So... hey, uh, I forgot how these things work after that insanely, annoyingly long lockout. I haven't written for months save for answering tests and submitting papers for graduate school, and like Tim Duncan, have lost a step or two or three, maybe even six.
In order to spare you the cringefest of seeing a preview of how Stephanie Meyer writes her novels when sober, and also to get some good Spurs discussion going while we wait for stacks of paper to be signed to officially end the lockout, heeeeeeerrrrrreeeee's Hollinger!
"Help, I've fallen and I can't get up." "I can't feel my legs." Those are the exact lines I said to myself when I got
sucked into the dark side suckered to sign up for ESPN Insider. Okay, in my defense, the damn thing was 50% off!!! Now I only have to wash dishes and sweep backyards for 6 months instead of 12. What a deal, eh? But whatever. I'm not about to ramble on how I made a deal with the devil or how I've regretfully contributed to paying for Bill Simmons' Clippers season tickets. John Hollinger profiled our beloved San Antonio Spurs, albeit covertly on their site through Insider, and I think it's something worth looking at.
Some copyright infringement or whatever legal impediments prevent me from posting the whole thing so I'm just going to insert a few points which piqued my shallow interest in anything the PER guru presents. Also, God knows despite how much I hate these 5-on-5 articles, this one on the Spurs sheds some light on things that Hollinger observed. Basically it's a nice look at the silver and black's roster from top to bottom, with of course, some statistics thrown in. Skip my mindless commentary if you don't want to be annoyed.
Tony Parker - Making the NBA his Parkour Playground since the 2000s
"...his jump shot has made little progress. He made only 25 3-pointers the entire season and shot only 36.9 percent on 2s beyond 10 feet."
Remember those losses in the Memphis playoff series? Even freaking Mike Conley looked like Ray Allen compared to TP's jump shooting suckitude. We're a much better offensive team when that jumper is falling. Unfortunately, it didn't occur a lot last season and even if it did, we still struggled to beat Memphis.
"Maligned at times for his score-first mindset, Parker ranked 17th in pure point rating; his assist ratio was a career high."
Memo to Tony haters: He passed the freaking ball! Just not to Manu. Well, not enough for us, anyway.
"Defensively, Parker was just average and has had better seasons. His stats weren't terrible or anything, but at his best he's been a nearly All-Defense caliber performer; last season, he fell well short of that. Either he's lost a half-step at that end or he's not competing with quite the same zeal."
(insert Eva divorce joke here)
"While it's always dangerous to bet on speed players when they get into their late 20s, I don't foresee much slippage in Parker's immediate future."
Prognosis: Expect an injury-free Tony to deliver another groundhog season like his previous ones, while possibly maintaining his high assist numbers due to the Spurs' three point-happy offense. Don't worry, we'll keep an eye out just in case a new boo enters the picture.
Manu Ginobili - Like Fine Wine, But With Magically Increasing Alcohol Content
"He effectively served as the Spurs' point guard when he checked in, leading all shooting guards in pure point rating and averaging 6.5 dimes per 40 minutes."
Manu to Blair. Manu to Timmeh. Manu toTony. Manu to Tiago. Manu to Pop who's out of bounds, along the sidelines and wanting to strangle somebody. Manu to Tony Allen, who lays it in for a fastbreak score and Grizzlies go up by 20. Manu to Jason Kidd for the old man's first ring. Manu definitely knows how to pass it to everyone.
"Ginobili isn't as strong with the jumper; his 3-pointer is juuuuust accurate enough to keep defenses honest, making 34.9 percent last season and 37.1 percent for his career. Similarly, he took a lot of long 2s last season but made 40.3 percent -- respectable, but hardly threatening. It's all the fouls he draws along the way that makes him so potent, including a bunch on fake jumpers; as with Dwyane Wade, he routinely gets defenders to bite on the fake even though that's the shot they want to him to take."
Don't be shy, John. Manu damn well took too many threes last season. Some of them looked like long twos because when God shoots a three, he always seems closer to the rim than he actually is. Miracle workers are like that.
"Ginobili is one of the league's most underrated defensive players. He once again had an excellent on-court vs. off-court differential, as the Spurs gave up 5.53 points per 100 possessions less with him on the court. Additionally he had very strong Synergy numbers, and he was fifth among shooting guards in steals per minute."
Did I tell you that he's great? HE'S GREAT!
"If he had a weakness, it was simply how long he played. San Antonio bumped him up to 30.3 minutes a game last season, but it's still amazingly few for a player of this caliber. Ginobili has posted a PER above 20 for seven straight seasons but only averaged 30 minutes a game in two of them; as a result he's still never averaged 20 points per game in an NBA season."
*sigh* We all know that God needed the occasional seventh day to rest.
Richard Jefferson - Amnesty Poster Boy 2.0
"Jefferson changed how he played last season, shooting far more often off the catch as a spot-up 3-point shooter. Nearly half his shots were 3s and he made 44 percent -- enough to rank fourth among small forwards in true shooting percentage."
