In Gregg Popovich’s first year as head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, the team went 20-62 and earned themselves the number one pick in the NBA draft that offseason. With that number one pick, PF/C from Wake Forest Tim Duncan was drafted and the rest is history. No coach has ever had a smoother transition after their first season on the bench than Popovich, who has made the playoffs every year since his inaugural season with the Spurs.
Along with sustained regular season success, this team has won five titles in six appearances in the NBA Finals. Normally, a team this good is frustrating to watch and can easily become a villain in the media.
This is not the case, however, with the ho-hum Spurs. In fact, it may be the opposite. There is nothing flashy about this team, and analysts often forget they exist until they show up to the finals, send the opponent home, and leave quietly with their trophy in hand.
Part of the Spurs continuous success is due to the players they draft and develop. Today, in many GM’s eyes, a “big three” made up of star players is needed to reach and possibly capture an NBA championship. The Spurs have a big three; however, they drafted and developed Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili. In ’99, Ginobili was picked 57th overall, and in 2001, Parker was the 28th pick. To have three players of this caliber play so consistently for over 15 seasons is rare.
In 2011, the Spurs traded George Hill to the Pacers for the draft rights of 15th pick Kawhi Leonard. At the time, it seemed like a steal for the Pacers. That isn’t quite the case anymore, as Leonard is the heir to the Spurs throne once Duncan retires.
Leonard has been named Defensive Player of the Year twice, and was named the 2014 Finals MVP. Few players have been to the Finals twice in their first three seasons, let alone their career. Leonard is the perfect player to continue this franchise’s success. Much like Duncan, he values winning over any individual merit and never draws attention to himself in the public eye.
I don’t expect this franchise to cool off anytime soon, and even when Duncan and possibly Popovich step away from the game, the team will be left in good hands. The Spurs are a fun team to watch, and their attitude makes it more than bearable to root for them if your own team is out of the playoffs.
Don’t be fooled by the lack of coverage they get; they may be one of the best franchises this league has seen.