Friday, October 29, 2010

Regular Season Game 2: Hosting the Hornets

Ever since they took us to 7 games in the 2008 Western Conference Semi-Finals, the Hornets have kind of been in a downward spiral...  That being said, there's not a night we can really afford to take off, especially since we're looking for homecourt advantage this year.

PG Tony Parker Chris Paul
SG Manu Ginobili Marco Belinelli
SF Richard Jefferson Trevor Ariza
PF DeJuan Blair David West
C Tim Duncan Emeka Okafor
Bench George Hill Jerryd Bayless

Gary Neal Marcus Thornton

James Anderson Willie Green

Bobby Simmons Jason Smith

Antonio McDyess D.J. Mbenga

Well, we know that Bonner is out for 10-14 days, and with Splitter still sidelined until Monday, this means we have to run small, which works out okay since West and Okafor isn't exactly the biggest frontline you'll run into.  It'll be interesting to see how Blair fares against this kind of front line.  I don't relish having to play small ball with Bobby Simmons manning the 4 in the reserve squad, so I expect Blair to get a lot more burn, and McDyess ultimately to get the brunt of the minutes freed up by Bonner.  While McDyess doesn't have the floor stretching capabilities of Bonner, he's been hitting those midrange jumpers at a fair clip, so I'm not too concerned except with trying to contain the Hornets' guards.  Paul, Thornton, and Bayless are all fairly good at penetrating the defense, with how Collison worked us over last time, we really need to tighten up on denying penetration by the Hornets' backcourt.

Essentially this comes back to a duel once again between Parker and Paul, but the big difference is that I think Tony has a lot more help than CP3 does.  That being said, we cannot dismiss shooters like Belinelli, Green, and Peja, while shots may not have been falling, we can't give them open threes.  Since Timmeh is our only real shot-blocker, the defense needs to tighten up a little.  I expect Blair to continue to play aggressively, hopefully forcing the opposing frontcourt into foul trouble.  While Okafor didn't take a single shot in his first game of the season, I don't expect that trend to continue, and he is a decent back-to-the-basket threat.  I don't know that he'll have his way like Roy Hibbert did, he'll still be a force to be reckoned with.  While I don't necessarily consider Okafor a go-to option, and I didn't watch the game against Milwaukee game, I'm a little confused as to why they don't go to him more.  Then again, I haven't watched enough of Okafor to say otherwise.  David West naturally will be something of a handful, so it will be interesting to see how Blair matches with a more versatile PF this season as opposed to an athletic energy guy like Josh McRoberts.

I get the hunch that Ariza will be put on Manu, but either way, whoever ends up having the off-guard (be it Belinelli or Thornton or Green) needs to really attack the basket.  Word is that Monty Williams is starting Belinelli because his defense is supposedly better than Marcus Thornton's which is saying a lot about Thornton, because Belinelli's defense is pretty atrocious.  So, I'm guessing it's going to be RJ and Anderson who will have those players on them, which means, attack, attack, attack.  While with CP3 anything is possible, this is another game we theoretically should win.  Of course, the question then potentially comes down to playing the Big 3 extended minutes or going for the kill.  I hope it doesn't come to that, but again, CP3 is just that good.  Without major shotblocking/altering on defense, the perimeter players are going to have to go at it much more aggressively.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Notes on the Season Opener

I was able to catch about 2 and a 1/2 quarters on League Pass before going to bed last night (I got home late and I was tired, sorry), and overall, seeing the 122-109 victory we had over the Pacers I'd say that we're looking in pretty good order for the most part.  Of course, that being said, there are points of concern for me personally.  This probably isn't going to be a full-fledged recap, but just some things that I've noticed with in this game.

The Good
- Early in the game the Spurs were pressuring the ball on defense, causing a lot of miscues and were able to poke the ball away for some easy buckets.  Good job at keeping the ball in play, I like how Tony knows to leak on those opportunities.

- RJ is playing aggressively, some easy shots aren't falling, but he's not letting that get to him.  I also like how he's starting to be very active without the ball and attacking the basket consistently.  He won't be the Paul Pierce or even Corey Maggette type foul machine, but he'll get to the line a good bit if he keeps this up.  16 points on 6 shots, I like the efficiency.

- Timmeh is hitting mid-range jumpers like he's a shooting guard.  10-12 from the field, 23 points that I didn't catch watching most of the game.  He's sticking with what he knows works.  He won't be backing people down, but the pick and pops with Tony are working very well. 

