For First Time In 20 Years, Spurs Enter New Season Without Tim Duncan

NBA player Danny Green in action

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, September 21, 2016 9:57 PM GMT

Last season was the end of an era for the San Antonio Spurs franchise as future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan decided to retire this offseason. What does that mean for 20016-17? The Spurs have a wins total of 56.5 at SBR's best sportsbooks.

Duncan's Big Shoes To Fill
In the 1995-96 NBA season, the Spurs were 59-23 and reached the Western Conference semifinals. It was the team's seventh straight trip to the playoffs. However, before the following season superstar center David Robinson, a future Hall of Famer, hurt his back and he didn't debut until around Christmas. Robinson lasted only six games before breaking his foot, which ended his season.

So the Spurs -- who had fired Coach Bob Hill earlier in December and replaced him with some guy named Gregg Popovich -- essentially tanked the rest of the way and finished 20-62. The strategy paid off as San Antonio won the 1997 NBA Draft lottery and the opportunity to select Wake Forest All-American center Tim Duncan with the No. 1 overall pick.

The rest is history.

The Spurs didn't miss the playoffs once under Duncan and won at least 50 games every year other than the 1998-99 lockout-shortened campaign. The Spurs' current streak of 17 straight seasons with at least 50 wins is easily the best streak in NBA history. San Antonio also won five NBA titles with Duncan. He was pondering retirement after the 2014-15 season but didn't like how that year ended, with San Antonio losing to the Los Angeles Clippers in an epic first-round playoff series.

Duncan definitely slowed down last year at age 40 but was still a good player. He concluded his career with two NBA MVP Awards and 15 All-Star selections. Duncan partnered with Popovich to post the most wins by a player and coach in NBA history with 1,001. Duncan is probably the greatest power forward in NBA history and only Kobe Bryant (20 years) played longer with one team than Duncan. Since drafting Duncan, the Spurs had a 1,072-438 regular-season record -- the best 19-year stretch in NBA history and the best in the four major U.S. sports over that span.

 

Gasol Is Biggest Addition For Spurs
San Antonio had one of the better regular seasons in league annals in 2015-16 with a franchise-record 67 wins, a 40-1 mark at home and an outstanding plus-10.6-point differential. But all that was overshadowed by the record-setting Warriors. The Spurs were "supposed" to play Golden State in the Western Conference Finals but no one told the Oklahoma City Thunder that as they ousted the Spurs in six games in the West semis.

Even with the loss of Duncan, San Antonio's win total of 56.5 on NBA odds is tied for the second-most at SBR's best sportsbooks for 2016-17 with the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. The Spurs are not going to be as strong defensively without Duncan but should be a bit better offensively with the addition of free-agent Pau Gasol to take his spot. Gasol, a future Hall of Famer himself, averaged 16.5 points and 11.0 rebounds last year for the Bulls. That signing, however, forced the Spurs to trade valuable reserve big  man Boris Diaw to Utah in a salary dump. The Spurs lost another reserve big man, David West, in free agency.

The Spurs still have two of their Big 3 in point guard Tony Parker and swingman Manu Ginobili, who was pondering retirement himself. But this team belongs now to two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard and last year's big free-agent acquisition, LaMarcus Aldridge.

Leonard blossomed as a scorer last year in averaging a career-high 21.2 points and shooting 50.6 percent from the field. He is +1100 on 5Dimes, top rated sportsbook, NBA picks to win the NBA MVP. Aldridge averaged 18.0 points and 8.5 rebounds and it will be interesting to see how he and Gasol co-exist as they are similar players. 

San Antonio's starting five matches up with just about anyone's outside of Golden State, but it's not as deep a team as it used to be. And Parker is really starting to  slow down at age 34. He's going to miss double-digit games due to injury because he always does.

The Spurs open the preseason on Oct. 3 in Phoenix and the regular season on Oct. 25 at Golden State. San Antonio is a +500 second-favorite on  NBA odds to win the West.

 

Free NBA Pick: The Spurs could win an NBA title if the Warriors suffer some major injuries. Short of that, no. The 50-win streak will continue but barely so I'd go 'under' the wins as I project around 53.