Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Trade Mongering...

Sorry that I've been neglecting you guys all this time, and I'm hoping that I can get back into the swing of things, but I've been swamped with real life. I haven't even watched as many games as I've wanted, heck I haven't even had enough time to watch Chuck, Kenny, and EJ on TNT OverTime on Okay, so the big news nowadays is this:

Ultimately, the trade would come down to probably Manu Ginobili and stuff for Amar'e. I'll admit, that the Spurs have been dismal at the start of this season. Richard Jefferson is having a hard time figuring out what to do, and while Tony, Manu, and Timmy are all doing what they can to keep the Spurs in contention, the inconsistencies of everyone else is really hurting them. My first cursory assessment is simply that they really don't have the interior presence to keep up with other contending teams. While DeJuan Blair has been a pleasant surprise and Antonio McDyess certainly has been getting back in the groove of things, neither one is really THE big man that can be paired with Timmy. Spurs are lacking in that 2nd big man that can start and make a difference alongside Timmy and provide that offensive threat when Timmy is resting, even more so now than before. To put in terms of history, it's like we have a frontcourt rotation of Timmy, Robert Horry, and Malik Rose. Sure Horry and Rose were both part of the championship rotations, but they had Nazr Mohammed's decent inside game, Francisco Elson's decent shot-blocking and Fabricio Oberto's passing, and David Robinson. Will Amar'e add that?

The last major mid-season acquisition made by the Spurs I think was Nazr Mohammed, and even he, while supplanting Rasho Nesterovic's starting role in the playoffs and finals, wasn't that involved at least from an offensive end, and that's my biggest question. Can Amar'e fit in in an offensive set that isn't run-and-gun? Well, I guess one of my biggest questions. I can't say that I've seen enough of Amar'e playing to know what I'm exactly talking about, but these are the five questions that I think needs to be answered:

1.) Can Amar'e fit into Popovich's offensive and defensive schemes?

There's no doubt that Amar'e can rebound, block shots, and score, the issue is, can he do it consistently without Steve Nash? Can he live without the ball? Can he be that extra shot blocking presence that the Spurs so desperately need next to Tim Duncan? Amar'e is probably up there on a list of 10 players that I would love to see Timmy play next to, but the issue is is it enough or is it too little to late? Especially given the mid-season trade issue, the question more perhaps than whether or not he can do it, is whether or not he can do it in the short period of time post-trade and pre-playoffs.

2.) Can Amar'e be effective without the ball?

What made the Twin Towers of Duncan and Robinson so effective was that both were so willing to defer to the other. They both played the high and low post positions so well that they could continually split the offensive load of going down low. While I know that Amar'e has a nice jumper, I have to again claim ignorance on his low-post game if he does have one. From what I've seen, it's generally a face-up, dribble-drive kind of thing. I think that can work, but can he put himself in a place in the offense for that to work, even if he's not the one scoring the points.

3.) Can Amar'e pass the ball?

Popovich's offense has generally been based on drawing double-teams and kicking the ball around the trailer or open three-point shooter in the wings. Generally the one to draw such double teams has been Duncan, since most players can't effectively single cover him in the low-post, the best defender I've seen on Duncan would've been Rasheed Wallace in the 2005 NBA Finals and even then, he wasn't completely contained. While Fransisco Elson and Nazr Mohammed are anything but stellar passers, they weren't in the game to have the ball in their hands a lot, and when it was, it was to put it in the bucket off a put back or on an open look. Amar'e figures to be a major part of the offense, and therefore, will be one of those drawing the double team, so the question begs whether he can know when to kick it out and when to take it up strong.

4.) Can Amar'e play defense?

He blocks shots, but can he guard the big guy not being guarded by Tim Duncan? So the Rashard Lewises, the Kendrick Perkinses, the Mehmet Okurs, the Kenyon Martins, etc... I know we like to lump all Suns from the D'Antoni era except Shawn Marion and Raja Bell into "the Suns don't play defense" kind of mold, but we need to know for sure before going into this, how exactly is Amar'e's man-defense? How is his help defense? Part of that goes into knowing how Popovich's defense works but part of that is just work on his part. Ultimately, the question is, is Amar'e willing to do more behind the scenes stuff (score less, play more defense) to win?

5.) Can the backcourt make up for whoever is given up?

I don't see this really happening without Manu Ginobili, honestly, I don't know that it's financially possible without Manu Ginobili, as the Suns probably won't want the long term contracts of Antonio McDyess or Richard Jefferson. So, assuming that it's something like Ginobili, Hill, and Bonner for Amar'e, the Spurs lose a lot. First, they lose a play-maker in Manu. I'm sure some Spurs fans are probably having some sort of apoplectic fit just at the thought of the Spurs trading Manu, but hey, sometimes getting better hurts. What that means though, is that players like Roger Mason and Richard Jefferson have to step up a lot on the offensive end. While Amar'e hopefully makes up for some of that, the interior becomes a little more clogged, and only leaves the lone triple threat offensive piece of Tony Parker. Unless Jefferson can start making people guard him, it's a problem. Secondly, George Hill has turned out to be a defensive (and offensive) stalwart through it all. It probably hurts a lot to give up someone as talented as George Hill, and honestly, at this point in time he probably is the best perimeter defender on the team. Onus is once again on Jefferson to step it up.

Ultimately, it's not something I would dismiss offhand but also definitely not something that I would take in a heartbeat as well. While Amar'e is among those that I would love to see play with Duncan, and I think Duncan would do great wonders to developing and mentoring Amar'e, my biggest concern is that we might be blowing another hole in our team just to patch an existing one. While I believe that the big man issue was more important than that of the wings, we still need solid wing players to keep it up. If you were to ask me this at the beginning of the season I would've been more inclined to take the trade, but honestly, at this point in time, I'm so disappointed in Richard Jefferson's performance that I can't honestly say that it'll really make things better. This is where the help defense issue comes in I guess, if the help is good enough, it makes up for some of the loss in perimeter defense. I trust Pop and Buford though in their decision, I believe that whatever they decided to do, it will be what they think is best. Just wish they thought of this sooner.