- James Anderson has a sweet shot.  I hope they find him more.  I also liked his hustle on both ends of the court.  Michael Finley 2.0 people, I'm calling it.

- Antonio McDyess has a very smooth 12-15 foot jumper, gives Manu and Tony a ton of room to operate.

- DeJuan Blair has developed an immensely smooth free throw.  I like how he's hustling for the ball, while the box score may not have been entirely favorable for him last night, if he does the dirty work he'll get more than his fair share of free throws, and with his touch from the line now I'm sure it'll make a huge difference.

- Overall everyone looked really comfortable with whatever lineup on the court, there is excellent chemistry and everyone seems pretty comfortable with their parts are whatever role they need to do.

- Manu is healthy, and Manu.

The Bad
- I shouldn't have a whole lot of call-outs here, but I can't say that the game was perfect, I mean, I know the Pacers are a hot-shooting offensive team, but we did allow 109 points.

- While I liked the hustle on the defensive end, and I understand what Dwight Howard means when he says Darren Collison is "jerky", there was way too much penetration.  Defense seemed to be sort of like an every-other play thing.  I appreciate us being able to run with the Pacers and keep up with them, we mirrored them too much defensively as well.

- There were a couple (not a whole lot) of broken plays which ended in ugly Matt Bonner dribble-drives.  Can he please not put the ball on the floor?  2nd unit needs to develop a go-to guy (not Matt Bonner).

- Until Tiago Splitter gets back I'm concerned about size.  Roy Hibbert kind of had his way out there with us, which makes me sad because we were projected to have drafted him but Pacers took him early (we got Hill instead, so it ends up being okay).  At the end of the 1st quarter Pop had a lineup of TP, George Hill, James Anderson, Matt Bonner, and Antonio McDyess.  Yikes. 

The Ugly (and other random thoughts)
- Manu drew a 3pt shooting foul on Danny Granger by doing the leg flail and accidentally kicking Granger in the 'nads.  Ouch.  Sorry Danny.

- Mike Dunleavy drew a foul away from the ball for not being able to move backwards near Manu without falling over.

- Overall, the reffing as per usual was a little suspect, but hey, it is what it is.

- Can somebody please box out Josh McRoberts?

- George Hill and RJ got in some foul trouble early in the game.  Fortunately RJ had already done his damage by the end of the first half.

- While the Spurs were able to cling on in the frenetic pace, they need to set the tempo.  I know they want to run, but at times it seemed they were trying to play a little too fast; not every team is going to be as sloppy passing the ball around as Indiana.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Regular Season Game 1: Hosting the Pacers

So this is something that I was planning on doing last season, but didn't get around to, so hopefully, I do a better job this season.  In terms of NBA games, this is one we should win, should being the operative word there, but of course, since it is the NBA, you never know with a single game.  Here's what the matchups are boiling down to:

PG Tony Parker Darren Collison
SG Manu Ginobili Mike Dunleavy
SF Richard Jefferson Danny Granger
PF DeJuan Blair Josh McRoberts
C Tim Duncan Roy Hibbert
Bench George Hill
James Anderson
Bobby Simmons
Matt Bonner
Antonio McDyess
T.J. Ford
Dahntay Jones
Paul George
Tyler Hansbrough
Jeff Foster

So this is a good opportunity for Jefferson's new-found defensive tenacity and summer work with Pop to really start showing some fruit.  I unfortunately didn't have the opportunity to catch any of the Spurs' preseason games, but from what I read, the reaction to Jefferson's production thusfar has been mixed.  In the preseason, statistically, he wasn't significantly improved from last season, but some people put it that he looks much better than last year, looking more decisive and comfortable on the court, in the offense, and much more aggressive on defense.  He also seemed to show good mojo with Manu Ginobili (then again, who wouldn't?), which may be part of why Pop moved Manu back to the starting lineup.  Anyways, we know Danny Granger can score, he's got a nice touch from mid to long range.  However, the criticism has been that he doesn't really do a whole lot else, which is why he was bench fodder on Team USA during FIBA in the offseason.  As I've said plenty of times before, in addition to Jefferson being aggressive in with his man defense, he has to punish the opposition on the other side of the floor as well, forcing whoever is guarding him to work or give up easy buckets.

