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I've Got Spurs that Jingle Jangle Jingle

I've started doing a fair amount of research in preparation for the upcoming season preview and even the preliminary work is showing that there's one team likely to be a wildcard near the top of the Western Conference standings, namely the Spurs.  And your opinion of the Spurs' chances probably hinges on your assessment of the Richard Jefferson acquisition.  Many folks are taking this as the best move since John Cusak held up that boombox in "Say Anything".  I can see it on the surface.  Jefferson is only 28.  He's addressed a couple of the serious concerns that have dogged him the past few years.  He's played in 82 games each of the last two seasons.  His three-point shooting first reached acceptable, then downright impressive, levels.  He's been in the 20 ppg range or above in four out of the last five years.  The man's a legit talent.  There's no mistaking that.

So why do I balk when I start considering putting the Spurs a cut above the rest of their non-L*kers conference foes?  If you're thinking it's history or Blazer-centrism you're probably incorrect.  I have actually been quite complimentary of the Spurs forever, holding them up as the model for what the Blazers are trying to do.  If anything I'd be prone to overrating them.  I'm also a well-known advocate of only really measuring success by Portland getting better, not other teams falling or having bad luck.  If you have to depend on somebody besides yourself in order to make it you're not going to succeed in this league.  And yet I sit here toying with the idea of the Spurs making a huge leap because of RJ and it's just not happening for me.  I question his defensive prowess, which was one of the truly brilliant aspects of Bruce Bowen's game.  Bowen also nailed baseline three-pointers like clockwork.  Am I wrong to doubt Jefferson's proudly-displayed recent numbers in that vein?  I just don't see him being happy hanging around the coffin corner on offense.  I love the idea of him playing with Tony Parker and as a fan of a Spurs opponent I generally shudder at the idea of Parker having even more options to play with.  On the other hand I can't wrap my head around Jefferson and Duncan playing seamlessly together.  Jefferson draws fouls and hits free throws which is fantastic for San Antonio.  They haven't really had that dimension at small foward.  But he's not the rebounder he once was which puts even more pressure on Timmy.  For everything you like there's also a dislike, or at least a question.

Meanwhile the season encroaches and somebody has to step up and peg these guys pretty soon.  So somebody is turning to you.  Help a brother out.  I don't think the Spurs are much worse off than they were last season as long as Duncan stays healthy, but are they better?  Particularly are they much better and is that "much" due to R-Jeff coming on board?  Where would you put them in the Western hierarchy?

Contribute your assessment below.  Juicy reasoning helps.

--Dave (