The San Antonio Spurs haven’t missed the playoffs since 1997, and Chris Paul doesn’t see their decades-long streak of postseason berths ending now.
Not even after they dropped to 10th place in the Western Conference following a loss to Paul’s league-best Houston Rockets.
From the San Antonio Express-News‘ Tom Orsborn:
“It is strange, real strange,” the Rockets’ Chris Paul, who had 18 points and nine assists, said of seeing the Spurs struggle. “But without Kawhi, that’s tough. They’ve missed a number of guys (to injuries), but if anybody will find a way it’s Pop. Pop will find a way.”
Many of the metrics don’t support Paul’s faith in Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. San Antonio is playing out the NBA’s toughest post-All-Star break schedule and still doesn’t know whether Kawhi Leonard will return before season’s end. Even if he does return, he has only nine appearances to his name at the moment. There’s no telling if he’ll have enough time to get his groove back. He’ll need a grace period to recapture his usual mojo.
To that end, FiveThirtyEight’s playoff probabilities paint a bleak picture. They give the Spurs a 50 percent chance of clinching a postseason berth, which might even be a little generous at this point knowing LaMarcus Aldridge missed the loss to the Rockets with right knee soreness. If this becomes a recurring problem for him, the Spurs can consider themselves done. Aldridge has been their offensive lifeline for pretty much the entire year, and they don’t have anyone to step up in his absence.
Tony Parker is good in spurts, but he cannot be a full-time featured option. Ditto for Manu Ginobili. Dejounte Murray isn’t ready. Rudy Gay isn’t the same scorer he was before his Achilles injury. Neither Kyle Anderson nor Patty Mills have the chops to be more than high-end ancillary devices.
No, what the Spurs need is Aldridge and Leonard both. One isn’t enough. Not right now. The Western Conference is a bloodbath, and the Spurs are a disastrous 13-24 against teams with records of .500 or better. They likely aren’t evading the lottery without good health and contributions from both their stars the rest of the way.