Cool. He was a bit useful. Maybe.
"A high free throw rate also helped; despite all the 3s Jefferson was in the top third of small forwards in that category, a skill he's had his whole career thanks to his explosive drives to the basket. Those were more rare, but productive when they came."
As rare as a Bruce Bowen slam dunk these days.
"Break down his season, however, and what stands out is his incredibly shrinking role. Jefferson's scoring average dropped every month from October to March, despite consistent minutes, and in the final four games against Memphis he scored a grand total of 10 points in 106 minutes. His percentages hardly budged; he just stopped getting shots."
We don't pay him $9 mil a year to play big! We pay him that ridiculous amount just so you can see that there's actually a guy capable of shrinking! That Honey I Shrunk The Kids movie is totally real, and so is Thumbelina and Ant Man.
Why doesn't Pop run more plays for him? Maybe he's really not that smart and his BBIQ is toast? The Jefferson conundrum is something Spurs fans will debate for years to come. Or they can just easily forget, like how Rick Moranis is nowhere to be found these days yet nobody seems to care. Honey, I Shrunk Myself!
"Jefferson has lost some athleticism, with his declining rebound rate the latest in a series of signs, but he did a solid job defensively. Opposing small forwards had an 11.1 PER against him according to 82games.com, and Synergy graded him in the top quarter of small forwards."
Yep, that's right. Even LeBron's 50-something PER should be scared shit of RJ's defense.
Dejuan Blair - Can Somebody Photoshop Him Getting His Hamburglar On?
"Blair was very effective around the basket and on the offensive boards, but he played his way out of the starting lineup anyway because he was such a defensive liability."
I should probably end there but I won't.
"According to 82games.com, opposing power forwards lit him up for a 21.3 PER; at center, where he played more than a third of his minutes, it was 24.3. The Spurs gave up 3.06 points per 100 possessions more with Blair on the court, according to basketballvalue.com, and Synergy Stats weren't too keen on his play either. Oddly, he led all power forwards in steals per minute, but that may have been part of the problem -- too much reaching and not enough fundamental defense."
Tell me something we Spurs fans don't know, John.
"Once he went to the bench, Blair clearly started pressing; at times it seemed he was trying to make a six-point play every time he caught the ball."
Somehow, I actually believe Blair can make a six-point play in one fell swoop. Ripped off arms and bodies on the floor included.
"...he couldn't space the floor, making only 28.7 percent from beyond 10 feet, and he was too sloppy with the ball. Only seven power forwards had a worse turnover ratio than Blair, which is indefensible given that his job description mostly involved collecting the ball off the rim and putting it back up."
Sloppy? That's a kind of burger, isn't it?
"He's a solid bench player even if he doesn't improve, but between his inability to space the floor and his struggles on D, he's not a starter on a contending team."
Ouch. The truth hurts. Or could hurt if Blair doesn't improve. If not , I'd seriously suggest he's trade bait.
Tim Duncan - Lockout Fitness Guru and Protector of All Things With An Asterisk
"While he doesn't have the mobility of his younger days, Duncan's length and savvy still make him among the game's best defensive centers. The Spurs gave up 7.00 points per 100 possessions less with Duncan on the floor and he had the best Synergy rating of the team's rotation players. Plus, Duncan finished ninth among centers in blocks per minute, seventh in defensive rebound rate, and had the lowest foul rate of any center. With his knees feeling better, he also was stronger in pick-and-roll coverage than he'd been a year earlier."
I'd still say our PnR coverage sucks, but Tim remains our best at-the-rim defender.
"His length still makes him a great finisher at the rim (71.7 percent) but he can't get there as often, which is why his percentages sank overall. He's taking care of the ball at least, finishing seventh among centers in pure point rating."
I thought TD was turning the ball over a lot when he came back from injury late in the season. I guess Dwight Howard turns it over a lot more but we tend to forget because his dunks act like those little flashlight things used by the Men in Black to erase your memory.
"Perhaps the biggest change, however, is in his playing time. Duncan played only 28.2 minutes per game even though he was hardly ever in foul trouble... Even last season he played at an All-Star caliber level when he was on the court; he's just doing it for increasingly brief stretches."
GOAT PUFF. In a way, Tim seems to have gone all Manu on us, playing limited minutes but still producing like a badass. He's been reduced to like half of a superstar.
Tiago Splitter - Breaking Dawn Part 2 (a.k.a. Sparkles Season 2)
"Splitter had trouble working his way into the Spurs' rotation as a rookie, mostly because he was an odd fit next to Tim Duncan in the frontcourt, but he was effective when he played and should be in line for a big jump in minutes this season."
He can't be an odder fit than Blair, can he? While Tiago and Dejuan's skill sets both have their similarities and differences, I've been having some trouble grasping the idea that Duncan needs a floor-spacing front court player alongside him when in fact, it's Timmy who's evolved into that mid-range jumpshooting big man, given that more and more of his shots are being taken outside of the paint.
