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
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
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
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.