Updated: Oct. 27, 2005, 7:31 AM ET

SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
Spurs ready to repeat

Spurs

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | Hollinger Stats

Where will the San Antonio Spurs finish in the Southwest Division and the Western Conference? Get 12 different takes from ESPN's NBA experts.

ANALYST DIV CONF COMMENT

Chris Broussard ESPN Mag

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The rich got richer.
Ric Bucher ESPN Mag
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The Spurs are deeper than last year, with no chemistry issues to derail them. If they don't repeat as champions, there should be a congressional hearing – not that that will provide any answers, but you know what I'm saying.
John Carroll Scouts Inc.
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The rich get richer, adding Finley, Van Exel and Oberto. Best defensive team in the NBA, with Duncan on the inside and Bruce Bowen on the perimeter. They have all the ingredients to repeat: talent, depth, defense, experience and coaching.
Chad Ford ESPN Insider
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The world champs got deeper in the offseason both in the frontcourt and backcourt. They are head and shoulders above everyone else in the West now.

John Hollinger ESPN Insider
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The premier organization in basketball, if not in all sports. Though the Spurs are the worst nightmare for the NBA marketing people, their stingy defense and seamless chemistry are a winning combo.
Scoop Jackson ESPN
Page 2

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Getting Nick will prove bigger than getting Mike Finley. So deep, they're bottomless.


Tim Legler ESPN Insider
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See Item 7 for Legler's analysis of the San Antonio Spurs.



Eric Neel ESPN
Page 2


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What's not to like? Only drama comes in worrying about whether Duncan is, and stays, healthy.

Jim O'Brien ESPN Insider
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Spurs are destined for another run at the title. They have added a great piece with Michael Finley. Loaded with confidence and depth, they should be unstoppable in the West.
Will Perdue ESPN Insider
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Foes can only hope Tim Duncan protests the dress code, gets suspended and misses some games. He will tuck in his game jersey but not his dress shirt. Look for more production from Brent Barry.
Chris Sheridan ESPN.com Insider
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Every year, the Spurs sleepwalk through the first three months of the season before hitting their peak form in March and early April. The difference this time is their depth, which should fuel a stronger start and a run toward 68-69 victories.
Marc Stein ESPN.com
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They're not going to win 70 games, because the Spurs generally start slow and because Gregg Popovich won't waste energy letting them chase the number. They have the deepest roster in club history.


They Also Serve Who Sit And Wait
Van Exel, Finley
Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images
Nick Van Exel and Michael Finley will be a tad perkier come June.


Lineup Breakdown
ESPN The Magazine sizes up the Spurs roster:

PLAYER ANALYSIS RATING
Starters: They were the best last season. They're better this season.
PF
Tim
Duncan
In battle with Shaq to see who gets more rings.
10
SF
Bruce
Bowen
His number should be five-oh after D he put on Shawn Marion.
7
C
Nazr
Mohammed
Made 7-footer Rasho Nesterovic disappear.
7
SG
Manu
Ginobili
He should be in the LeBron/D-Wade conversation.
9
PG
Tony
Parker
Goes through lapses and slumps, but few are better.
8
Bench: Michael Finley, Robert Horry, Nick Van Exel, Brent Barry, Nesterovic. Lord have mercy! That's a starting five.
10

TOTAL SCORE

51

ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands Oct. 26.



Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Tim Duncan
Player Efficiency Rating
27.13
vs. NBA Avg: +12.13

The coaches have voted Tim Duncan first-team All-Defense six of the eight seasons he's been in the league, but the writers have this giant blind spot toward him when it comes to Defensive Player of the Year voting. Last season, for instance, Duncan got only six votes for the award and finished fourth in the voting. Marcus Camby, who played fewer minutes and was less effective when he played, got 19 votes. Huh?

The past two years Duncan has been the linchpin of two of the best defensive teams in history, and yet he has never won the Defensive Player of the Year trophy. He wasn't even the highest-finishing Spur, as teammate Bruce Bowen beat him in the voting for two straight seasons. I realize Duncan isn't as spectacular as some other players and doesn't come flying in from left field to swat shots into the 12th row, but is that really our criterion? If the writers are covering teams for 82 games they should be able to see beyond this. The guy is a one-man roadblock.

What people fail to understand about Duncan is how hard it is to combine dominant shot-blocking with dominant rebounding. Most players who block shots do so in part by leaving the defensive boards exposed. If a player leaves his man to go for a block and jumps as high as he can to get it, his man has an open path to the basket. Thus, if the player fails to block the shot, his man can easily get an offensive rebound and score.

Duncan almost never gets out of position like this. He blocks some shots without jumping at all, and on others he uses his long arms and timing to deflect the shot with just a quick hop. As a result, he never leaves the offensive boards exposed even as he's blocking shots at a prodigious rate. Last season Duncan blocked 3.1 shots per 40 minutes while posting the third-best Rebound Rate at his position, both of which were better rates than Wallace's.

