Don’t Count Out The Spurs In The West

San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Golden State Warriors currently own the best record in the NBA. Even after some early season struggles, they sit at 31-8 and with Steph Curry back, show no signs of slowing down. Right behind them in the West standings are the Rockets, who lost 5 in a row but still only sit 3 games behind the Warriors at 27-10. A lot of fans might feel like the Western conference is a two-team race at this point, but there is a lot of season left and you should be careful before counting out the squad in San Antonio. Here are a few reasons why.

#1: LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge has played at an all-star level this season, averaging 22.2 PPG and 8.3 RPG. His return to high production has been a huge relief for Spurs fans, as his struggles last season, most notably in the playoffs, nearly led to him leaving San Antonio. Coach Gregg Popovich admitted that he made a mistake in trying to over-coach Aldridge a year ago, and that ultimately led to his problems last season. Aldridge’s jump in production is also due to Kawhi Leonard missing the first part of the season. He did a great job of stepping up and becoming the go-to scorer with Leonard out. Aldridge is currently playing as well as any big man in the league, and his skill around the rim combined with veteran presence continues to be a huge difference maker for the Spurs.

#2: Kawhi Leonard’s return. When he is healthy, Leonard is one of the 5 best players in the NBA. A guy like Leonard is often compared to a queen on a chess board, meaning that he can do almost anything on the floor. Naturally, the Spurs took a major hit when he was unable to take the court for the first 28 games of the season. The team did a great job of finding ways to win games without him, but there’s no doubt his presence was missed in a huge way. Since his return, Leonard has been playing limited minutes in an attempt to ease himself back into normal minutes without rushing his recovery from a quad injury. We still haven’t seen what Leonard is fully capable of this season, but when he returns to 100%, he will likely be putting up all-star type stats on a nightly basis, and will be the factor that helps the Spurs match up with teams like the Rockets and Warriors in the West.

#3: Defense. As a team, the Spurs rank as the second best team in the league in opponent PPG, giving up just 98.3 per game . They also rank in the top 10 for opponent FG% and opponent 3PT FG%. Not to mention Kawhi Leonard is one of the best defenders in the league, and if you need proof, look no further than his back-to-back DPOY awards. Another guy to look out for on defense is Danny Green, who recently became just the fourth Spur ever to record 400+ blocks and 400+ steals. One of the chief attributes of successful teams in San Antonio is defense, and recently they’ve been one of the few teams that have had success limiting the high-powered offenses in the league. If they can put it all together, don’t be surprised to see the Spurs back in the WCF this season, or even in the finals.

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