With the slowing Duncan, and lack of Tiago Splitter thusfar, the matchups ultimately come down to pick-and-rolls.  Dwight Howard once said in an interview that Darren Collison is one of the more difficult players to guard off a pick-and-roll simply because he's difficult to anticipate (or in Dwight's words "He's real jerky").  Yahoo Sports has T.J. Ford starting this game, which may be entirely possible, but I'm think it's a Collison start.  How well Parker and Duncan can contain a Collison-Hibbert pick-and-roll offense is really, I think going to mitigate the effectiveness of the Pacers.  Outside of Granger, the Pacers really don't have much of an offensive option, of course that's also pending the effectiveness of Bill Walton working with Roy Hibbert during the offseason.  While Mike Dunleavy is back and healthy, he apparently has nothing between the bones in his knee, so I see his effectiveness being very limited. 

While preseason was a good indicator of who will actually make the rotation, this game will be a better indication of what that rotation will specifically look like.  While the Spurs should handily roll over the Pacers, we do need a lot of things to be clicking.  Mostly, I'm looking for smart defensive rotations and aggressive offensive play from our backcourt.  I say Spurs by 5.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Making the Matchups: Utah Jazz

And so on and on and on we go.  Pop has settled into a starting lineup so I'll use that for now, and we'll move forward from there, assuming that Tiago Splitter is healthy by the time this matchup really means anything significant.

Spurs Jazz
PG Tony Parker Deron Williams
SG Manu Ginobili Raja Bell
SF Richard Jefferson Andrei Kirilenko
PF DeJuan Blair Paul Millsap
C Tim Duncan Al Jefferson
Bench George Hill
James Anderson
Bobby Simmons
Matt Bonner
Antonio McDyess
Earl Watson
C.J. Miles
Gordon Hayward
Jeremy Evans
Kyrylo Fesenko

So I know I'm leaving off Tiago Splitter and Mehmet Okur, but both are currently injured, and while we might have an idea of what might happen when they get back, I'm not going to jump into any major conclusions.  I'm no longer entirely confident in a Splitter/Duncan starting lineup, but of course, there's no real way of telling that having yet to see Splitter play a single NBA game.  Okur will likely slide back to the starting C spot for the Jazz when he returns, moving Jefferson back to a more natural PF slot and Millsap back to the bench.  I know that Alonzo Gee could surprise us and somehow make the roster, but I'm really leaning towards Pop going for at least the known quantity of Bobby Simmons.  Probably not the greatest name you can get, but he'll get the job done. 

A lot of question goes to how well Al Jefferson will do replacing Carlos Boozer.  While putting up similar stats, Jefferson is a pretty different player from Boozer, preferring to post up on the left block and isolate.  I can't say I've seen Jefferson play enough to determine anything, but I think he'll be someone that Pop focuses a the defense on a lot.  I also expect Pop to try to push the ball inside, trying to get Jefferson into early foul trouble since he's been known to not move his feet very well on defense.  While Raja Bell is a definitive improvement over Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver or rather a fusion of the two, I still don't know that he'll entirely mitigate the threat that is Manu Ginobili.  If a matchup occurs early in the season, it'll be interesting to see how well Blair matches up against his undersized counterpart of Paul Millsap.  Both are stellar rebounders and just have a nose for the ball, it'll be an interesting matchup.  When Splitter and Okur return to the lineups, I expect Pop to have Tiago guard Memo partially because a sweet-shooting European big is something Tiago is used to seeing.

What this matchup will ultimately boil down to will be the Tony Parker/Deron Williams matchup.  Williams has generally fallen short of the Chris Paul/Deron Williams debate, but I actually really like Williams much better.  For one, he's a lot bigger than Paul and with his speed and handles tacked on to that size, he becomes a nightmare to guard.  While Derrick Rose may have gotten the most recent "Jason Kidd with a jump shot" comparisons, the original "Jason Kidd with a jump shot" was and to me still is Deron Williams.  Not only that, he has a very good vision and basketball IQ, he's someone that Jerry Sloan says he trusts to make decisions on the floor, so he doesn't call as many plays for him to run, this from a coach that coached John Stockton.  While Parker doesn't have the size, he certainly has the speed to compensate.  I would try to attack Williams on offense, make him work hard on defense and force the ball out of his hands either via a difficult shot or having to dish off to teammates early.  Sloan has always been a huge fan of the pick-and-roll so depending on how well Williams and either Millsap or Jefferson are connecting, our pick-and-roll defense needs to be impeccable.  Essentially, the Spurs need to try to force the other Jazz players to try to make plays.  This will be especially difficult trying to contain Al Jefferson on the left block as well.

