Prior to this season, the San Antonio Spurs jettisoned star forward Kawhi Leonard, as well as Danny Green, to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan. Not everyone was sold on Greg Popovich’s new-look squad. ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton projected them to 10th in the Western Conference.
Fast forward to March, and the move actually worked out well for both teams. Toronto is second in the East at 46-18 with Leonard having the best scoring season of his career.
Down in Texas, the Spurs are 35-29, ranked 8th in the West and are 3 games ahead of the next closest competition (Sacramento). DeRozan leads the team in scoring (21.5 points) and is paired with an elite frontcourt presence in LaMarcus Aldridge (20.9 points, 8.9 rebounds).
Entering tonight’s showdown with the West’s No. 2 team in the Denver Nuggets (8:30 p.m. EST, Fox Sports Regional), Popovich and company can continue to prove their doubters wrong. As they inch closer towards clinching a postseason berth, let’s take a look at their chances, most likely seeding and remaining schedule.
Spurs Playoff Chances & Potential Seeds
While the 8-seed looks tenuous, the Spurs made major headway on locking down a playoff spot with Saturday’s 14-point win over the Thunder. According to Playoff Status, the Spurs possess an 84 percent chance of making the postseason. That splits up into a 35 percent chance at the 8-seed, a 29 percent chance at the 7-seed and a 12 percent chance at the 6-seed.
Bovada pegs them at -600 odds at clinching a playoff berth. The Lakers and Kings, fellow contenders for the final playoff spot, sit at +225 and +400, respectively. ESPN’s BPI gives the Spurs 95.9 percent odds.
Tonight’s game is important for San Antonio per Playoff Status. A Spurs victory boosts their postseason chances to 88 percent, including a healthy 31 percent at the 7-seed. This would project to a rematch with the Nuggets in the first round, and avoid the Golden State Warriors.
Most Important Games Down the Road for the Spurs
San Antonio has put itself in this position by snatching key wins over the Thunder and (mostly) holding serve against the bottom half of the league. The Spurs are 2-1 against Oklahoma City, the No. 3 seed at the moment, including Saturday’s win. They hold the second-easiest remaining schedule out of Western Conference teams according to Playoff Status, so this trend should continue.
While Team Rankings pegs their final record around 46-36, a .500 record or above should be enough for the 8-seed. This means the Spurs need at least 6 more wins to start feeling safe.
The remaining slate consists of 2 games against the Atlanta Hawks (22-42), 2 games against the Dallas Mavericks (27-35), a home game against the Knicks (13-50), 2 games against the Cleveland Cavaliers (16-48) and a road trip to the 26-37 Washington Wizards.
That’s 8 games against some of the dregs of the league. Win just 75 percent of those, and the Spurs have the necessary 6 wins. Additionally, San Antonio is 24-7 at home, so matchups this week against the Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks are tenable.
Denver and San Antonio split two games in late December, including a 111-103 Spurs home triumph on the day after Christmas.