2013-14 San Antonio Spurs Preview and Predictions: The Best in the West?

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2012-13 Result: 58-24, 2rd in the Western Conference, lost to the Miami Heat 3-4 in NBA Finals

Key Additions: Jeff Ayres, Marco Belinelli

Key Departures: Gary Neal, DeJuan Blair, assistant coach Mike Budenholzer (Atlanta Hawks), assistant coach Brett Brown (Philadelphia 76ers)

In the off-season, the Spurs' coaching ranks were raided by NBA teams which were looking for new head coaches. Assistant coaches Mike Budenholzer and Brett Brown were poached by the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers, respectively. Looking for equally capable sideline talent, they hired Jim Boylen away from the Eastern Conference runner-up Indiana Pacers and former Austin Toros (D-League) GM Sean Marks, a former New Zealand national team player.

The San Antonio Spurs opted not to shake up their roster, instead signing again some key pieces of their 2012-13 championship run to contract extensions. In doing so, they let go of some redundant players and instead focused on forming again their core. Gary Neal, who averaged 9.5 points for the Spurs, signed with the Milwaukee Bucks after the Spurs decided not to renew his contract despite scoring 29 points against Miami in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Taking his place is Marco Belinelli, the six-year Italian shooting guard who averaged 9.6 points for Chicago in 2012-13.

The improvement of power forwards Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter also meant that erstwhile starter DeJuan Blair was no longer needed. In fact, he was eased out of the Spurs' rotation in the months leading to the playoffs. Leonard, who averaged 14.6 points and 11 rebounds in the NBA Finals, will most likely split the position with Splitter, who averaged 10.3 points in the regular season.

Of course, no preview about the Spurs will be complete without discussing the merits of their Big Three: point guard Tony Parker, center Tim Duncan, and swingman Manu Ginobili. Parker is fast becoming the Spurs' top offensive option, averaging over 20 points a game while dishing out 7.6 assists, making him one of the league's top playmakers. The Frenchman is fresh off a career performance at the FIBA Eurobasket 2013 tournament, where he led his French national team to a first-ever gold medal finish. Ginobili is no longer the Spurs' best scorer, but his assist numbers have improved significantly. He could also be counted upon to score whenever it is needed. Duncan experienced a career resurrection in 2012-13, averaging 17.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks a game, all significant improvements from his 2010-11 numbers, a year when people were already counting him out as a championship contender.

Season Prediction: While the Spurs seem to be aging (again), the 2013-14 season could actually result in another championship for them. After being defeated for the first time in the Finals last season, they are hungry, motivated, and still stacked in all positions. The presence of their Big Three -- Parker, Duncan and Ginobili -- ensure that the team will be stable and unflappable. Anything less than a Finals appearance will be a disappointment.

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