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Another year, another major title contender in San Antonio

POSTED: Oct 15, 2015 11:00 AM ET

By Fran Blinebury

BY Fran Blinebury

NBA.com

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One of these years the Spurs have to go away, don't they? Just when it looks like they've come to the end of the line, along comes LaMarcus Aldridge and championship contending train keeps rolling.

ICYMI

The Spurs enter the season with an active string of 18 straight seasons of winning at least 50 games. The last time San Antonio didn't hit the half-century mark was Kobe Bryant's rookie season in the NBA (1998-99). ... Kawhi Leonard has been named MVP of The Finals (2014), won Defensive Player of the Year (2015), but is still looking for his first berth in the NBA All-Star Game. ... Veteran David West passed up a $12.2 million option in Indiana to sign $1.4 million contract with the Spurs. ... Small forward Kyle Anderson was the third-leading scorer (21 ppg.) at the Las Vegas Summer League. ... Becky Hammon, who last season became the first female assistant coach in NBA history, guided the Spurs to the Las Vegas Summer League championship.

THREE POINTS

1. LaMarcus Aldridge got all the big headlines of the offseason when he spurned the big market team and chose the Spurs to chase his championship dreams. But make no mistake, the future of the franchise is in the huge hands of Kawhi Leonard, who has a new max contract and a green light at both ends.

2. Despite his gaudy production, averaging at least 21 points per game for the past five seasons, Aldridge hasn't been very efficient on the long 2-pointers that he prefers. The shots he gets this season in the Spurs offense won't be easier, but should be much higher in quality due to spacing and ball movement.

3. With the influx of new talent during the offseason, the Spurs will have the ability to further manage and reduce the regular season minutes of 38-year-old Manu Ginobili. The whole idea will be to keep him fresh, in one piece and turn him loose to do crazy things in the playoffs.

MAN ON THE SPOT

After nine seasons as the main cog in Portland that produced only one playoff series win, all eyes will be on how LaMarcus Aldridge fits into the Spurs lineup and culture. As the top catch in free agency, the 30-year-old, four-time All-Star has the tools, but he'll have to adjust the way he plays to mesh with coach Gregg Popovich's offense that emphasizes constant ball movement. It's not as easy as it looks to just slip right into things.

STARTING FIVE

Danny Green | 11.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.0 apg
Took a free agency discount to stay with the team and system where he fits best.

Tony Parker | 14.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 4.9 apg
He's older, not quite so quick, but can still put the spark into Spurs offensive attack.

Tim Duncan | 13.9 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 3.0 apg
He's 39, still as reliable as gravity and remains the key to championship hopes.

Kawhi Leonard | 16.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.5 apg
With a new max contract in his grip, those huge hands now carry franchise into the future.

LaMarcus Aldridge | 23.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 1.7 apg
The free agent prize could put Spurs right back into the mix for their sixth NBA title.

KEY RESERVES

Manu Ginobili | 10.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.2 apg
At 38, the biggest challenge is to keep him healthy.

David West | 11.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.4 apg
The veteran forward adds depth and class to the title pursuit.

Patty Mills 6.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.7 apg
With Cory Joseph gone, the Aussie spark plug is more vital.

THE BOTTOM LINE

LaMarcus Aldridge's decision to jump from Portland to San Antonio was all it took for Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to commit to extending their careers. Now the Spurs are right back at the top of the Western Conference race and maybe the top threat to dethrone Warriors.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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