20 points 6-7 FGM-A in 16 minutes, 9 points 3-5 FGM-A in 17 minutes. Those are Michael Finley's and Matt Bonner's stats, respectively. I don't know about you, but the fact that they produced this well in the starting lineup made me cringe, just slightly. So, should we expect to see these two in the starting lineup against the Hornets?
Is Coach Pop seriously considering only starting 3 of the Spurs' best 5 players? I think the answer is 'yes' and here's the logic. Michael Finley is a career starter. That's what he knows how to do and he does it fairly well, even at his veteran age. By bringing him off the bench one would negate his positive influence. He is a solid player, makes few mistakes, and opens the floor; all things that you want from a starter. One thing that Finley does not bring is energy. He is not a guy that will change the pace of the game, which is greatly what you want out of a bench player. So even though Ginobili is the better player, one would maximize Finley's contributions by starting him instead.
Matt Bonner is an atrocious defender. He seems to arrive just in time on his help defense to get dunked on or commit the foul. However, he is probably our best offensive sidekick for Tim Duncan. I know Antonio McDyess can shoot and DeJuan Blair has been more than impressive; but as of right now, Coach Pop has to have more confidence in starting Bonner since he started last year and has played well during the preseason. After the Spurs' defeat to the Lakers two years ago, the decision was made by the coaching staff that the Spurs were not offensive-minded enough. I remember Coach Pop saying that despite the great defense that the Spurs played against the Lakers, we lost because we could not score enough points. The following year Bowen saw his role reduced and Bonner came out of nowhere to start. I think they will keep this offensive mindset this season and play Bonner more than most would like.
My feeling is that while starting Finley and Bonner will not improve our starting lineup, the second unit will be vastly improved. Sometimes you have to sacrifice one aspect of the game for another in order to give your team the best chance to win. Coming off the bench, we will have Hill, Mason, Ginobili, Blair and McDyess. What second unit in the NBA can match up with them? The energy that Hill, Ginobili, and Blair will bring to the game will completely change the pace and be unmatched. Blair and McDyess will gobble up every rebound in sight while Hill will be able to lead the break with Ginobili and Mason on the wings and Blair cleaning up after them.
Obviously, I could be completely off here. I mean, who knows what's going on in Pop's head? But I do think the thing to take away from this is that the Spurs are so deep this year that it really would be impossible to mess up. We have 10 very good players, and one could make the case for 9 of them to start. (George Hill can't start, we already have a point guard.) This is groundbreaking for the Spurs. Have you ever seen nine startable players on a Spurs' roster? Not even in '03.
And regardless of who starts the game, the fourth quarter lineup of a close game will include Parker, Ginobili, RJ, and Duncan with whichever big guy is playing best at the time. As I said before, with this much talent it's nearly impossible to make a wrong move. This is getting me excited. Is it the 28th yet?