The spurs have as much talent as anybody, but aren't executing anywhere near the level of LA or Denver, both of whom have a ton of weapons in the frontcourt. The Nuggets and the Lakers have the kind of talent to push teams around for four quarters, starting their best and biggest and subbing in guys like Kevin Martin and Lamar Odom to take over where the starters left off. Do the spurs have the same kind of flexibility, or should we be rationing our minutes - and our shotblockers - to get through the regular season grind?
Duncan-Dice is obviously the best frontcourt we have, but if we use it when it's not the end of the half or game we will end up having to play Bonner and Blair at some point, and that's not a great way to build your defense. Pop's tried to avoid this in a bunch of different ways, and we have seen Bonner and Blair for extended stretches too. I think for the end of the regular season though you'll see a lot of small ball and rationing the big guys' minutes. In the win against Denver, Pop played Duncan nine minutes in the second half and Dice for ten, on the court together during the start of the third to 4:37 left.
Not only does Blair-Bonner (or, full story, Blair-Bonner-Ginobili) hold up in the Denver game, it actually kicks ass. They play together from 0:51 left first quarter to 6:33 left 2nd (+8) and from 1:47 left 3rd to 6:31 left 4th (+7). Even with K-Mart out this is a positive sign that our role players will have an impact in the playoffs. Somehow this odd couple (or spicy three-way with Manu thrown in) is not only surviving, it's showing a lot of toughness and it's starting to characterize the great bench that's been our strength all season.
With this said I still think nearly 11 minutes of this frontcourt, all of them with the game close, is not going to be something you see in a playoff game. You have to compensate in other ways for the lack of shotblocking and size; you have to pair them with good defenders. Compensating with size elswhere in the lineup means less time that Manu and RJ can spend on the court with Dice and Tim when they come back in.
Instead of rotating out Dice and Duncan at the same time I bet we'll start seeing a more balanced rotation. The natural thing to do would be feature Tim with Bonner, and Dice more often paired with Blair, Manu and the second team. Rather than starting with the super-big lineup and going to a small but scrappy bench unit with no 7-footer we could have the defensive anchors spell each other and only take the floor together at the end of each half.
At this point in the season these four guys really are our frontcourt lineup. We'll have to get creative with what we've got if we want to compete in the Western playoffs, where some teams seem to have more big man talent than entire eastern divisions do.