Essentially the key to this matchup is aggressiveness, which seems ironic given that the Jazz are typically known as a fairly aggressive team, but the Spurs need to match if not surpass that aggressiveness.  However, that's not to say that the Spurs don't play smart.  They need to pressure the Jazz on offense, forcing silly fouls, especially from their frontcourt.  Jazz typically are very physical so the Spurs can't be intimidated.  On defense, they need to force the ball out of Deron Williams's hands, that would be ideal, making Raja Bell make tough plays, but most importantly, they need to play smart on those pick-and-rolls, rotating well and showing hard on the guards, forcing penetration along the baseline to shot blockers, like we always do (or try to).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Frontcourt Rotations: Handling the Bigs

It's pretty hard for me to believe that Tim Duncan has already been playing in the league for 12 years.  34.  Really?  A whole dozen?  David Robinson is a Hall-of-Famer, he's already been retired for 7.  While we've been hearing how "old" the Spurs have gotten (reminder: Tony Parker is only 28), and how pundits keep teetering back and forth between the Spurs being "over the hill" and "not quite out of the picture yet" the Spurs have quietly been making moves to stay relevant.  I mean, in those 12 years Duncan has led these Spurs to 12 Playoff appearances, 6 Conference Finals appearances, 4 Conference titles, and 4 NBA Championships.  If that's not a pedigree for success, I don't know what is.  Of those 12 Playoff runs, only twice have the Spurs been ousted in the first round, so to say Spurs fans are a little spoiled might just be on the money.  I mean, seriously, out of the 1,098 regular season games he's coached, Pop has won 736 of them, that's 67%, last season was the only time Pop was less than 10 wins over .500 since he took over the Robinson-less Spurs 18 games into the season in 1996-1997.

With all the pretext, we jump to what I really was going to post about.  Traditionally Pop has enjoyed keeping his rotations short, especially in the frontcourt, nonetheless, Pop has also been good about getting his frontcourt stars (now just Timmy) rest.  Especially as they get older, Pop I think is more inclined to try to save the legs of his older stars, especially Duncan (given his NBA mileage) and Ginobili (maybe to a lesser extent) for when the games matter more (a.k.a. the Playoffs).  So I wanted to take a more in depth look at who we have and what possible pairings work out.  While it's obvious that Duncan will still take a majority of the minutes, the 40 minutes per game (circa 2001-2002) days are over for him.  So there are still a bit of minutes to go around, with one starter and at least two reserve positions to go around. There's 96 minutes between the two frontcourt positions.  So who gets them?  Let's do a quick overview of the available players:

Tim Duncan (6-11, 260 lbs)

Well, duh.  It's not like I really have to explain myself on this one.  The main dispute in whether or not this man is the best PF of all time is simply whether or not he really is a PF, or a C disguised as a PF because he got drafted onto David Robinson's team.  If you listen to Doug Collins in the 1999 NBA Finals broadcast though, Bob Costas asks (I think in game 2) why this "Twin Towers" pairing of Duncan and Robinson works and Collins says simply because both are such complete (versatile) players.  Both could spread the floor, both could post up, both could alter/block shots, both could rebound, both could run with the ball, both could find the open man.  It's been seven years since Duncan has played with someone the likes of Robinson, and I'm pretty sure that he isn't going to again during his career.  However, since 2003, Duncan has quietly carried the Spurs on his back.  He doesn't have the legs he used to, but Duncan has always been a saavy player, able to play to his strengths and high basketball IQ.  He won't be alter multiple attempts and still come up with the rebound anymore, so that's why we're hoping the other guys step it up.  Duncan, despite his age, is still probably one of the most complete frontcourt players in the game.  He has a litany of post moves and can still comfortably hit that 19 foot wing jumper, so it's hard to imagine who wouldn't fit next to him, I mean, Nazr Mohammed was a viable option, but again, this is no longer the Duncan of old, the Duncan we remember.  He's still awesome, just not 2003 awesome.

