The San Antonio Spurs: They Are Who I Thought They Were

Court Zierk@CourtZierkCorrespondent INovember 9, 2009

SAN ANTONIO - APRIL 28:   Forward Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts during a 106-93 loss against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 28, 2009 in San Antonio, Texas. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

When the San Antonio spurs made the move to acquire Richard Jefferson from the Milwaukee Bucks in the offseason, they instantly became the talk of the NBA.

Everyone thought that this would be the move that would catapult the Spurs back to championship form, and would instantly make them an elite NBA team on the same level as the Lakers, and the Celtics.

I, on the other hand, felt like the only person on the planet who was skeptical about the impact Jefferson would have on this aging team.  

That is not to say I don't think Jefferson is a quality NBA player, or to discount his talent in any way. I recognize the athleticism he provides from the wing, and that he excels at running, and finishing on the fast break, and even the consistent outside shot he has developed in recent years.

But, since when have the Spurs ran an offense that even seems remotely conducive to this type of player?  

Sure, Jefferson looked amazing running alongside Jason Kidd in New Jersey, and even alongside Ramon Sessions last season with the Bucks, but both of those teams had a tendency to push the ball significantly more than this Spurs team does, and Jefferson got a lot of easy baskets on the fast break.

I predicted Jefferson would struggle mightily in this half-court offense, and through the first five games of the season, there is evidence that my prediction has some substance behind it.

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Against teams not named the Kings, Jefferson is averaging 11.75 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.75 assists per contest, all well below his career statistical averages.

I'm certainly not trying to pin all the Spurs early growing pains on Richard Jefferson, as he has been consistent, if not spectacular.

The "big four" plus one (Antonio McDyess) are all averaging below their career averages in points, assists, and rebounds to this point, except for Tim Duncan, who is right at his career rebounding numbers.  

I don't mean to suggest that the Spurs are no longer a good team, or that somehow their core has seen their talents magically deteriorate over the summer. That is not my contention. They still have three very good NBA players in their prime in Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and Richard Jefferson, and a savvy, future Hall of Famer in Duncan.

But I do think that their age as a team is starting to become a factor, and without some young athleticism coming off of the bench to provide relief,  I think we are seeing the results of a Spurs team that is getting a little long in the tooth.

Looking at their depth chart, I have a hard time finding a championship caliber team, even on paper. Their bench is unimpressive, and beyond Manu Ginobli, George Hill, and DeJuan Blair, you'd have a hard time convincing me that there is even one player on their bench that would make the Lakers, Celtics, Magic, or even the Nuggets 12 man roster.

You might be able to make a case for Roger Mason, but I think that his limitations are far too glaring to ignore. He took almost 83 percent of his shots last year from 20 feet, or beyond, and he presents virtually no threat to drive to the basket. The one dimensional nature of his game makes him too easy to guard.

I think what we are seeing at the early stages of this season is more than just the growing pains of a team that added a few new pieces. The players they added this offseason are veterans who know how to play the game of basketball, and also know how to integrate with a new team. That is not the problem.

To me, their issues stem from a lack of overall youth, and athleticism to balance out their impressive veteran presence. Sure, the "big four" consists of an impressive collection of proven NBA players, but this is not a deep team by any stretch of the imagination, and I think their second unit will have problems putting points on the board.

I see the Spurs as a good team, who will likely finish in the Top Five in the Western Conference, but I am not a believer in the makeup of the squad. Without another infusion of youth, and athleticism, I see this team's championship window as closed.