Playoff Contention: San Antonio Spurs
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San Antonio is the model organization for chemistry, bringing back 13 Spurs from last season's Western Conference Finals team and maintaining the West's best record for the third straight season (so far).
The only two players on last year's playoff roster that didn't make the 2012-13 squad only played a combined 640 minutes out of a possible 15,940 positional minutes last season.
If you view the prism in a certain light, that essentially means 96 percent of last season's team is back. Do that math and you see why last year's .758 squad is still able to play .743 ball this season, despite Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker being another year older.
Every season, the pundits say the Spurs are too old to keep on winning, but in reality there are only three players near their mid-30s on the current roster (Tim Duncan is 36, Manu Ginobili 35 and Stephen Jackson 34) and those men only make up 24 percent of the team's playing time.
If anything, this Spurs team was too young and inexperienced to reach its full potential last season, with key figures Kawhi Leonard (21 years old), Danny Green (25) and Tiago Splitter (28) yet to log even 2100 career NBA minutes when they played the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 Western Conference Finals.
With Duncan and 31-year-old Tony Parker playing like first-team All-NBA candidates, the Spurs' Big 3 is playing well enough in 2012-13, as long as super sixth man Ginobili returns at playoff time.
Now if the Young 3 can come through as expected, San Antonio will be making a return to the NBA Finals for the first time in six seasons.
The Spurs have the NBA's best starting lineup--Parker, Green, Leonard, Splitter and Duncan--registering a +20.2 net rating in 326 minutes together this season. That's great news in San Antonio when you stack it up against the starting fives in Miami (+11.9 in 688 minutes) and Oklahoma City (+11.0 in 1212 minutes). But getting off to good first- and third-quarter starts doesn't mean too much if you can't hold the lead, which is key considering the Spurs will be without super sixth man Ginobili until late April. Playing almost half of his minutes with the Spurs subs (48 percent), Ginobili has scored a whopping +7.6 net rating this season. He also is a big part of San Antonio's killer-closer vet lineups, scoring a +24.3 net rating in 118 minutes with Parker, Green, Boris Diaw and Duncan, along with a +23.7 in 38 minutes with Parker, Stephen Jackson, Diaw and Duncan.
THE 5,000 MINUTE RULE
The 5,000 Minute Rule says most championship teams have five-plus players together for at least 5,000 minutes before they win a championship, and the 2012-13 Spurs now have six who meet The 5G Club criteria (Duncan has 48,658 career minutes with the Spurs; Parker 34,071; Ginobili 24,217; Matt Bonner 8692; DeJuan Blair 5504; Jackson 5092). What's really scary is next season when San Antonio may have 10 players over the 5G mark (Gary Neal 4474; Splitter 3883; Green 3875; Leonard 3515). That's chemistry!
LORD OF THE RINGS
No active group of head coach and players has more rings than the Spurs, with Coach Gregg Popovich and Duncan teaming up for four, Ginobili and Parker winning three, along with Jackson and Bonner garnering one apiece. Those 16 rings tops the current Heat, who have 14.
Hollinger Playoff Odds say San Antonio has a 19 percent chance to reach the 2013 NBA Finals and a 10 percent shot to win the NBA championship; Basketball-Reference says the Spurs have a 30 percent shot to reach the 2013 NBA Finals and a 19 percent chance to win the title.
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C TIM DUNCAN: 62 games, 30.2 mpg, 17.6 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 24.7 PER, +11.1 Net, +6.3 On/Off
C Boris Diaw: 71 games, 22.7 mpg, 5.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 12.2 PER, +5.5 Net, -4.8 On/Off
C Aron Baynes: 11 games, 6.6 mpg, ppg, rpg, 10.4 PER, -1.3 Net, -9.0 On/Off
PF TIAGO SPLITTER: 73 games, 24.8 mpg, 10.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 18.7 PER, +12.0 Net, +8.0 On/Off
PF Matt Bonner: 60 games, 12.4 mpg, 3.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 11.8 PER, +6.8 Net, -1.7 On/Off
PF DeJuan Blair: 54 games, 12.9 mpg, 5.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 14.6 PER, +1.4 Net, -8.4 On/Off
SF KAWHI LEONARD: 52 games, 30.9 mpg, 11.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 16.4 PER, +11.8 Net, +6.6 On/Off
SF Stephen Jackson: 52 games, 19.3 mpg, 6.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 8.1 PER, +5.4 Net, -3.8 On/Off
SG DANNY GREEN: 71 games, 27.7 mpg, 10.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 14.5 PER, +9.7 Net, +3.5 On/Off
SG Manu Ginobili: 59 games, 23.4 mpg, 11.9 ppg, 4.6 apg, 19.3 PER, +7.6 Net, -0.9 On/Off
SG Gary Neal: 59 games, 21.3 mpg, 8.9 ppg, 1.8 apg, 10.8 PER, +4.6 Net, -5.4 On/Off
PG TONY PARKER: 61 games, 33.2 mpg, 20.9 ppg, 7.6 apg, 23.8 PER, +11.7 Net, +8.3 On/Off
PG Nando De Colo: 63 games, 11.9 mpg, 3.6 ppg, 1.7 apg, 11.5 PER, -2.1 Net, -12.9 On/Off
PG Patty Mills: 54 games, 10.7 mpg, 4.7 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 14.1 PER, +4.7 Net, -4.1 On/Off
PG Cory Joseph*: 21 games, 12.2 mpg, 4.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 15.4 PER, +1.7 Net, -6.9 On/Off
2011-12 GONE SPURS (.758)
SG James Anderson: 51 games, 11.8 mpg, 3.7 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 8.8 PER, +8.5 Net, -0.7 On/Off
SF Derrick Byars*: 2 games, 18.5 mpg, 5.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 14.9 PER, -7.6 Net, -28.7 On/Off
* Spurs that that did not play in 2012 NBA Playoffs; returning players in boldface