DeJuan Blair (6-7, 265 lbs)

Blair has been making a strong case for himself to be a starter next to Duncan in the 2010 preseason.  In the three games Blair has averaged 15.3 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1.3 steals on 55.3% shooting in just under 23 minutes of play.  Those are some pretty good numbers, but the impressive part has been where the numbers aren't.  He's been effective defensively, moving his feet, and while his jumper hasn't been consistent, it's been enough with his defense to show that he can in fact play next to Duncan.  Originally Pop had worried about size and being able to stop opposing frontcourts with a pairing of Duncan and Blair, but Blair's penchant for the ball off the glass as well as defensive tenacity has won Pop over, choosing to start him over the other options consistently for these preseason games.  I can't say I've seen enough of Blair to know extensively how well he plays.  I was elated when he fell to the Spurs in the second round of last year's draft, but aside from a couple of college stats and YouTube videos of him completely owning 2nd overall pick Hasheem Thabeet, I can't say I knew a whole lot besides the fact he had no ACLs.  DraftExpress says his best case scenario is becoming like Paul Millsap, which, I think I'm pretty okay with, but at this point in time, I think he's actually looking like an even better rebounder than Millsap, don't know if he can score as well, but maybe we won't need it as much.  Either way, things are looking good.  I think DraftExpress was being conservative in their upside pick, I think he can get even better.

Antonio McDyess (6-9, 245 lbs)

McDyess is one of those hard working guys you can't really help but like.  While he once was playing at All Star levels in Denver, a devastating knee injury in the 2001-2002 season derailed that.  After bouncing around the league for a few years he resurfaced in Detroit as a super reliable 6th man off the bench.  What makes McDyess so valuable, what makes him so good still (despite the drop in stats) is that he does all the little things; he hustles for those rebounds, he moves his feet on defense, and it doesn't hurt that he has a reliable 12-15 foot mid-range jumper.  Though perhaps not the explosive player he once was, McDyess has the experience of playing with winning teams (Detroit Pistons from 2004-2009) and deferring to stars (Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton).  He knows what he has to do, and he does the under-appreciated blue-collar work that every championship team needs done.  While he won't give you the 20-10 games night in and night out, he'll be that little edge that pushes you over the top in a tight game or even a tight series.

Matt Bonner (6-10, 240 lbs)

Matt Bonner is supposedly the king of adjusted statistical plus/minus (and sandwiches).  While I'm not really a plus/minus junkie, I guess that's a good thing.  If there's one thing that Matt Bonner can do, it's hit open three pointers.  He's actually pretty good at that.  He hit 39% last season and is a career 40.6% 3 point shooter, that's better than most guards.  This works out well simply because it stretches the defense.  You give Duncan room to work inside, or Manu and Tony room to penetrate.  He's a niche player that's found a very nice niche to fit into.  He's not really ideal most of the time (lacking both athleticism and defense) he's a known quantity and Pop certainly knows where and when to fit him in.  With more options, I see Bonner's minutes being limited, but him still being a contributing factor.  Maybe a Danny Ferry circa 2002 role.

Tiago Splitter (7-0, 245 lbs)

We have yet to see Splitter play a single minute of NBA basketball.  Still, when it comes to expectations there has to be more than just a little bit of pressure on Splitter's shoulders, I suppose being one of the best if not the best big man in Euroleague might have something to do with that.  I can't say I've seen a lot of Splitter playing, even on YouTube, but from what I hear, he's a solid post player.  Finishes well at the rim.  From what I saw, he had a pretty ugly (albeit effective) hook shot in the paint.  He's not a stellar shot blocker but he does move his feet and alter a lot of shots, which is good, we like altered shots.  He doesn't rebound quite as well as I'd like, but he's also still a work in progress.  A lot of people have noted after Luis Scola's dominant performance as compared to Splitter's above-average one in the FIBA world championships, that Splitter's greatest asset is his great basketball IQ.  He picks up quick and makes quick and good decisions with and without the ball.  Some fans are content with an improved Fabricio Oberto.  I personally think he has greater upside, but I'm no basketball scout, so I can't say for sure.  If the fundamentals are there though, and with Tim Duncan to mentor him, he could become something special.  While he's no second-coming of David Robinson, he'll probably be one of the better centers in the league, let's just see how he diversifies his game.  I don't know that Pop plays him enough or that he gets the ball enough to be RoY material, but he'll definitely make a big impact when he's on the floor.

DeMarcus Cousins (6-11, 245 lbs)

Yeah, don't I wish.  I know, I couldn't help myself.  Enter somebody I know absolutely nothing about.  He's been pretty productive across the three preseason games, but I don't know if that means anything significant.  With Tiago currently injured, it might.

