The NBA is set to return at the end of the month, and 22 of the league’s 30 teams will complete the season at Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
Over the next few weeks, hypothetical scenarios will be released to examine how each of the remaining 22 teams could win the NBA title.
Next up: the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs hold the longest active playoff streak in North American sports with 22 consecutive playoff appearances. That streak is very much in danger this season, with San Antonio sitting four games behind the Memphis Grizzlies. The four-game deficit would be enough to force a play-in tournament, but three teams currently sit between San Antonio and Memphis.
In our scenario, the Spurs are able to overcome that deficit thanks to some classic Gregg Popovich magic. By finishing the regular season with a 6-2 record over the final eight games, San Antonio is able to barely squeeze their way into a play-in tournament with the New Orleans Pelicans. The young Pelicans are exposed by Popovich’s Spurs, and Zion Williamson is held under 15 points in both of the Spurs’ wins.
Each round brings its own challenges for San Antonio, but the first round of the playoffs is arguably the toughest. The Los Angeles Lakers are hungry and looking to win a title to commemorate the late Kobe Bryant. But in our situation, the Spurs come out on top by riding the hot hands of Bryn Forbes (50 percent from three in the series) and DeMar DeRozan to a six-game series victory.
The Houston Rockets await the Spurs in the second round as they look to advance to yet another Conference Finals. Houston goes ice cold in this series as San Antonio locks them down defensively to take the series in five games.
In a rematch of last year’s first-round matchup, the Spurs have to take on the young Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are tough to beat, but San Antonio’s defense continues their strong run and sends the Nuggets packing in six games. The Spurs advance to their first NBA Finals since 2014.
The NBA Finals present a rematch of the 2014 Finals with the Spurs facing off against Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat. Miami is one of the best defensive teams in the league, but they are still very exciting. DeRozan comes through in the clutch in Game 1 to put San Antonio up 1-0, but the Heat take the next two games. The Spurs come through with back-to-back close wins in Games 4 and 5 before closing out the championship in Game 6, winning Popovich his sixth title.