In fact, the Spurs have been remarkably consistent through approximately one-fifth of the subsequent year—especially when playing at what is now called the AT&T Center.

Post-Championship Seasons
YearReturners15 GamesHome W-LFinal W-LPlayoff Result
1999-2000912-37-053-29Lost in 1st Round
2003-0479-67-257-25Lost in 2nd Round
2005-061012-36-163-19Lost in 2nd Round
2007-081112-38-056-26Lost in WCF

San Antonio typically logs solid home records, but the uniformity of its early-year, after-championship performance is rather stunning. The majority of the Spurs' losses have occurred away from their familiar location every time.

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However, that success hasn't translated into a championship, since a second consecutive ring has eluded San Antonio in each of the four prior opportunities. Solely based on the earlier playoff results, the trend suggests Pop's team will win the Western Conference but fall in the NBA Finals.

One finish predicated on more than whimsical conjecture, though, is which player will ultimately carry the scoring load after 82 games. Tim Duncan paced the Spurs during the 1999-2000, 2003-04 and 2005-06 seasons, while Tony Parker tallied the most in 2007-08 before leading or finishing within 0.7 points of the team high.

Parker officially completed the opening 15-game stretch as the leading scorer and established a new league record in the process. Regardless, the former status is highly unlikely to change hands.

Rebounds, on the other hand, are changing hands routinely and mostly to San Antonio's benefit. Four of its five best defensive rebounding totals over the last 15 years, let alone following a championship, have come this season. In 2014-15, the Spurs have hauled in 519 errant shots by opponents, which is a single board shy of the mark to beat.

Offensive rebounding has dropped significantly, since the 134 attempts currently snatched only sits above a few recent years. The difference is a product of schematic change, because Popovich has decided to largely ignore second-chance points in favor of defensive efficiency.

The two highest sums of offensive rebounds by opponents during post-championship seasons happened in 1999-2000 and 2003-04 at 203 and 192, respectively. But throughout the same stretch right now, the Spurs clipped the previous low and ceded a mere 127.

Not only that, but San Antonio has only surrendered a 30.7 percent three-point clip to opponents, which is bested only by the 2003-04 defense that allowed a stellar 28.7 percent.

Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard quickly get back on defense and don't allow many open looks on the perimeter, and the numbers show it.
Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard quickly get back on defense and don't allow many open looks on the perimeter, and the numbers show it.USA TODAY Sports

Though Popovich's crew is fighting through its second-slowest start from long distance offensively (33.8 percent in 2003-04), the Spurs' current three-point shooters are steadily improving. The 36.0 percent clip is actually higher than that season's finish of 35.8 anyway.

San Antonio only buried more triples at the beginning of the 2007-08 campaign, canning 122 compared to the present 116. A number like that is influenced by elite ball movement, which has developed as the Spurs' trademark. The 358 assists dished this year topped the previous post-title high of 352 set in 1999-2000.

Overall, the silver and black are continuing to defend home court, grabbing more offensive rebounds but fewer defensive boards, winning the three-point line on both ends of the court and netting more assisted shots while in search of a second consecutive ring.

This time around, San Antonio's efficiency-based style will provide a new look to its aspirations of securing another ring—not that earning a second straight title is an easy accomplishment, of course.

Nevertheless, the Spurs' once-thought slow start has slowly morphed into a routine opening to a post-championship season, just with a few schematic alterations guiding their path toward a repeat.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference and accurate as of Nov. 28.

Follow Bleacher Report NBA writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.