Duncan had the league's best Defensive PER by far, and his numbers the year before were just as dominant. Over the past two seasons, the Spurs gave up 7.3 points more per 48 minutes when Duncan left the court. The same numbers for Bowen, Ben Wallace and Ron Artest are 3.0, 3.3, and 4.6 respectively. No disrespect to those three, but Duncan is clearly the best defensive player in the game. Maybe some day the writers will notice.

Offensively, he's no slouch either. His trademark bank shot from the left block is the centerpiece of a diverse post game. Duncan has markedly cut his Turnover Ratio the past two seasons, but he needs to develop more moves going to his left, and it would be nice if he'd learn how to shoot a lefty layup. Otherwise, the only noteworthy accomplishment is Duncan's incredible consistency. His past three seasons are virtual carbon copies, and it seems he can keep producing them ad infinitum.

-- Spurs player profiles from John Hollinger's "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06," available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books.

Fundamental vs. Diesel
Duncan, O'Neal
AP/Lynne Sladky
If anyone can overshadow Shaq, it's Tim Duncan. A Spurs-Heat NBA Finals would be a heavyweight match for a fourth title and serious bragging rights.


SportsNation Speaks
SportsNation has more faith in Michael Finley's ability to fit in with his new team than in Nick Van Exel's:

How will Michael Finley and Nick Van Exel fit in with the Spurs?
62.4% Both fit in great, immediately jell with new teammates
24.1% Finley fits in, Van Exel doesn't
8.4% Neither finds a comfort zone with new roles
5.1% Van Exel fits in, Finley doesn't

Vote: Spurs in 2005-06 | Results



Tim's Time
Tony Parker

Legs on Spurs: It looks like I'll be spending a good part of June down by the river. As in, the River Walk.

It's become commonplace (three titles in seven years) in recent years to see the Spurs drifting merrily on a ferry celebrating another NBA crown. This year, however, may be the best team the Spurs have ever had. Over the last three seasons we have seen Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker form one of the best trios in recent memory.

When you throw in stopper Bruce Bowen, sharpshooters Brent Barry and Robert Horry, and rebounder/shot blocker Nazr Mohammed, you have the most well-rounded team in the league.

What's scary is the Spurs have added Michael Finley and Nick Van Exel, two veteran players hungry for a title and capable of carrying the offense from time to time so the Big Three can get a little more rest in order to stay fresh for another long postseason run.

The unselfish framework that Gregg Popovich has created will lead to Duncan's first back-to-back NBA titles.

Tim Legler, ESPN Insider



Coach's Corner
Gregg Popovich
Experience: 9 years
Reg. season record: 455-233
Playoff record: 69-41
NBA Titles: 3
Coach's profile

Coach Pop might be the best there is in the NBA.

After winning his third NBA crown, his Spurs got better over the summer, adding Michael Finley and Nick Van Exel.

Duncan's free-throw shooting and a less-than-stellar 21-20 road record are seemingly the only problem areas that need to be addressed.

Jim O'Brien, ESPN.com Insider



Hollinger's Q & A
Where do the new guys fit in?

San Antonio bolstered the roster in the offseason with three acquisitions -- point guard Nick Van Exel, swingman Michael Finley, and big man Fabricio Oberto.

Finley was the biggest catch, although his production diminished in his final season in Dallas. The Spurs will hope he can bounce back after offseason surgery for bone spurs in his ankle and regain some of the hops from his younger days. Even if he doesn't, Finley is a good outside shooter who rarely turns the ball over, so he should fit in easily as the Spurs' sixth man. His main adjustments will be learning how to come off the bench and getting used to the shuttle substitution methods of Gregg Popovich.

Van Exel might not see much action during the regular season, but he is Popovich's insurance policy if Beno Udrih flames out in the playoffs again (plus, signing Van Exel helped lure Finley, his former teammate).

Instead, the most important addition might be the most unknown player of the group, Oberto. The Spurs might lean on the big man from Argentina for big minutes so Robert Horry will be fresh for the postseason, particularly if they decide to phase Rasho Nesterovic out of the rotation. Oberto has played in Spain the past few seasons, putting up very solid numbers, although -- unusual for a Spur -- his reputation is mainly as an offensive player.

More Hollinger Spurs analysis Insider



Fantasy Fix
Ginobili
Ginobili

Sleeper: Manu Ginobili's stats keep improving every year, and they will again. Fantasy owners recall Manu was a top-10 player the first two months last season before dropping off. Don't expect a ton of rebounds or assists, but Ginobili is a fine shooter who could score 18 points a night as he takes over more responsibility from Tim Duncan.

Bust: Michael Finley could have chosen to play with a team that needed him to score 20 points a night. Instead, he opted for playoff success, which in this case, means fantasy bust. Finley has the name value, but he's lost a few steps. Don't expect him to come close to matching his 15.7 points per game or other stats.

Eric Karabell | Fantasy Basketball Index

 

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