Remember the movie Terminator? That's San Antonio. No matter what, the Spurs keep coming at you with a relentlessness that can't be stopped. More often than not, the opposition wilts.
These Spurs aren't scary in an individual sense. Yes, Leonard has been one of the best players in the league this season. But Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are on their last legs. Aldridge has been almost mediocre this season, by his previous standards. Pau Gasol isn't quite on his last legs, but the retirement light at the end of the tunnel is visible for him.
Yet, as of Friday, San Antonio is 50-14 and two games behind the vaunted Golden State Warriors in the race for the top spot in the Western Conference. They have the second biggest net scoring margin in the league, outscoring opponents by eight points a night. They are still, clearly, a championship contender.
How does San Antonio do it? By staying true to themselves and sticking to their blueprint, both on the floor and in the front office.
Gregg Popovich is widely considered the best coach in the league. I happen think he's the best coach in NBA history. Yes — better than Phil Jackson. Better than Red Auerbach. Those guys were no doubt great. But they won titles exclusively when they had the best talent. Popovich hasn't always had the best talent, and he's still won.
As good as Popovich is on the coaching level, general manager RC Buford has performed at the same high standard in the front office. The Spurs have survived and thrived without high draft picks — just look at their rotation. Parker was a late first-round pick. Danny Green was a late second-round pick by Cleveland. Jonathan Simmons is a veteran of the D-League. Kyle Anderson was a late first-round pick. Ginobili came late in the second round.
I'm not sure the Spurs can win the Western Conference this season. But, if any team in the west is going to knock Golden State off, the Spurs are the best choice. Leonard has evolved into one of the best two-way players in the league, and is a legit MVP candidate. Parker and Ginobili would love one more shot at a ring. Aldridge and Gasol could give the Warriors trouble.
San Antonio's depth this season defines them. Patty Mills, Simmons, Anderson, David Lee, Dewayne Dedmon. That's easily one of the best second units in the league, and should serve as a major advantage come playoff time.
Title or not, San Antonio's season has been impressive. There hasn't been a drop-off without Tim Duncan. And over the years, the Spurs have remained one of the best teams in basketball when almost every other franchise has hit at least one lull.
The Spurs have never stopped winning. They've never stopped advancing or moving forward. Neither did the Terminator.