2009/10 Review:

The San Antonio Spurs started last season with high expectations for a Championship run and actually they had the personnel to think about such goal. They got a charitable trade from Milwaukee to acquire Richard Jefferson for basically nothing and on the paper their roster was loaded with plenty of valuable pieces.

However their team chemistry was far from being the adequate for a Championship contender team and during the season, head coach Greg Popovich made several changes searching for the right combination, but he couldn’t find the right rotation.

In the playoffs the Spurs knocked down the Mavericks in the first round of the Western Conference showing some encouraging basketball on both ends of the floor, but then they were swept in the second round by the Phoenix Suns – a team that they were used to dominate in the playoffs.

In such a veteran and experienced team the word “healthy” is more relevant than anything else and the Spurs had some natural problems in this department. Manu Ginobili had his ups and downs in being sidelined; Tony Parker missed 26 games and Tim Duncan logged 31.3 minutes per game – lowest numbers of his 13-years career.

With these veteran players missing some playing time, Greg Popovich gave more opportunities for the young players to show up and luckily for the organization, the Spurs are building their future, while being extremely competitive in the present.

Richard Jefferson turned to be the focus of the discussions for any Spurs fan looking for answers from what went wrong for the team, but let’s not forger that for the first time in the last 10 years (at least) the Spurs weren’t on the top 10 in the league in FG% on the defensive end!

The window of capturing another Championship with Tim Duncan being the leader is closing quickly and the Spurs can’t afford to have another complete season wasted into looking their right chemistry.

2009/10 Advanced stats:

Pace 21st 94.7
Offense 9th 107.2
Defense 9th 101.7
Rebounds 3rd +3.27

2010/11 Outlook:

Projected Depth Chart:

PG: Tony Parker, George Hill, Garrett Temple, Curtis Jerrells
SG: Manu Ginobili, James Anderson, Gary Neal
SF: Richard Jefferson, Alonzo Gee
PF: Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner
C: Tiago Splitter, Antonio McDyess

Quietly the San Antonio Spurs were one of the biggest offseason winners without getting much hype from the media. Why? Because they were able to sign the two-time MVP of the Spanish league Tiago Splitter to a mere three-year $10 million contract. To put it simple let’s say that the Spurs signed a player similar to Luis Scola, but they will pay him like he was Matt Bonner, terrific right?

Splitter will be the best center that Tim Duncan has played along since David Robinson (note that there’s no way I’m comparing Splitter to Robinson) and Duncan is in a stage of his career that he needs all help that the organization can offer to him.

Rather than come directly into the NBA, Splitter has been in playing in Spain for the past few years. In 2010, he was named MVP of the Spanish League, with averages of 15.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in just 28 minutes per game. He’s 6-11 with some athleticism and has a solid game on both sides of the floor. He could have stayed in Spain and win a lot of more money there, but instead he chose to play alongside Tim Duncan for less money in order to improve his game.

The only Spurs’ player playing in his prime right now is Tony Parker, but last season was far from being a good season for him. He was limited to 56 games last season due to injuries. But even when he was healthy, he had his worst statistical output since the 2003-04 season by averaging 16 points and 5.7 assists while shooting 48.7% from the field. Reportedly healthy (Parker skipped the FIBA World Championships this summer to ensure that he enters the season healthy), Parker is entering the final year of his contract, and he’ll be ultra-motivated as he’s looking to secure a max contract at season’s end so we can expect him to have a bounce back season and certainly the Spurs won’t mind it.

By playing only 56 games last season, Parker “opened” the doors for the emergence of George Hill in the team. While being a starter, Hill averaged 15.3 points and 3.6 assists and showed some great defense against the league’s best shooting guards. Hill is one of the futures faces of the organization and who knows if he will be the natural replacement of Tony Parker at the point. Right now it looks like he will his backup, but given Popovich’s love for bringing Ginobili off the bench, it won’t be impossible to think that Hill may begin the year as the team’s starting SG.

Manu Ginobili managed to stay relatively healthy in 2009-10, as he played 75 games after playing only 44 in the previous year, but still he is an injury prone player just because the way he plays basketball. However Manu remains as one of the league’s most exciting and productive players on a per-minute basis. Last season he averaged 16.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.8 3-pointers per game by being the 6th man coming off the bench. He didn’t play for his national team this summer, so we can expect him to be completely healthy starting this season and leading one of the most productive second units in the NBA.

On the other side, Richard Jefferson was simultaneous the biggest offseason acquisition and biggest disappointing player last season. In a strange occurrence of events, Richard Jefferson decided to opt-out of the final year of his contract ($15 million) and then the Spurs resigned him for nearly $40 million. Jefferson’s numbers last season decreased in every relevant statistic except in his Field Goal percentage and more than a natural regression in his level of play he looked really uncomfortable in the Spurs system.

If you remember the old and truly winning Spurs teams featured Bruce Bowen as their premium Small Forward and his role on the offensive end was merely residual: being the team’s spot up shooter. The problem is that Jefferson isn’t comfortable as a spot up shooter, it simply just isn’t his thing, and his numbers prove it. It won’t be difficult for RJ to have a bounce back season, but Popovich has to retool his playbook and give RJ more freedom on the offensive end.

All this terrific supporting cast is to provide Tim Duncan another year of domination. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich recently said that Duncan returned this summer for his 14th season perhaps in even better shape than a year ago, when the perennial All-Star reported to training camp 15 pounds lighter. He averaged a career low 31.3 minutes per game, but his production when he’s on the court is still from a top notch superstar caliber player.

The Spurs had last season the most productive bench of the entire league with 39.3 points per game and for this season the Spurs still has a pro active second unit capable of changing the outcome of any game by their own. DeJuan Blair was the steal of the draft last year, as he knows how to use his 6-7, 280 lb frame to physically inhale rebounds. Do you remember his 27 points and 23 rebounds game in a start against Dallas on April 14th or his 28 points and 21 rebounds performance against the Thunder on January 13th? This season they drafted guard James Anderson and he could be a pleasant surprise for the future. The veteran ship is still there with Antonio McDyess and Matt Bonner for a more complete frontcourt.

Behind the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference the competitive is wide open for the second seed. Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks are the frontrunner’s for such seed, but the San Antonio Spurs have the best roster on the paper, now they just have to prove it on the court.