Get to Know Your New San Antonio Spurs #4: Theo Ratliff

The Spurs went out last week and signed Theo Ratliff. Everyone probably knew that already, but it's time we all get to know a little more about Theo himself.
Ratliff_medium
Get that weaksauce outta here, Benjamin.

Theodophilus(not made up) Ratliff was born in 1973, so this doesn't exactly continue the Spurs' "youth movement", which was a made up idea, outside of the draft and getting Richard Jefferson for 3 older guys. But if there's any position where we can afford a one-year rental of a player at the end of his career, it's at center. Besides, Theo has his ways of staying ahead of father time.

There's not much information on the internets about Theo during his college years. And zero info about his life prior to that. Anyone want to guess what powerhouse basketball school Theo played at? I'll give you a hint: their team name is the Cowboys. If you guessed Oklahoma State, you win... nothing. because you're wrong. Theo couldn't be bothered with those supposed elite conferences - no, our new shameless supplement promoter played at...

The University of Wyoming. Not kidding.

Ratliffwyoming_medium
They had cameras in Wyoming in 1994?

So, Theo obviously performed like crazy since he chose such a small school, right? Right? Well, I suppose you could say it was mixed results.

From his nba.com bio:

Ratliff finished 10th in rebounding and 15th in scoring on Wyoming's all-time list and was a member of the 1993 USA Basketball under-22 world championship team.

Are you not impressed? Oh, but there's also this litte nugget:

Was named to the Western Athletic Conference First Team in his final season at Wyoming and was a two-time All-WAC Defensive Team selection ... Ended his career with 425 blocked shots, the second-best total in NCAA history behind Alonzo Mourning's 453 ... Only the fifth player in NCAA history to block 400 or more shots during his career, he holds the third-best blocked shots average per game (3.83) in NCAA history behind David Robinson (5.24) and Shaquille O'Neal (4.58)

Here's the college stats for Theo, courtesy of Basketball-reference.com

Now we're talking. I was whining and crying a a few months back about the Spurs losing their defensive edge. I have to say that the Jefferson move, while a good sign, didn't put me at ease. DeJuan Blair made me feel all fuzzy inside when it came to ending our horrible rebounding deficiency from last season, but he's not exactly an all-world defender. McDyess was definitely a step in the right direction on the defensive end, but I still wasn't convinced the the front office was still comitted to the old defense-first philosophy.

And then there's Ratliff. No, it's not the most attention grabbing signing of the summer - in fact, it's probably the least talked about move the Spurs made this year. Despite that, I believe this signing is going to have the greatest impact on the Spurs getting back that defensive edge, and the "boring" moniker that all the opponents' fans liked to throw at the Spurs. Getting Bowen back would seal the deal for me, but it doesn't look like that's very likely, since other teams are showing interest in him.

Let's look at the stats, in non-PtR fashion. He's had quite a long career, so there's a lot here.

