The San Antonio Spurs have enjoyed a very successful decade, winning more than 70% of their games in six of the last ten seasons. While San Antonio has done a lot of winning, which of those ten Spurs teams was the best?
The easiest way to answer that question is by putting the best Spurs teams in a tournament. Instead of eight teams, however, the top six Spurs teams are seeded one through six based on winning percentage. The top two teams receive first round byes. Let’s take a look at how this hypothetical tournament would play out.
Top Six San Antonio Spurs Seasons of the Decade
1. 2015-2016 Spurs
2. 2011-2012 Spurs
3. 2013-2014 Spurs
4. 2016-2017 Spurs
5. 2010-2011 Spurs
6. 2012-2013 Spurs
First Round – Spurs Team of the Decade Tournament
(3) 2013-2014 Spurs vs. (6) 2012-2013 Spurs
The 2012-13 Spurs relied heavily on the Tony Parker and Tim Duncan duo to carry them all the way to the NBA Finals. Parker propelled the team, averaging 20.3 point and 7.6 assists. Duncan, at age 35, averaged an impressive 17.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 2.7 assists in just 30 minutes per game.
In terms of roster makeup, both teams are very similar — and both teams made it to the Finals. The 2012-13 version lost in excruciating fashion to the Miami Heat in seven games, while the 2013-14 version won the rematch in five games.
In a hypothetical match up, the 2013-14 team appears to the better team at first glance. The team won 62 games as well as dismantling the two-time defending champions in the NBA Finals. The team ranked third in defense and featured an offense so good that it inspired tribute videos dedicated to its brilliance.
The 2012-2013 team won 58 games and ranked seventh in offense and third in defense, identical to the 2013-14 team. Though the 2012-13 team didn’t win the title, they did come incredibly close, nearly beating a significantly better Heat team.
The 2012-13 team featured superior versions of Duncan and Parker, as well as a balanced attack that saw five other Spurs players average double figures. That said, while Duncan and Parker were worse in 2013-14, the supporting players were much improved. Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Boris Diaw and Patty Mills were undeniably better.
All in all, the 2013-14 team is slightly better and would win a hard fought seven-game series over the 2012-13 version of the Spurs.
2013-14 Spurs in seven games
(4) 2010-2011 Spurs Vs. (5) 2016-2017 Spurs
The 2010-11 Spurs team marked a drastic change to the Spurs style of play. San Antonio adapted to the newer offense-friendly rules (and also the strengths of the roster) to create a dominant offense. The team boasted a fantastic 111.8 offensive rating, which was all the more impressive considering it occurred in era that was much less reliant on three-pointers.
The perimeter creation of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili drove the offense. Tim Duncan took more of a backseat, focusing more on defense and rebounding, while George Hill and Richard Jefferson helped share the scoring load. The 2010-11 team did rank 11th in defensive rating, though their lack of size proved to be their downfall.
The 2016-17 team is only team not to feature Duncan, with Pau Gasol being brought in after he retired. Despite the downgrade, the Spurs still lead the league in defensive rating.
Offensively, Kawhi Leonard posted his best season with the Spurs. Aldridge struggled with consistency on offense, though he formed an effective wall at the rim alongside Gasol.
Even a 27- and 32-year-old Parker and Ginobili would likely struggle to score against Green and Leonard. An immobile version of Duncan and an overweight and undersized DeJuan Blair would struggle mightily against both Aldridge and a three-point shooting version of Gasol.
2016-17 Spurs in four games
Semifinals – Spurs Team of the Decade Tournament
(1) 2015-2016 vs. (4) 2016-2017
The 2015-16 team is, perhaps, the most talented version of the Spurs over the past decade. The Spurs managed to add LaMarcus Aldridge to a core that had recently went to consecutive NBA Finals. Led by Kawhi Leonard and Aldridge, the Spurs shattered the franchise record for wins by posting a 67-15 record.
This incarnation of the Spurs not only ranked fourth in the NBA in offensive rating, they led the league in defensive rating that season. In fact, they rank as the second best defensive team in the NBA over the past ten seasons — allowing just 98.2 points per 100 possessions.
The 2016-17 team was less dominant but they still won 61 games. They also led the NBA in defensive rating, and posted a better offensive rating than the 2015-16 team.
The 2015-16 team is the more talented team but wouldn’t match-up with their successors. Duncan, at 39, would have no chance of guarding out on the perimeter and would struggle offensively. The 2016-17 version of Leonard morphed into a dominant offensive player that would be hard for even the 2015-16 version of Leonard to stop.
Aldridge, Parker and Ginobili were all better while Green was worse in 2015-16. That said, the Spurs bench was collectively better and deeper in 2016-17. It would be very close series, however the 2016-17 team would likely edge out the 2015-16 Spurs.
2016-17 team in six games
(2) 2011-2012 vs (3) 2012-2013
The 2011-12 version of San Antonio differed drastically from the 2010-11 team. Tiago Splitter took on a larger role while Duncan lost weight and regained his mobility, making him a far more effective player.
Kawhi Leonard was acquired in a trade for Hill, which created an opening opportunity for Danny Green to prove himself. Boris Diaw and Patty Mills were signed during the season, while Jefferson was traded for Stephen Jackson at the trade deadline.
The 2013-14 incarnation of the Spurs were largely the same, personnel-wise, but with two seasons to gel together.
The 2013-14 Spurs were made better with internal improvement and a better supporting cast around the Big 3. The Spurs offensive reinvention was finally perfected, while their improved defense made them difficult to stop.
The 2011-12 Spurs were a great offense in their own right, however their defense would struggle to stop the 13-14 Spurs offense at its best.
2013-14 Spurs in five games
Finals – Spurs Team of the Decade Tournament
(3) 2013-2014 vs. (4) 2016-2017
The 2016-17 team holds the distinction of being the last great Spurs team of the decade. Even without Duncan, who retired the previous summer, they managed to make the Western Conference Finals and looked poised to compete against Golden State. Then, Kawhi Leonard went down in Game 1 — and so did their chances at another title.
The 2013-14 team was the culmination of a stylistic change that started in the 2010-11 season. Following a disappointing first round exit, a collapse in WCF and a loss in the NBA Finals, this Spurs team was able to accomplish what the other teams hadn’t.
The 2013-14 team was a collective effort, with their optimal team chemistry allowing them to play better than the sum of their parts. The 2016-17 team was carried by the talent of their stars and a solid supporting cast.
The 2013-14 and 2016-17 Spurs are separated by just three seasons but the style of play changed dramatically, as the NBA became much more three-point oriented. That said, the 2013-14 Spurs were versatile enough to thrive in either era.
The 2013-14 Spurs would be uniquely equipped to handle the 2016-17 team. A healthy Splitter would be more than capable of guarding Aldridge, while younger versions of Leonard and Green could at least slow down the 2016-17 version of Leonard. Parker, Ginobili, Mills and Green were all better in 2013-14, while Duncan was better than Gasol.