Hats off to the Spurs. As I said before the start of the series, though I root for LeBron, I no longer root against the Spurs. They play an amazing game. I had the misfortune of beginning my life as an NBA fan in 1973-74, exactly one season after the great Knicks teams won the second of their two NBA titles in a four season span. But everything I’ve ever read about those teams suggests they played a game similar to the current Spurs in terms of how they moved the ball.
There’s a Moneyball quality to the Spurs that is really admirable. They have a knack for finding guys who seem to be undervalued elsewhere (Mills, Green, Belinelli). And as Dre, over at Box Score Geeks reminds us (from Dave Berri’s research on the subject), Popovich is one of the very few coaches in the league who actually has a measurably positive impact on player development.
They also have a superstar in the making – Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi was a beast during the final three games of the series, when the Spurs simply destroyed Miami. Winning the finals MVP catapults him to a new level of notoriety. But the fact is that, for the past two seasons, Leonard has been the Spurs’ best player. By wins produced, he was not only the best player on the Spurs this year, but sixth in the league. He was also the Spurs best player by wins produced per minute in 2012-13. Leonard’s game is, his outburst in the finals notwithstanding, a subtle one. Looking as his stat line across the regular season, there is no eye-popping number. What makes Leonard so good is that he does everything well. Specifically, he’s better than the average small forward in virtually every measurable statistic. He is an outstanding rebounder for his position. He’s well above average in producing steals and in shooting percentage. His assist-to-turnover ratio is better than the norm. So is his shot-blocking. The only thing he was below average at this year, relative to other small forwards, was getting to the line. He’s 22 and a budding superstar. I think it’s fair to assume that he will not be below average for long in free throw attempts. And since he’s a quality free throw shooter – just like he is from everywhere else on the floor – that will only add to his game.
There are *very* few players in the game who are better than average at everything.
Leave it to the Spurs to find a superstar who’s sort of hiding in plain sight (or was, anyway).
Did I mention he’s 22?
Parker is in decline. Timmy is still terrific but has a lot of miles on the tread. Ginobili’s health is a wild card and he’s not a youngster. But man, have they got a new cornerstone.