Career FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
Year Team G Min M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
1995-96 DET 75 17:23 1.7 3.1 55.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.1 1.6 70.8 1.5 2.5 4.0 0.2 0.8 0.2 1.6 1.9 4.6
1996-97 DET 76 17:00 2.4 4.4 53.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.1 1.5 69.8 1.4 1.9 3.4 0.2 0.7 0.4 1.5 2.4 5.8
1997-98 DET 24 24:23 2.4 4.6 51.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.8 2.6 68.3 1.9 3.1 5.0 0.6 1.4 0.5 2.3 3.5 6.5
1997-98 PHI 58 32:06 4.3 8.4 51.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.7 3.8 70.6 3.0 4.3 7.3 0.7 1.4 0.7 3.5 3.6 11.2
1998-99 PHI 50 32:30 3.9 8.4 47.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 3.3 4.6 72.5 2.8 5.4 8.1 0.6 1.8 0.9 3.0 3.6 11.2
1999-00 PHI 57 31:30 4.3 8.6 50.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 3.2 4.1 77.1 2.5 5.2 7.6 0.6 1.9 0.6 3.0 3.3 11.9
2000-01 PHI 50 36:00 4.6 9.1 49.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 3.3 4.3 76.0 2.5 5.8 8.3 1.2 2.5 0.6 3.7 3.3 12.4
2001-02 ATL 3 27:18 3.3 6.7 50.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.0 3.7 54.6 1.7 3.7 5.3 0.3 2.3 0.3 2.7 2.7 8.7
2002-03 ATL 81 31:06 3.4 7.4 46.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.9 2.6 72.0 1.9 5.6 7.5 0.9 1.7 0.7 3.2 3.4 8.7
2003-04 ATL 53 31:06 3.2 7.0 45.8 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.8 2.8 65.3 2.0 5.2 7.2 1.0 1.6 0.6 3.1 3.6 8.3
2003-04 POR 32 31:48 3.0 5.5 54.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.4 2.2 62.9 2.8 4.5 7.3 0.6 1.1 0.8 4.4 3.5 7.3
2004-05 POR 63 27:30 1.8 4.1 44.8 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.2 1.7 69.2 1.8 3.5 5.3 0.5 0.9 0.4 2.5 2.9 4.8
2005-06 POR 55 23:41 2.0 3.4 57.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 1.5 65.1 1.6 3.5 5.1 0.5 0.9 0.3 1.6 2.6 4.9
2006-07 BOS 2 21:48 0.5 1.5 33.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.5 2.0 75.0 1.0 2.5 3.5 0.0 0.5 0.5 1.5 3.0 2.5
2007-08 MIN 10 21:23 2.3 4.5 51.1 0.0 0.1 0.0 1.7 2.5 68.0 1.3 2.6 3.9 0.7 1.2 0.3 1.9 3.0 6.3
2007-08 DET 16 13:54 1.1 2.5 45.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8 1.1 66.7 1.2 1.9 3.1 0.4 0.6 0.3 1.2 1.8 3.0
2008-09 PHI 46 12:35 0.7 1.4 53.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 0.8 60.0 1.0 1.8 2.8 0.2 0.3 0.4 1.0 1.7 1.9
Career 751 26:06 2.8 5.7 49.8 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.8 2.6 70.9 2.0 3.9 5.9 0.6 1.3 0.5 2.5 2.9 7.5

So what does Theo bring to the table for the Spurs?

Theo-ratliff-1_medium

Scoring? Not so much.
Rebounding? Not really, but we have Blair and Dice for that anyway.
Shot Blocking? Yes, but in limited minutes.
A tough presence on the defensive end? You're getting warmer.
A veteran to teach our young bigs some things about the art of defense? Bingo.

Yes, I realize that he was still one of the premier shot blockers(per 48 minutes) in the league last year, but he only played 12 minutes per game... for Philadelphia, whose star big man(Brand) was hurt most of the year. The Spurs don't exactly have a shortage of frontcourt personnel right now. What they do have is 3 younger bigs with little or no NBA experience(Blair, Haislip, Mahinmi). Shot-blocking and team defense have always been Ratliff's strengths, and he plays like a true center, something the Spurs were short on prior to his arrival. Obviously, there are concerns about how well Theo and some of the other new additions to the team will assimilate, as Tim Varner notes over on 48MoH, but I can't help seeing the Ratliff signing as anything but smart.

Ian Mahinmi has been accused of being soft from time to time, and there are legitimate doubts about Marcus Haislip's toughness as well. OK, So I'll be the first to admit, I was probably wrong about Ian being shipped out of town. In fact, after further thought on the matter, I don't think there will be any more trades anytime soon, but the Spurs may or may not try to make room for Bowen to come back. Anyway, back to the point about some of the younger guys. Want to know who's never been accused of being soft? Theo Ratliff. Maybe he can teach them a little toughness. Not that he would have any problem with playing, but a player like this can be an excellent motivator, in addition to setting the tone on the defensive end in spot duty.

Also, if you have any questions about his team/help defense, check out exhibits A and B below.

Anyway, these videos all showed off what is considered Theo's primary skill: shot blocking. However, he's not exactly limited to that. He's also a very tough man-to-man defender, even when you aren't considering the blocks. He may have lost a step, but he will still hold his own in short minutes as needed. Still, his greatest contribution to the Spurs may be during summer camp and practice, as a mentor to Ian and Blair. His timing is incredible, and he knows how to be aggressive without fouling(a skill Ian could definitely stand to learn more about) and stay in front of his man(Blair could learn more about that). Simply put, he's a smart player on the defensive end. And that's why I see him as sort of a player-coach for the Spurs frontcourt this year. The Spurs now have 3 longtime vets in the frontcourt, with a diverse skill set. This hopefully will accelerate the learning curve for the younger guys, and help them to "get it". If that is in fact how it goes down, Ratliff will prove to have been a steal.

Previous articles in this series:

Richard Jefferson
Marcus Williams
Antonio McDyess

Next up: Whoever we feel like profiling.

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