The San Antonio Spurs came just one defensive rebound away from winning a championship last year, and failing to secure that rebound prior to Ray Allen's three in Game 6 likely haunted the Spurs for quite some time.
But the band is back together for another run this season, and there's little reason to expect the Spurs not to be in the title conversation yet again. Age and health are certainly a concern, but the continued emergence of Kawhi Leonard could help overcome any decline in the older players.
Tony Parker - Parker enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career last year, posting averages of 20.3 points and 7.6 assists while shooting 52.2 percent from the field. Parker did deal with some injury issues during the regular season and in the playoffs, but his play never really suffered until the NBA Finals, where he shot a combined 9-of-35 in the final two games of the series. Parker is healthy now after leading France to a EuroBasket title, and he'll again be expected to lead a Spurs offense that was seventh in the NBA in offensive rating. The Spurs had their greatest success when Parker played, as the team was 5.1 points per 100 possessions better offensively with the point guard on the floor, per NBA.com.
Danny Green - Green became a household name with his three-point barrage during the NBA Finals, hitting an NBA-record 27 threes in the series. Green's strong Finals and general excellence in the postseason was a culmination of the most productive season of his career. Green started in all 80 games he played, averaging a career-high 10.5 points and knocking down 42.9 percent from long range. The Spurs' precise ball movement helped provide Green with a plethora of spot-up opportunities, and he took full advantage. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Green was 17th in points per play on spot-ups, which took up 42.7 percent of his total plays. Green may have hit his ceiling last year, but his role is extremely important, and he does it very well.
Kawhi Leonard - Leonard dealt with some health issues last season, but when he was on the floor, he showed why he's one of the most promising young players in the NBA. After a solid regular season, Leonard stepped his game up even further in the playoffs. Leonard averaged 13.5 points and 9.0 rebounds while shooting a superb 54.5 percent from the field throughout the postseason, and he averaged a double-double in the NBA Finals. Toss in some excellent perimeter defense, and Leonard is on the verge of being a star. At just 22 years old, Leonard still has plenty of room to grow, and it's scary to think of how good he can become if he stays on his current path.
Tim Duncan - Duncan had been showing signs of slowing down in 2010-11 and 2011-12, which was only natural given his age. But Duncan turned back the clock last year, averaging 17.8 points and 9.9 rebounds and posting the sixth-best PER in the NBA. Duncan was only brilliant on the defensive end of the floor, finishing tied with Dwight Howard for the best defensive RAPM (regularized adjusted plus-minus) mark in the league. It would be fair to expect Duncan to regress somewhat back to his numbers from the prior few years, because at some point, he's simply going to run out of steam. But it also wouldn't be a surprise if Duncan put forth a season similar to last.
Tiago Splitter - The Spurs never allowed Splitter to field an offer sheet from another team this offseason, agreeing to a four-year deal worth $36 million. Splitter earned that deal with a 2012-13 campaign that saw him start 58 games and average 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds. The duo of Splitter and Duncan was devastating defensively, as the Spurs had a paltry defensive rating of 92.7 when those two were on the court together. One downside to Splitter's season was a poor showing in the NBA Finals, where he was basically an afterthought when he wasn't getting packed at the rim by LeBron James. Splitter is an important piece moving forward, but it would be nice to see more production in the postseason.
Manu Ginobili - Ginobili showed some serious signs of aging throughout last season, dealing with both injuries and erratic play. Ginobili's 42.5 percent shooting was his worst since his second year in the league, and that number dipped to 39.9 percent in the postseason. Still, Ginobili did also have his moments where he looked like the player he used to be, which is why the Spurs re-signed him to a two-year, $15 million deal.
Marco Belinelli - With Ginobili on the decline, the Spurs brought in Belinelli to act almost as a poor man's Ginobili. Belinelli was inconsistent with the Chicago Bulls last season, but he did hit numerous big shots and also spent quite a bit of time as a primary ballhandler. He can take some of Ginobili's minutes as well as make up for the loss of Gary Neal in free agency.
Boris Diaw - Diaw provided solid minutes both as a reserve and fill-in starter last season, shooting 53.9 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from deep. Diaw's shining moment may have been when he shut down LeBron James for a stretch in Game 5 of the Finals.
Cory Joseph - Joseph only played 28 games during the regular season, but he got nine starts when Parker sat out with injuries. In those nine starts, Joseph averaged 7.2 points and 3.1 assists in 21.4 minutes per game. He's coming off an impressive summer with the Canadian national team and the expectations are rising.
Matt Bonner - Bonner saw a decline in minutes last season, but he continued to do what he does best: shoot the rock. The veteran forward shot 44.2 percent from long range in 13.4 minutes per game.
Jeff Ayres - Formerly known as Jeff Pendergraph, the forward could give the Spurs a third big man who can rebound and score in the paint. He's a more traditional option at the 4 than Bonner and will take the 15 minutes per game vacated by DeJuan Blair, who is now in Dallas.
Deep on the bench
Nando De Colo - The point guard played a bit last season but could be falling behind Joseph, who is ahead in his development.
Patty Mills - Mills' feistiness is welcome on the bench. He is nice insurance at point guard if there are injuries.
Aron Baynes - Baynes was signed last midseason and at 6'10, 260 pounds gives San Antonio size.
Corey Maggette - The veteran swingman has enough juice to play in spot minutes and will add an experienced player in practice and on the bench, at the least. He is not on a guaranteed deal.
Myck Kabongo - The undrafted rookie out of Texas is a project and will likely end up on the Austin Toros D-League squad for a good portion of this season.
Marcus Cousin - The center out of Houston is unlikely to make the opening-day roster.
Dan Nwaelele - Also a training camp invitee, Nwaelele shot 48 and 45 percent from beyond the college three-point line in his last two seasons at Airforce. San Antonio might see him as Danny Green 2.0.
Sam Young - The athletic small forward has played for Memphis, Philadelphia and Indiana but hasn't built upon a raw offensive game. He's been invited to camp.
Courtney Fells - A swingman out of North Carolina State, Fells is also a camp invitee.
Gregg Popovich - The Spurs look relatively the same as last season. Popovich has been one of the most active proponents of resting his stars during the regular season, and that will be just as important this season. He's preached about Leonard's growth into a star, and bringing the young forward along will be the biggest step forward in keeping the Spurs train moving forward as Parker, Duncan and Ginobili age.