I'm not Pop so anything I say now in terms of on court pairings is pretty moot, but here's my take on how things will work out.  The first issue will be who is the primary big next to Duncan.  While Splitter was kind of the de facto guy, Blair has made a very strong case for himself this preseason.  I can see it going either way depending on the matchups, though I venture to say that in the long run Splitter generally gets the starting nod, sliding Duncan back to the PF slot.  The nice thing about the trio of Duncan, Splitter, and Blair is that it can potentially work like Duncan, Robinson, and Rose, where any two of the three can play next to each other.  Since Splitter is really the only "true" center on the roster, I figure he should get a lot of burn with McDyess and Bonner sopping up the extra minutes Pop opts to rest Duncan.  I personally can't really envision a Blair/Bonner or Blair/McDyess frontcourt as that leaves our interior rather soft, but if that limits more the minutes of Bonner and McDyess or the minutes of Blair, I can't really say.  Generally speaking, I foresee (health being a major provision here) some kind of a Splitter/Duncan/Blair rotation with McDyess and Bonner filling in spot minutes.  This generally means that Cousin gets cut, but maybe Pop wants insurance.  What do I know?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Does the Preseason matter?

This question is almost as arbitrary as the "does Summer League matter?" question.  Where does it come from?  Well, simply put, my personal experience is from overly zealous fantasy basketball team managers who are trying to get the jump at the next sleeper in the fantasy draft.  Scott Sereday at 48minutesofhell did an analysis showing that teams that typically did well in the preseason do well in the regular season too.  While I can't argue with the numbers, my gut intuition leads me to believe that they don't necessarily correlate very well.  I'm not actually going to go into the Summer League example as that's a whole other beast that I don't want to deal with right now, but the question really does boil down to, what difference do these games make if they don't count for anything?  Not having actually seen a whole preseason game, I can't really say anything definitively, so while I don't necessarily believe that preseason wins will correlate into regular season wins (just as regular season wins don't correlate necessarily to postseason wins) I will say that preseason games do serve a very important purpose for each team.  So does this mean that San Antonio's one loss to Houston isn't a big deal?  That our one win over Miami isn't a big deal?  Well, I'll go with the cop out answer: yes and no.

Realistically, Duncan is going to play more than half of the game, and LeBron and Bosh are both going to play for more than a single quarter.  So what does the preseason do?  Well, in the end, I don't believe that we can take too much from the simple fact that the Spurs are 1-1 right now, but rather I think what is to be taken from it is what happened during the 96 minutes of play.  There are two important things that I think can be gleaned from these preseason outings: first, efficiency, I don't care who scores 20 points in a preseason game, what I do care about is how he did it.  Secondly, on court chemistry, how well specific pairings or even entire lineups play with each other.  These two give coaches better ideas of how to make rotations work and help fine tune who to keep and who to cut.

The first part is efficiency.  You keep someone in the game for long enough and he gets enough touches, he'll put up 20+ points.  Just look at Allen Iverson.  Dude averaged 26.7 points on 21.8 shots per game.  The man was averaging 41.1 minutes per game.  That means that he's sitting for only 7 minutes.  He can't come off the bench though.  What coaches look for in giving younger rotation guys more burn is who can be effective in limited minutes.  You know that Pop isn't going to give James Anderson more minutes over Manu or even Richard Jefferson, but what Pop is looking for is whether or not Anderson can be effective in the minutes he's given.

The second part is meshing.  We knew that Zach Randolph could score in the post, we knew that Eddy Curry could score in the post, when Randolph got traded to the Knicks then, there must be double the scoring in the post, right?  Wrong,  Randolph and Curry ended up cannibalizing each others' games.  What Pop is looking for here is how well pairings work, can DeJuan Blair and Tim Duncan be effective on the floor together, what about Tony and Hill, who does RJ play the best next to?  It's these kinds of questions that in-team scrimmages can't answer but semi-casual preseason games can.  That's the beauty and the benefit of preseason. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Where the Saavy Vets Come From...

Spurs have always been known as an "old" team.  Despite the resurgence of youth with the promising games of DeJuan Blair and George Hill and arrivals of young hopefuls like James Anderson and Tiago Splitter and of course the in-his-prime Tony Parker, the Spurs are still old.  Why?  Because Tim Duncan is 34.  Yup, it's been 12 years since the Spurs drafted Duncan in the 1997 draft and since his RoY performance in the 1997-1998 season.  That makes the Spurs old.  That and the fact that Manu is 33 plus all the "older" players out there doesn't help tremendously.  This isn't really intended to be a very serious post, but just random speculation I had reviewing the old Spurs championship DVDs that I have while waiting for the regular season to start. 

