Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.
Obviously the Spurs are good. The simple fact they are the first team to 40 wins in the NBA this season proves as much. But are they really the best team in the NBA? I am not sold.
Admittedly, a quick glance at the first half stats would lead one to believe the Spurs are indeed the best team in the NBA. After all, the San Antonio Spurs own an NBA leading 42-8 record and hold a 6.5 game lead over the team with the next best record in the Western Conference – The Dallas Mavericks. What’s not to like about that?
But upon closer inspection of the record books the Spurs don’t look quite as well… sharp. The Spurs have absolutely been dominant at home (25-2), and absolutely dominated all but the best teams in the league (winning 26 of 29 games against teams with less than 30 wins). But it is their strength that also exposes their weaknesses.
The Spurs have been upset more than once by teams they should have beaten easily, and those losses usually came on the road. The Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks, and L.A. Clippers are by no means among the worst teams in the league, but they are opponents that the Spurs should have been able to beat. Each upset pulled off exposed the soft underbelly of the Spurs’ road game to the league.
Obviously most teams haven’t been able to capitalize on this weakness, but most teams aren’t really in the Spurs’ league. The Spurs really haven’t been challenged much this season. More than half of the team’s wins have come against sub .500 teams. Similarly the Spurs have played almost twice as many teams with less than 30 wins than teams in the 30-plus column.
It is the teams in this latter category that have been especially good at making the Spurs look beatable this season. The Boston Celtics (38-13), Orlando Magic (32-20), Dallas Mavericks (36-15), and New Orleans Hornets (32-21) are all what I would consider worthy opponents for the San Antonio Spurs, and they have each found ways to beat the NBA’s “best.” This general point includes a 22-point beat down by the Magic and a 24-point shellacking at the hands of the New Orleans Hornets. Keep in mind this is the same Hornets team that earlier in the season dealt the Spurs one of only two defeats on their home court. It appears that when matched against the league’s best, the Spurs lose a bit of their shine.
You might be asking yourself, “Hey Babe Ruthless, if the Spurs aren’t the best team in the NBA then who do you think is better?”
I don’t propose than any one team is, but rather a few teams. For starters, the Miami Heat. Now I am well aware that all my unabashed LeBron love doesn’t sit well with everyone (even the judge for this debate), but I ask the haters to give me the benefit of the doubt on this one. Heck, even Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban admits the Heat are the best and he is an ego maniac.
LeBron James and the Miami Heat own the second best record in the Eastern Conference (37-14) and the most road wins in all of the NBA with 18. The team is heating up as the season progresses. They are among the hottest teams in the NBA right now, as they are currently in the middle of a six game win streak, and don’t show any signs of letting up. Imagine if the Heat had opened up out of the gate as strong as they are playing now, there would be no doubt they would be the undisputed best in basketball. That calls the Spurs claim into question.
Similarly, the success of the Boston Celtics (an important link to read) serve as another crack in the foundation of San Antonio’s claim to the top spot in the NBA. With a 38-13 record the Celtics are just a handful of games off the Spurs’ pace. The Celtics, who beat the Spurs 105-103 earlier this season, have posted nearly as good a record in arguably a tougher conference than the Spurs. Add to that the fact that the Celtics have been slowed of late by injury and a grueling road schedule, and we are talking about a team that might just be better than their record reveals.
The point of today’s debate was merely to cast a shadow of doubt on the Spurs claim to being the best and the best. Personally, I’m not even sold that the Spurs are better than a team in their own division – the New Orleans Hornets, who bested them twice already this season – but I feel confident that the stats prove the Spurs cannot be anointed, unequivocally, as the best team in basketball.