Column: Don't sleep on San Antonio

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, right, drives around Houston Rockets guard James Harden, left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 121-103. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Most of the focus this NBA season has been around the Golden State Warriors, and rightfully so, they are the defending champions.

However, while the Warriors have been off to a scorching start, they are in position to make a run at the record for most wins in a season, another team has been playing great basketball and flying under the radar somehow. That team is the San Antonio Spurs.

The franchise has been a model of consistency in the NBA for years now and this season has been no different. San Antonio sits just two games back from the Warriors in second place in the Western Conference. With four matchups remaining between the Spurs and Warriors this season it is very possible that they could make a run at the first seed.

Kawhi Leonard, who has been off the charts this season statistically, leads San Antonio on both ends of the court. Leonard is averaging a team-high 20 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field while also grabbing seven rebounds per game. He is also the teams best perimeter defender. Leonard’s ability to guard up to four different positions is vital to San Antonio’s versatility. Leonard can slow down the other team’s best player while still making major contributions on the offensive end.

The Spurs also made a key addition in free agency this past summer with the signing of LaMarcus Aldridge. The move has really worked out for them so far as Aldridge is averaging 16.1 points per game while leading the team with nine rebounds per game. The addition of Aldridge helped to bolster a frontcourt that already included one of the greatest power forwards of all time, Tim Duncan.

At age 39 and in his 18th season, Duncan is still capable of playing at a high level. While his numbers are down across the board, I still believe that Duncan has one great postseason left in him. The addition of Aldridge allows head coach Gregg Popovich to control Duncan’s minutes in the regular season.

Although Golden State has the better record so far this season, the Spurs are actually beating opponents better. The Spurs are winning games by an average point differential of 14.3 while the Warriors have an 11.7 point differential. While at the end of the day wins and losses are the most important thing, the Spurs have shown that they have the ability to build big leads without the explosive ability of Golden State.

The Spurs will also provide an interesting matchup for Golden State because of the way they play defense. The Spurs statistically have the best defense in the NBA right now, holding opponents to just 89.6 points per game. One of the big reasons for that is the way that they defend the three-point line. Opponents are shooting a league low 31 percent from three-point range against San Antonio.

While Golden State has been the favorite by many to come out of the Western Conference this year, a lot can change between now and June. Duncan might just have one last postseason run in him.

All statistics updated through Jan. 19, 2016


Spencer Mayfield is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at spencer.mayfield@uconn.edu