If we look at a lot (not all) of the veteran role players that the Spurs pick up along the way, we find that there are a lot that were on teams that the Spurs had beaten previously in the Finals or Playoffs.  Maybe Pop does some in-game scouting?  Granted the simple answer might be that the Spurs simply are a viable destination for an aging vet with something left in the tank searching for a championship, but hey, I'm just wondering... I mean, let's look at the trend:

Michael Finley joined the Spurs in 2005-2006. The Spurs beat Dallas 4-2 in the Western Conference Finals when Finley played for the Mavs under Don Nelson (with Dirk and Steve Nash).  Also Finley was on the Mavericks team that lost to the Spurs in the 2000 Conference Semifinals.

Kurt Thomas joined the Spurs in 2008 after being traded from Phoenix to the Sonics and then was traded from the Sonics for Francisco Elson and Brent Barry.  Thomas was on the Suns during the controversial 2007 Western Conference Semifinals series as well as the 1999 improbable 8th seeded New York Knicks roster.  The Suns lost in 6, the Knicks in 5.

Antonio McDyess was part of the 2005 Detroit Pistons roster that took the Spurs to 7 games in the NBA Finals.  Despite horrendous television ratings, one of the best series ever in basketball.

Richard Jefferson, the 2003 New Jersey Nets roster with Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin, but they lost in 6 games (also found it interesting that the Spurs 1st and 2nd championships bookmarked the Shaq-Kobe Lakers three-peat).

Robert Horry was part of that Lakers three-peat from 2000 through 2002, then joined the Spurs in the 2003-2004 season after the Spurs took the Lakers in 6 in their 2003 Championship run. He was also on the Lakers when they lost to the Spurs in the 1999 Conference Semifinals.

Drew Gooden, the 2009 mid-season free agent acquisition, was part of the unlikely appearance of the 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers squad in the NBA Finals, yes, the one that the Spurs embarassingly swept.

Brent Barry came over to the Spurs in the 2004-2005 season, he played for the Sonics in the 2002 Playoffs when they were eliminated by the Spurs in 5.

Francisco Elson, joining the Spurs for their 2007 championship run, was on the 2005 Denver Nuggets eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Spurs.

This may be stretching it, but Rasho Nesterovic, joining the Spurs in the 2003-2004 season was a rookie on the 1999 Timberwolves eliminated by the Spurs in the 1st round.

It's not indicative of every vet we've signed (like Roger Mason Jr.) but maybe it's telling of who we'll get next...  Sasha Pavlovic anybody?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Unfettered Optimism: Playing Bigger

Most of you can probably surmise what I'm posting about here.  So I'm going to do a cop out right now.  I have a list of 13 players.  They all have one thing in common, they're smaller (shorter) than their position traditionally dictates, deeming them "undersized".  I'll post more on this later, but can you guess who is who?  And how would you rank the 13?

PLAYER A 7.7 14.3 54.1% 0.5 1.8 26.6% 5.8 7.9 73.5% 3.9 7.6 11.5 3.9 1.5 0.8 3.1 3.0 21.7
PLAYER B 6.6 11.9 55.6% 0.0 0.0 0.0% 2.1 3.9 54.7% 4.8 7.9 12.7 1.6 1.2 0.9 2.7 5.4 15.4
PLAYER C 4.9 9.2 52.8% 0.0 0.0 0.0% 2.7 4.7 56.4% 3.7 4.7 8.5 0.8 0.7 1.6 1.5 3.9 12.4
PLAYER D 5.8 11.0 52.7% 0.0 0.1 10.0% 3.3 4.8 68.7% 3.7 6.1 9.7 1.9 1.3 1.5 2.0 5.0 14.9
PLAYER E 4.4 9.7 45.1% 0.0 0.1 22.2% 3.3 4.8 69.7% 3.3 4.1 7.3 1.4 1.1 0.5 1.9 5.4 12.1
PLAYER F 6.8 12.1 55.7% 0.0 0.1 28.6% 4.4 5.6 78.6% 3.2 4.7 7.9 1.0 0.8 0.8 1.8 3.9 18.0
PLAYER G 5.2 10.0 51.7% 0.0 0.0 0.0% 5.6 8.0 69.6% 4.3 5.9 10.2 0.9 0.7 0.9 2.1 5.5 16.0
PLAYER H 4.8 11.0 43.7% 0.0 0.2 17.7% 3.8 5.1 74.3% 3.1 5.9 9.1 1.8 1.3 0.8 2.8 5.1 13.4
PLAYER I 5.6 11.5 49.0% 0.0 0.1 0.0% 3.6 4.3 83.2% 2.9 5.3 8.1 1.1 0.6 1.2 1.9 3.4 14.9
PLAYER J 7.2 14.3 50.1% 0.0 0.0 14.3% 4.3 5.8 73.6% 3.6 5.8 9.4 2.4 0.9 1.9 2.4 3.0 18.7
PLAYER K 6.2 12.7 48.4% 0.5 1.5 33.2% 3.2 4.2 76.6% 2.5 4.9 7.4 3.2 0.7 0.4 2.0 2.7 16.0
PLAYER L 6.8 14.1 48.3% 0.8 2.4 33.5% 2.3 2.9 81.6% 2.5 6.8 9.3 1.9 1.7 1.2 1.5 2.4 16.8
PLAYER M  4.2 8.3 50.9% 0.0 0.0 16.7% 2.9 4.1 70.9% 2.2 6.3 8.6 3.5 0.8 0.3 1.8 2.8 11.4

