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The wheel keeps on turning. Every game brings a new rotation and a whole new set of problems. Defensively, there continue to be glaring holes. When we played Oklahoma City, players did not box out, shooters were left wide open, and the help defense was not quick enough on rotations. Duke University’s Coach K says it best, “When you first assemble a group, it’s not a team right off the bat. It’s only a collection of individuals.” That is exactly what we have now. Each position has its problems, so where does everyone fit in?

Point Guard is our strongest position this season. Parker is ever improving. Over the last few seasons he has developed into a dominate player. He is able to move the ball and get to the hole. Tony has added a mid-range jumper to his game, allowing him to shoot over screens or pump fake and drive to the basket. Defensively, he leaves something to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, we can do much worse, but I have seen time and time again defenders brush right past him and into the lane. As a team defender, he is fine, but man to man, we could use some improvement. The Spurs need Tony to deliver 20 points, 3 boards and 6 assists a game from his position. George Hill has been a breath of fresh air in the back up slot. In recent years we have lacked good depth at this position. When Tony took a seat, so did the offense. As the entire bench has proven this year, they and Hill are fully capable of carrying the load. Hill is a heady player. He is not afraid to guard more talented and bigger players, but has shown he can roll with the big dogs on the offensive end as well. He gives you the versatility to play outside or go to the rim. If Hill can improve his drive and dish game he will be a future star in this league. The Spurs will need 12 points, 4 boards, and 4 assists a game from Hill.

While everything appears to be moving well at the point guard slot, shooting guard has been a bit muddy this year. Rotations with Mason, Manu, Bogans, and Finley seem to yield few results. I would like to think Finley is not even on the roster right now. I love the guy, but it looks like there is not much left in the chamber. Each of these players provides a quality shooter from the perimeter, so how do they differ. Mason and Bogans each have the ability to get to the whole. Mason has developed a better drive and dish game while Bogans offers a solid on the ball defender and some size. At this point I would rather see Bogans starting, much like Bruce did, to offer that initial defense and outside touch to accept open threes from Tony and Tim from the paint. Bring Mason off the bench for that spark on offense when they need more speed and firepower. Even the occasional small line-up, with Hill playing the two, looks viable if Pop wants to give the team an extra gear. Overall, do not expect much from this position all year long. We should expect no more than 8 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists from the starting guard, and 5, 3, and 1 for the back-up.

Small forward is the most intriguing position for the Spurs. We have several quality players at this position, and Pop can apply several looks throughout the game. Richard Jefferson is the clear starter. He does not look great now, but he can be a huge contributor as the season moves forward. Richard has shown us the ability to get in the paint and finish strong. He is incredibly fast and athletic, a capable rebounder, and a solid defender. Jefferson gives the Spurs a legitimate 20 point scorer to take the pressure off of Tim and Manu on the offensive end. The Spurs need to give him the freedom to put the ball on the floor and make things happen. Jefferson is at his best when he is allowed to use his entire skill set and size to punish his defenders. We need 20 points, 6 boards, and 3 assists from RJ. On the depth chart, Manu is listed as the back-up at this position, not at shooting guard, although, we will see him get some minutes at the two as well. Manu is a better on the ball defender and a much better perimeter shooter than RJ is. As Manu gets older, so do his parts, and like an old car those parts appear to be breaking down. Pop will keep his minutes down throughout the season, but he has been a solid producer even with sub 30 minute outings. Expect Manu to give us 15 points, 5 boards, and 4 assists a game. We should never underestimate Manu’s ability to change the game with just one play, the Spurs will need that again this year.

Tim Duncan is still one of the best Power Forwards in the league. While he starts at this position he plays more in the pivot, and as such is more like a center. Duncan should no longer be relied on for every aspect of the game for the Spurs. If we want to get a couple more years out of him, we have to start spreading the load. Tim’s interior defense, rebounding, and ability to manipulate a double team allows him to improve the play of others around him. He anchors this team on both ends of the floor giving our guys the freedom to make plays and allow him to command the team from the paint. Even more than Tony, Tim is the quarterback for this team. If Tim can give us 16 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and a couple blocks a game, he has done his job. Let’s just hope he can keep doing that while staying around 25 minutes a game. Obviously, Dejuan Blair is a solid back up at the 4 position. Just like Malik Rose he provides a great deal of energy and an uncanny ability to find the ball. He is extremely powerful, once he gets his legs under him, he will be a solid back up in the NBA. Blair should be good for 8 points and 8 rebounds a game.

The center position provides us another one of those black holes, nothing good seems to be coming out. It begins with Matt Bonner. I can not imagine why Pop continues to start him. He has a great attitude and provides intangibles that our team needs, but he is not an efficient starter. He does not provide the interior presence, defensive prowess, or rebounding consistency we need. I have no idea where the coaching staff will finally settle, but I would prefer to see McDyess starting and Ratliff backing up. Bonner could then float from the 4 and 5 spots to give a little spread and speed to the offense when needed. McDyess and Ratliff both provide the quality interior defender that we have lacked in recent years. We do not need scoring from this position; the rest of the team can pick up the slack. The starter should give us 6 points and 8 boards, while the back up delivers 4 points and 4 boards.

Trial by fire is the best way to learn, and the Spurs have and will continue to see their share as the season rolls along. The roster will continue to rotate until the coaching staff settles on the best option. This is one of the most talented teams I have seen, but every player and coach needs to stay within their strengths. Just like a well prepared meal, all the correct seasonings and ingredients must be combined in just the right order to achieve culinary greatness. When this season is complete, this Spurs team will serve up one of the greatest levels of basketball tastiness that we have seen, and maybe even a Larry O’brien trophy for dessert.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful article very good insight to what the Spurs need! Its great to have all the options the Spurs have but its true that we need to find a squad that can run harmonously!!!