The San Antonio Spurs are the best team in the NBA’s Western Conference. Every time I say that in public, I get laughed at. It seems like every sports fan thinks that the Golden State Warriors are clearly the best team in the country. So, I decided that it was finally time to get my argument in favor of the five-time NBA Champion Spurs written down for the world to see.
I think the best way to lay out my argument is to compare the Spurs to the other three teams (Warriors, Clippers, and Thunder) that round out the top four in the Western Conference – with a major focus on the 36-3 Warriors (as of last night before their 9:30pm tip-off with the Lakers). There is no denying that the Warriors are off to a ridiculously good start. The team started 24-0, an NBA record, and have only lost three games since that point in the season.
At 36-3, the Warriors are tied with three other teams (most recently the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls) for the best start in NBA history through the first 39 games. Their point guard, Stephen Curry, is the clear favorite for MVP. He’s averaging 30 points, 6.5 assists, and 5 rebounds per game, which are mind blowing numbers. However, despite their insanely hot start and all of the hype surrounding the Warriors, the Spurs are just 2.5 games back in the conference. I think that a big reason for this is that the Spurs play a brand of team that no other team in the conference plays.
At 34-6, the San Antonio Spurs have once again found a way to perfectly fit together their older stars (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli) with their younger stars (LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, and Danny Green). The Spurs have also molded a strong supporting cast around these six stars. This cast includes Patty Mills, Boris Diaw, and David West, but on any given night the Spurs can be given a spark off of the bench from Kyle Anderson and Jonathon Simmons as well. Not limited to relying on their stars is a big advantage that the Spurs have over other teams in the league.
Of the 10 Spurs players that have played at least 30 games this season, 9 of them have played at least 16 minutes per game. In comparison, just 8 of the Warriors, Thunder, and Clippers players with at least 30 games have played more than 16 minutes per game. So what does this mean? Essentially, it shows that the Spurs bench is one player deeper than the other three top teams in the Western Conference. While this one player may not seem significant at first glance, in a long NBA season that wears many players down, having an extra man to take minutes off of the stars is huge. This also becomes evident when looking at the minutes for the bigger named players. The Spurs are the only team of these four that has only one player averaging more than 30 minutes per game (Leonard).
The Spurs bench provides both minutes and points to give their starters a much needed break during the games. All 9 players that play at least 16 minutes per game also average at least 6 points per game. Conversely, the Thunder, Warriors, and Clippers each have just 7 players that are averaging at least 6 points per game. This is just another way the Spurs are able to take the load off of their star players.
The coaching on the San Antonio Spurs is also second-to-none. Since Gregg Popovich became the head coach of the team during the 1996-97 season, the Spurs have won 5 NBA championships, most recently in 2014. The team has also made the playoffs in every year except for his first. While Billy Donovan, Doc Rivers, and Luke Walton/Steve Kerr have all proven to be very good coaches, they are not yet close to being on the same level as Gregg Popovich.
Even though the Warriors (Stephen Curry and Draymond Green), Thunder (Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant), and Clippers (Chris Paul and Blake Griffin) all have superstars on their team, the Spurs have the quality depth that makes them the best team in the Western Conference. The team does not rely on one or two players to carry them each night. Instead, it is a collective effort from 9-10 different players every night that has helped them have just 6 losses in their first 40 games. On top of that, their coaching staff is the best in the league. I truly believe that this team is the best team in the Western Conference, and until they are beaten in the playoffs this year, it will be hard to convince me otherwise.