Have at, email me or comment if you have a take.  If you can't figure out who's who, I'll post that next week.

Unfettered Optimism: Developing James Anderson

I'm actually a little surprised I haven't read a "Mr. Anderson" joke somewhere about this guy yet, but hey, we've had limited exposure to James Anderson at the NBA level, what with his hamstring injury and all.  Anderson has now been dubbed a possible steal in this year's draft for the Spurs, which, to me is a good thing, but really, who is James Anderson?  Since PtR has already beaten me to the punch, let's ask then, who do we want James Anderson to become?  Because you can all look up the college numbers and how his high efficiency game will be effective in the NBA, and despite mislabeling him as the 1985 5th round pick James Anderson, DraftExpress has all the other stuff right.  But for those of you not so inclined to do so, I'll give you the base numbers:

34.1 MPG, 22.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 2.4 TO, 2.2 3PTM, 34.1% 3PT%, 45.7% FG%

Those were his per game metrics.  Not bad right?

25.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.6 three pointers, 1.6 steals, 0.7 blocks, 45.7% field goal percentage, 34.1% three point percentage, 81% free throw percentage with 9 free throws attempted per game on 2.7 turnovers

What're those?  His pace-adjusted per 40 minute metrics.  I'd say he's pretty efficient about how he goes about things.  While he won't be getting 26% of the Spurs possessions, his efficiency leads me to believe that he at least knows how to put the ball in the bucket, and that's fine by me.  So what do we want from James Anderson?  Do we want just three point shooting?  What identity will Anderson find on this team?  Well, let's take a look at some comparisons I drew up (as you all know I love comparing to Spurs championship past):

James Anderson: 6-6, 195 lbs
Player A: 6-7, 185 lbs
Player B: 6-5, 210 lbs
Player C: 6-7, 215 lbs
Player D: 6-8, 218 lbs

Player A
Player B
Player C
Player D

Hm... would it be so wrong to at least ask this kind of performance from Anderson, at least in his first year?  Hopefully he'll improve even more.  A lot of people have stated that Anderson is potentially a starting caliber rookie, which leads to even higher expectations.  While I see him primarily being a 3 point specialist, I can definitely see him leading the team in scoring at times when nothing seems to be going right.  So who are these guys?  Well, Player A is Bruce Bowen circa 2005, Player B is Mario Elie circa 1999, Player C is Michael Finley circa 2007, and Player D is Stephen Jackson circa 2003.  Now what if Anderson developed into Finley and Jackson at their best?  I don't know if Anderson has the defensive tenacity and passing ability of Stephen Jackson, but the offensive explosiveness and potentially hot shooting of Michael Finley?  Hey, that's entirely in the realm of possibility.  With such a high ceiling (I'm talking 2000 Dallas Mavericks Michael Finley) a revamped Richard Jefferson and a rested Manu Ginobili, you can't help but wonder how awesome a best case scenario wing situation we might actually have.  Sure, Bruce Bowen is gone and we don't have a replacement, but you can't be entirely disappointed with what we have instead if this works out.  Draft Express has him compared to Marcus Thornton, who had an excellent rookie season, by the metrics, I'd say that James Anderson looks even better.

He's not going to be the second coming of Manu, but hey, he'll still be pretty darn good if he pans out.  I'm hopeful, because you know who had similar stats in college?  Ray Allen.  Yeah, I said it.  In all seriousness though, I can definitely see him becoming a more explosive Finley, which in my books, I like.