San Antonio Spurs head into the new season looking to continue another rebuild under long-serving coach Greg Popovich.
'Coach Pop' is gearing up for his 27th season in charge of San Antonio after taking the reins in 1996. Popovich has won five championships during his time with the Texan team but the Spurs have missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, and face an uphill battle to secure a postseason spot this year.
|What||NBA Season 2022/23|
|Where||USA and Canada|
|When||18th October 2022 - June 2023|
|How to watch||Sky Sports, NBA Pass, bet365's Sports Live Streaming|
|Odds||GS Warriors 6/1, MIL Bucks 13/2, BOS Celtics 7/1, LA Clippers 7/1, BKN Nets 7/1|
San Antonio reached the play-in tournament last season with a 34-48 overall record but they were eliminated after one game as they went down 113-103 at New Orleans Pelicans.
A defeat to the Pelicans was perhaps disappointing, but the fact the Spurs finished ahead of the likes of Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings to even be involved in the postseason battle should be considered a success.
On paper, San Antonio have a weaker team going into the new campaign following the exit of shooting guard Dejounte Murray. The 26-year-old earned his first All-Star call last season and is the team’s franchise-leader in career triple-doubles after just five seasons but was allowed to join Atlanta Hawks during the offseason.
The Hawks secured a player who should help them push on as they attempt to challenge for the championship and the Spurs received veteran forward Danilo Gallinari and multiple future first-round picks in return, in a move that should benefit all parties.
San Antonio are a team in the middle of a rebuild and those future draft picks should help them get back to challenging at the top in the years ahead, but they won’t be involved in the championship conversation this season.
Popovich tends to play his cards close to his chest and this offseason he has refused to give too much away when it comes to his possible starting lineup.
When asked who the starting point guard will be in the 2022/23 season, he replied “Jakob Poltl is our 5, we’ll go from there”.
Poltl, 26, has been the team’s first choice center for the last two seasons so it is no surprise that the Austrian will continue in that role moving forward.
Forward Keldon Johnson and shooting guard Devin Vassell also look likely to start the opening game, but from that point it becomes less clear.
Tre Jones may get his chance as the point guard after making 69 appearances last season, with the 22-year-old starting 11 of those games, while veteran forward Doug McDermott would bring in further experience.
Younger players like second-year guard Josh Primo and rookie Jeremy Sochan should also see plenty of game time. Sochan was one of three first-round picks for San Antonio in this year’s draft and guard Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley may see more minutes than expected.
The Spurs may not be championship contenders this year, but they are always capable of pulling off an upset or two under the guidance of their experienced coach.
Popovich is an incredible tactician and he can put together gameplans that allow his teams to beat opponents they would be ordinarily expected to lose against.
Last season, San Antonio recorded regular-season victories over eventual champions Golden State Warriors, reigning champions Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets and they managed to beat both the Lakers and the Clippers in Los Angeles in consecutive games over the Christmas period - so the team’s fans should have plenty of highlights this season even if they are fighting it out at the lower end of the Western Conference.
The Spurs start the new season with three games against non-conference rivals as they host Charlotte Hornets before trips to Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers. They then have back-to-back games at Minnesota Timberwolves before a four-game home stand against Chicago Bulls, Minnesota, Toronto Raptors and the Clippers.
San Antonio finished in 10th spot in the West last season and a similar performance this season would have to be viewed as a success. Automatic playoff qualification looks unlikely, but if they can secure a play-in place they will have a chance of ending their playoff drought with Popovich at the helm.
That is reflected in the odds as they are 22/1 to make the playoffs or 20/1 to make the play-in tournament, and the main aim will be helping their younger players improve and continuing their rebuild.