"He also struggled at the line, making 54.3 percent, which wasted his propensity for drawing fouls."
I thought this was his best asset last season. Even if he doesn't make those free throws often, getting the opposing team's big men in foul trouble really put a lot of pressure on their defense.
"Defensively, he was active enough to rank fourth among centers in steals per minute, but he didn't block many shots or show great mobility. His statistical data conflict -- Synergy gave him sparkling marks but 82games.com says opposing centers had an 18.8 PER against him. Subjectively, he seemed a step slow in his help defense and that may have been a factor in his limited playing time."
Now this is where it gets very tricky. I think Matt Bonner has made such a defensively poor impression on us that whatever Splitter does, it looks and feels ten times better. Still, despite Tiago's supposedly better play, nobody was able to stop Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol from owning us. I'm confused. (Ed. note: It says he gets "sparkling marks" -- no way Hollinger said that on his own without being bribed by the female £ers. - jrw)
"Somehow, I suspect this year they'll figure out a way, because he's too good to leave on the pine."
There is hope.
James Anderson - Only Because I Love CapHill
"Anderson played only 26 games due to a stress fracture in his right foot. While we don't have a big enough sample size to conclude much of anything, his play was similar to how he was advertised: A good 3-point shooter, a decent athlete, and an average ballhandler. The lone surprise was his awful rebound rate; he did well on the boards in college."
Obviously, Hollinger didn't have much to say about him but I'm pretty sure JA still has a lot to offer given a full season. I think he could really surprise a lot of people if Anderson shows some semblance of creating his own shot and for others.
Matt Bonner - Can Never Be Amnestied Because He's A Union Officer
"Bonner's potency as a floor-spacing big man is incredibly valuable, but he's starting to veer into James Jones territory in terms of his one-dimensionality."
I wanted James Jones on the Spurs once. Who knew I was wishing for Matt Bonner 0.5? Also, Hollinger used "potency" instead of "potential". Why am I mildly amused?
"Bonner is a good passer, too, who ranked 15th at his position in assist ratio and fifth in pure point rating even though he rarely penetrated."
Based on this statement, John has never seen the shy hook, a powerful weapon of destructive proportions banned in 36 different countries including Djibouti.
"Defensively, Bonner has improved in his time in San Antonio. He won't rebound or block shots but he gets to the right spots and is strong enough to hold his position on the block. I would still place him below the median power forward, but he's not far off."
Good system player, not good enough to get too many minutes.
Gary Neal - Not Your Everyday Ol' Rookie
"His key was that he was as good off the dribble as on the catch, allowing him to run some pick-and-roll and create offense for himself. While he's not a good passer and hardly ever draws fouls, his jumper was so deadly that it made him a strong offensive threat -- in addition to the 3s, Neal hit 47.3 percent of his 2s beyond 10 feet, and most off those were off the dribble."
That's our Nailgun. His ability to hit his shot while on the move is nearly as fun to watch as Manu or Tony.
"Defensively, Neal has a good body and rebounds well for his size, but his lack of athleticism was a major negative... The Spurs gave up 6.27 points per 100 possessions more when he was on the court, while Synergy Stats placed him near the very bottom of the shooting guard heap."
"His defense will likely improve a bit with NBA experience, but Neal's defense still may prevent him from becoming a starter."
C'mon, Gary. Surprise us again.
Danny Green - Just Throwing Out Somebody Who Might Have An Outside Shot At Making The Roster
And I've lifted the whole write up as well. Sorry, ESPN.
"Green played only 92 minutes, but in his limited pro time has shown an ability to score at a solid clip and rebound very well for a 6-6 shooting guard. It's been a similar story in the minors. In 16 games in the D-League, Green shot 44.1 percent on 3s and had a strong Rebound Rate for his size. While he didn't wow with his ballhandling or defense, he showed he could score by averaging better than a point every two minutes.
Green is 24 and isn't any kind of rising star, but he's played well in his chances at every level. Don't be shocked if he emerges as a rotation player within the next two years."
Kawhi Leonard - I'm Scared Of The Spurs' Future, But Thank Goodness It's In Huge Hands
"A tweener who has drawn Shawn Marion comparisons due to his leaping and length, Leonard slipped in the draft partly over concerns over his position. He's not much of an outside shooter, but needs to bulk up to play the 4."
Seriously, whenever I hear someone's a tweener I get scared. It's never a good thing.
"The nice thing is that he should be a quality defender from Day 1, meaning that the Spurs can put him on the court with the second unit and let him develop. Leonard's upside as a 3 is significantly higher than the 4 so that's likely where he'll be tried out first, and if he can make a few jump shots he has a chance to be another draft-day steal for San Antonio."
I think RJ's pants are on fire from reading this.
Anyway that's it. Your turn on the commentary and analysis before we go to the more Spurs-biased PtR season preview (you know it's coming!).