Updated March 22
We’ve been able to count the San Antonio Spurs among the NBA’s elite all season. Not once have they fallen out of the top three, and we've kept them in the top spot since Jan. 25, a span of eight consecutive weeks. While we wish Tim Duncan a speedy recovery from his latest ankle ailment, we cannot in good faith hold the team a spot at the top with him probably out the remainder of the regular season.
Are the Spurs still our championship favorite? Yes, Duncan will be back and won’t need much time to get re-acclimated. The great ones never do. As they line up currently, are they one of the league’s top five teams? Not in our estimation.
These are after all, weekly power rankings, ranking the league’s most imposing teams from top to bottom. Looking to replace Duncan’s production with Rasho Nesterovic and Nazr Mohammed isn’t going to scare anybody. All you have to do is watch the third-quarter tape of the Spurs’ first outing without their leader to know there are going to be serious issues.
The Knicks, playing without top defender Kurt Thomas, completely took away the Spurs’ post game and left them to settle for difficult shots, surrendering just 13 points on 5-for-18 shooting. Fact is, without Duncan, the Spurs are no longer the best team in Texas, much less the league. The fact they’re talking about 'holding off' Dallas, who they lead by less than six games with 15 left, should tell you where they stand.
Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili form an entertaining, productive backcourt combo, but to this point, neither has needed to be the man. We’ll see if either steps up as the guy his team rallies around, but we’re not putting any pressure on either. Replacing the irreplaceable simply isn’t done.