Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, December 26, 2016 at 2:42 PM
Golden State and Cleveland electrified the country with the great show they put on Christmas Day afternoon. The Warriors and Cavs are quite understandably the love of the betting market as well. But if you’re looking any chance at real value in the NBA futures scene, your best hope lies with the San Antonio Spurs, at a 10-1 price. The Spurs are 25-6, with two more wins than the Cavs and only one back of the Warriors in the loss column. Is San Antonio worth a flyer to win it all in June?
There’s a level of basic respect that has to be granted to this entire organization, from the front office to head coach Gregg Popovich, to veteran leaders like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, even if their production isn’t what it used to be. In a league where experience often means everything in the playoffs, the Spurs still have it in spades, even with Tim Duncan having gone into retirement
And in a league where star power is the only thing that matters than experience, San Antonio isn’t lacking there. Kawhi Leonard is as complete a basketball player as anyone not named LeBron James. Leonard scores, averaging 24ppg. He rebounds, he handles the ball and he’s a terrific defender. He’s also got LaMarcus Alridge, and his 17 points/7 rebounds per-game average as a quality secondary star.
San Antonio plays at one of the slower paces in the league. Taken on its face, that’s a neutral observation, neither good nor bad. In this context, where the Spurs would be trying to upset the Warriors in the West, it’s a decidedly good thing. It’s a basic truth of any sport that if you want to knock off the favorite, it’s best to be able to offer a clear contrast in styles. San Antonio can slow Golden State down and be comfortable doing so.
So if they’ve got the organization, the coach, the stars, the right style and they’re out there at 10-1, is there any downside? Yes, there are some things Popovich is going to have to figure out between now and the playoffs.
Let’s start with rebounding. The Spurs rank sixth in the league in going to the glass (measured in percentage of available rebounds grabbed, not raw volume). This is good, but if you’re going to play a halfcourt offense and beat Golden State and Cleveland in succession, it needs to be higher. It would be ideal to see the Spurs as top three in rebound rate and the surest way to get there is for Aldridge to move his per-game average closer to double digits.
The more significant issue is turnovers. San Antonio ranks in the middle of the league in taking care of the basketball, the main reason they rank sixth in offensive efficiency, another area where they need to lift their game a little bit higher to win a championship.
San Antonio blew out Golden State to open the season and haven’t played either the Warriors or Cavs since. On January 21, they’ll go to Cleveland for a prime-time Saturday night game. In March, they’ll play Cleveland again and match up with Golden State twice. Between now and then, watch their turnover and rebounding numbers, because they’re not far from being a par with the league’s best—and available at a much better price.