Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Looking forward for the Spurs

Tim Duncan has retired.

It feels like I should probably do a post entirely on that subject. He's been the cornerstone to this Spurs franchise for the past 19 years and a fixture in the NBA for what seems like an eternity. He will always be remembered as one of the classiest and most professional players to ever suit up. That, and possibly the greatest power forward of all time.

That being said, it's time for the Spurs to continue moving on into the 2016-2017 NBA season. This offseason saw a bunch of players getting paid (I see you Boban) due to the spike in the salary cap. The Spurs have opted to re-sign Manu Ginobili at a one year $14 million contract. While this seems high, I think it's appropriate to consider it "back pay" for all the team friendly pay-cuts he took in his prime. Furthermore, Spurs have added veteran center Pau Gasol; Davis Bertans, a 6-10 Latvian sharpshooter acquired in the Kawhi Leonard - George Hill trade; Dejounte Murray, a 6-5 super athletic point guard the Spurs drafted out of Washington late in the first round; Ryan Arcidiacono, a 6-3 point guard that was a key part of the Villanova NCAA championship team; Dewayne Dedmon, a defensive-minded 7 footer who has been around the league; and Bryn Forbes, a 6-3 sharpshooter out of Michigan State.

In addition to all these additions, the Spurs however have lost a number of players. Obviously we start with Tim Duncan who retired after 19 years in the league with the Spurs; David West who left to pursue greener pastures with the Golden State Warriors; Boris Diaw, who was traded to the Utah Jazz to make room for Pau Gasol's contract; Boban Marjanovic, who got a massive contract from the Detroit Pistons which the Spurs were unable to match due to the 76ers pushing the price on Manu's contract; and finally Matt Bonner, who is an unrestricted free agent that the Spurs are unlikely to re-sign.

What does this mean? Well, here's a look at our roster so far:

PG - Tony Parker, Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray, Ryan Arcidiacono
SG - Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, Jonathon Simmons, Bryn Forbes
SF- Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Anderson, Davis Bertans
PF - LaMarcus Aldridge, Livio Jean-Charles?
C - Pau Gasol, Dewayne Dedmon

There are also rumors of the Spurs trying to work out a contract for Livio Jean-Charles, a 2013 draft pick of the Spurs who plays on ASVEL, this year's French league champions, partially owned by Tony Parker. Hey, maybe we'll give last year's second round pick Cady Lalanne a chance.

Before I jump into everything, I'm going to be honest and say I haven't done an extensive amount of scouting on the younger players (e.g. Murray, Arcidiacono, and Forbes). Beyond that, there's been a good amount, but still relatively limited coverage on the foreign players (e.g. Bertans, Jean-Charles). So take my analyses with a grain of salt.

Realistically speaking, I expect the Spurs to kind of load up on contracts before heading into training camp. While counting Jean-Charles there are already 15 players on the roster, I fully expect the R.C. Buford and Pop to have the full 20 players eligible on their roster for training camp. It's a lot of turn, but this arguably is probably the closest we're going to see the Spurs to a massive rebuild. Despite having enough players to fill out a full NBA roster, I personally only really see 10-11 players that I would put into a regular NBA rotation:

PG - Tony Parker, Patty Mills
SG - Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, Jonathon Simmons
SF - Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Anderson, Davis Bertans
PF - LaMarcus Aldrdige
C - Pau Gasol, Dewayne Dedmon

This is largely dependent on Bertans' ability to adjust to NBA speed and whether or not Dedmon can stay on the floor and not foul out (he averages over 6 fouls per 36 minutes). While it's concerning that we are potentially only 3 deep in the frontcourt, I think it's doable, and it will give us opportunities to see if Anderson or Bertans can be utilized as small-ball PFs given the right matchups (think a lite version of Ryan Anderson or Rashard Lewis). If Jean-Charles is indeed signed, I fully expect him and Murray to occupy the 14th and 15th roster spots but spend the bulk of their time in Austin honing their skills, IQ, and decision making in the D-League. Realistically, unless they're exceptional in training camp (because they weren't in Summer League) I don't expect either Arcidiacono or Forbes to actually make the final roster.

Before we jump straight into what we need and who we should sign, I'd like to first address two trade rumors (emphasis on the word rumor) floating around. First, it's been noted that Jalen Rose has stated that Russell Westbrook should join the Spurs. The only way that's happening this season is via trade. Beyond having the actual assets to trade to OKC for Westbrook (and he's given no indication he wants to leave and OKC has given no indication they want to part ways with him), when you hear Pop talk about guys who scream and pound their chest like someone who dunked the ball for the first time, it's hard not to immediately think of Westbrook. I think Westbrook is a brilliant player, but I don't know that he has the temperament of a Spur. While some might argue he is a talent that makes him an exception to that, I don't know that that would be a wise move for the Spurs organizationally (kind of like when they tried out Dennis Rodman in the 90s).

A second rumor is that the Spurs are interested in Greg Monroe. Please note that there's a reason a lot of the more reputable sources (e.g. Adrian Wojnarowski or even ESPN) don't really have a lot of Spurs rumors, it's because the Spurs are notoriously tight lipped about these things. I don't know how substantiated the Spurs' interest in Monroe is, but already having both Aldridge and Gasol in tow, I fail to see how that's a good move. Monroe at best, is an Al Jefferson type player. A solid, below-the-rim, back-to-the-basket low-post presence. Unfortunately, similar to Al Jefferson, he demonstrates defensive shortcomings. While he is younger than Gasol and having the potential to develop, I believe that Gasol already embodies everything Monroe can do plus better passing and ability to stretch the floor. Furthermore, I can't imagine either Monroe or Gasol coming off the bench, though a Gasol/Monroe/Aldridge frontcourt tandem could be intriguing, a Gasol/Monroe pairing could be disastrous defensively whenever it's played. Finally, the question for the Spurs always comes back to who to trade, the Spurs don't exactly have many assets to trade.

Let's for a moment consider Leonard and Aldridge untouchable. Parker is an unrealistic trade chip simply because of his mileage, furthermore, I'm sure the Spurs would want to keep Parker around for his career, I think he deserves it. Beyond that, trading Parker would require us to rethink our PG situation, unless Murray is ready to play immediately (and Summer League has shown he's not quite there consistently yet) I don't see any situation in which trading Parker would be a significant upgrade for the team. Ultimately, it's not worth trading Parker, while having lost a step, is still a solid starting point guard, for a bench big. That simply leaves two viable trade options: Danny Green and Patty Mills. So the question for any trade is whether or not we've given up on Danny Green (and/or Patty Mills).

To me Mills is slightly more expendable, but being someone who knows the system, he also is someone I would be reticent to trade. While being among the many who were disappointed in Danny Green's performance this year, I still cannot fail to stress enough the impact Danny makes at the defensive end. I think that alone makes him worth keeping. Logically it makes little sense to trade Danny for another 3-and-D guy, and while some might say Simmons is ready to step up, I don't know that weakening our wing rotation would be worthwhile. You'd have to throw something really intriguing at me to think about it (Rudy Gay for Danny Green straight up?)

So what do we need? Well, I still don't really believe that Anderson is a real SF, but is a skinny small-ball PF. He definitely still needs to put on some weight and strength so he doesn't get bullied, and while he can use his length to compensate, we definitely have seen how he can't stay in front of some of the quicker SFs off the bounce. Thus, I think the 12th and 13th roster spots should probably include at least one wing player (similar to like a Rasual Butler). While Dedmon is a start, I think maybe another athletic defensive-minded PF/C would also be in the books. Maybe we find another diamond in the rough like Boban. This also depends on whether or not a trade happens.

That's my take.

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