by Radoslav Komljenovic
It's clear to those paying attention that the Spurs aren't exactly playing as well as their record indicates. Their 5-1 record is mostly a product of their talent and a favorable early schedule rather than their overall level of play.
Offensively, they're more than fine, as they currently sit 6th in efficiency, including 3rd in points per game, 4th in field goal percentage, 8th in 3-point percentage and 2nd in assists.
Defensively, it's a different story, as they currently sit 17th in efficiency. Granted, the points per game can somewhat be attributed to the positively un-Spurs like blistering pace -- 7th in the league. Nonetheless, the Spurs currently sit 23rd in opponents points per game, in addition to 25th in opponents field goal percentage and 29th in opponents 3-point percentage.
What's most alarming about the defensive numbers is that this continues an ongoing trend of recent years where the Spurs have seen a steep decline from their heyday. No one is expecting the current incarnation to even faintly resemble that of the lock-down outfit of yesteryear, but they're also not supposed to resemble that of the Suns and Warriors of recent years, either.
Rebounding, which on paper looks to be a strength, so far hasn't been. They're 22nd in rebounds per game, but more importantly, 15th in rebound differential.
The Spurs are currently ranked 11th in point differential. Not exactly the mark of a team boasting an .800 winning percentage.
What do all these stats mean after five games? Not a whole lot. However, if the Spurs approximate these numbers over the long haul, they'll likely end up being what they were last season -- good, but not good enough to be considered a true contender.
Provided you have ample talent and relative health, generally speaking, the process ultimately breeds the result. For a team with serious championship aspirations, eventually, how you win becomes almost as important as winning itself. The Spurs aren't at that point yet. But just as the old adage says you can only beat the opponent put forth, we can only judge this team off of how they've played to this point.
While there are undoubtedly some promising signs, suffice it to say, at this point, the Spurs' process isn't that of a championship team.
Just ask the Suns.