There are a number of teams who are waging a real uphill battle as they get ready to start play in the NBA bubble. In the West it is a real quagmire, because even though the first seven teams are pretty much set, Memphis, in the eighth spot, is being pursued by a number of teams who would like to find themselves free and clear in either 8th place or ninth, within four game of eighth. Got that?
As some BetAnySports patrons might be aware, that would require a two-game play-in to determine who will move into the post-season as the eighth seed. One of these teams is the San Antonio Spurs, who, despite the presence of Tim Duncan as an assistant coach, are well past their glory days.
And well, they’re not even going to benefit from the presence of Duncan; not in the bubble anyway, because he is off helping the injured LaMarcus Aldridge, the team’s top offensive weapon, with rehab from an injury.
So you get a pretty good idea where this club is at.
Memphis has a record of 32-33. San Antonio is four games back of them at 27-36 (27-35-1 ATS). So, when it comes right down to it, the Spurs are right there in terms of the range they have to be within to force a two-game play-in for the final playoff spot. But they are also competing with three other teams (Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento) who are in the same position.
So head coach Gregg Popovich may elect to punt.
Popovich turned his scrimmage games over to assistants so they could act in the role of head coach. One of those assistants is Becky Hammond, who is said to be someone in line in the event Popovich steps down soon. When he wasn’t off trying to inject as much politics into the sport as he possibly could, he’s been telling reporters that this bubble period was going to be devoted to developing the team’s young talent.
They begin on Friday (8 PM ET) at the Visa Athletic Center against the Sacramento Kings, and they will be catching 3.5 points, with a total of 220 points, according to the folks at BetAnySports.
Clearly the time has come for a transitional period. Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan can put up numbers, but San Antonio isn’t going to win any championships with them playing lead roles. Dejounte Murray can play some defense, but he isn’t as good as they thought he was when they signed him to a generous deal. In fact, this team as a whole hasn’t been very strong on the defensive end, ranking 24th in efficiency.
And while this team shoots pretty well (47%), they don’t shoot a lot of threes, so they are “old school” when the laws of analytics are telling many teams that the better percentage approach is to go the other way.
What San Antonio has going for it is the ability to take care of the ball (an NBA-low 12 turnovers a game) and 81% free throws (second best). So fundamentals have managed to keep them afloat.
What bothers this reporter is the “apathy” factor. We have seen Popovich in the past when he is disinterested – not to mention during “load management” situations. And he knows how to tank. Is he doing it here? Well, the over-under on bubble wins is 2.5, and to collect on the “under” at +110 they would have to go 2-6. That might be possible with this crew, since some “experimenting” will be done and some other teams in their grouping look to be fortified somewhat.
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