Mavericks Division Preview: San Antonio Spurs

By Rami Michail
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The Dallas Mavericks don’t just play in the toughest conference in the NBA; they play in the toughest division.

Along with the Mavericks, the South West Division consists of the Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, and San Antonio Spurs.

Last season the Mavs, Grizz, Spurs, and Rockets all made the playoffs and finished with 49+ wins.

We can expect the division to be just as tough, if not tougher, this year as well.

Previous Preview: Rockets

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs consistently find a way to push Father-Time to the side. At 62-20, the Spurs would finish with the League’s best record and set up a first round date with the Mavericks.

The Spurs would be pushed to seven games by the Mavs, but would come out victorious and eventually lock up another Championship.

Key Additions

  • Kyle Anderson (SF/PF)

Key Losses

  • NONE

2013-2014 Leaders

  • PPG: Tony Parker (16.7)
  • RPG: Tim Duncan (9.7)
  • APG: Tony Parker (5.7)
  • SPG: Kawhi Leanord (1.7)
  • BPG: Tim Duncan (1.9)

Dates

  • Oct 28th @ SAS
  • Dec 20th @ Dal
  • March 24th @ Dal 
  • March 27th @ SAS

Q&A

Ian Dougherty took some time out of his day to answer some questions on the Spurs and their matchup with the Mavs this season.

Editor’s Note: Ian Dougherty is a contributor to SBNation’s San Antonio Spurs blog, Pounding the Rock. You can find him on Twitter @IanDougherty, where he’s probably making references to Omarion’s “Ice Box.”

1. Year after Year many question the Spurs’ “Championship window”. Is this the year “Father-Time” finally catches up to the Spurs?

No. I’m convinced that San Antonio’s title window won’t close until the holy basketball triumvirate of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili calls it quits. In a league where continuity is only second to actual talent, the Spurs have nearly the same roster makeup that they had last year when they won the title. The Spurs keep answering the call every year, and have a roster that knows how to play together. There’s no reason to say that their long reign at the top of NBA standings will be over this season.

2. Outside of drafting Kyle Anderson, the Spurs roster didn’t change much. Which player(s) will the Spurs need to lean on to limit the wear and tear on Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili?

This one is pretty obvious: Kawhi Leonard. Guys like Boris Diaw, Danny Green, and Patty Mills are important to the Spurs’ process of winning games. But, when things don’t go according to plan, and the silver-and-black need a lift from someone, Leonard is the guy who has been there time and time again.

I wouldn’t say that any of Duncan/Parker/Ginobili should be expected to fall off in individual production, but it’s always a possibility with players this old. If there is a drop off from any of those guys, we’ll see Leonard with a role similar to the one he had in the NBA Finals. He’ll have the ball in his hands more, and will need to make more plays for himself within the offensive flow. He’s shown his ability, but the one question for him has always been “Can he be consistent with his production?” We may find out the answer this year.

3. Prior to last season and that exciting seven game series, it seemed the Mavs would never beat the Spurs again. Do you see the Spurs dominance over the Mavs resurfacing, or do you see a another competitive season series between these Texas Rivals?

I’m a fan of what Dallas did with its offseason (outside of taking Ray Felton in the Chandler trade). Chandler Parsons is a versatile wing who can be plugged into most systems and be ok. Tyson Chandler, though past his prime, is still a better rim protector than the Mavs had last year, knows and excelled in Rick Carlisle’s defensive scheme in his first stint in Dallas, and maybe most importantly, he won’t have the life sucked out of him by playing for the deplorable New York Knicks anymore.

Losing the shooting of Jose Calderon and Vince Carter hurts a lot, but the guys that will get their minutes are good enough shooters, so I don’t think that will hurt them too much. Rick Carlisle has shown that he can create trouble and stall San Antonio’s offense. And of course, Dirk Nowitzki is still there, drilling fadeaways until the end of time.

Dallas can be a low seed in the West again. I would still favor the Spurs fairly heavily in the upcoming season series, but Dallas will definitely be a tough matchup every time.

4. The Mavs and Spurs open the season against each other and will face each other three other times. Which matchup(s) will your eyes be glued on?

The most intriguing matchup between these two teams is not an individual one. It’s the Spurs’ pick-and-roll attack versus the Mavericks’ rim protection. Last year, Carlisle gummed up San Antonio’s offense by playing off of Tony Parker to keep him out of the paint and denying passes to the corner.

Gregg Popovich countered by taking the ball out of Parker’s hands, changing-the Spurs’s pick-and-roll attack by starting more to the sides than the top of the arc, and then proceeded to run Dallas through a pick-and-roll gauntlet with Manu Ginobili and a slew of rolling big men. The Mavericks’ defense crumbled when Brandan Wright and Samuel Dalembert couldn’t keep up with the deft ball-movement, and the rest of the defense never rotated properly to cover the crisp rolls to the basket by the likes of Duncan, Diaw, and Tiago Splitter.

This year, things are a bit different, as Dallas traded for Tyson Chandler to upgrade the rim protection and pick-and-roll defense. His ability to keep San Antonio players from the rim will have a huge impact on any game between these two teams.

5. What about the new look Mavericks do you believe can give the Spurs trouble this season?

This is kind of a cop out, but to be honest, I’m not sure yet. The Mavs have an extremely different roster than last year, and I’d like to see how they together before I can make any kind of call on what may give the Spurs trouble. Obviously Nowitzki causes problems right off the bat, and Monta Ellis’ speed gave Spurs guards fits in the playoffs. But as far as the new additions go, we’ll just have to wait on the season-opener between the two teams to find out.

6. Where do you see the Spurs and Mavs finishing this season?

I think Dallas can win anywhere from 45-50 games this year. With that, they’ll probably end up as a 6-8 seed in the playoffs. This isn’t really a knock on Dallas, it’s just how good the rest of the West is. Last year there were 7 teams in the West that won 50 games, and while that may not be the case this year, it is definite that there is no shortage of good teams in the conference, which will make it tough for the Mavs to climb in the standings.

For the Spurs, they’re my pick to win the championship. I think their combination of ability and continuity makes them fairly easy favorite to win the title in a year where the NBA landscape has changed so much. There’s always a chance for them to lose to Oklahoma City, Cleveland or Chicago late in the playoffs; but their title run last year was convincing, and having the virtually same roster puts them ahead of anyone else in my mind.

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