The new season is about to begin and the Spurs have plenty to look forward to. There are more than enough questions about the team that I'm sure we're all eager to find out the answers to. I'm sure we'll get those answers soon enough but until then we have the preseason which has provided us, at least somewhat, with an idea of what to expect from the Spurs moving forward.
Now we all know that the preseason doesn't usually hold much weight as far as predicting how effective a team can be in the regular season but it does show us little glimpses of the different line ups and how they might play with each other. It's also a great opportunity to see what players have worked on in the summer and how they are incorporated into the team's system. The Spurs have played four games so far and split them with two wins and two losses. Of course the record is irrelevant but what's important is the fact that we got to see how our guys played and what we can expect from them moving into the season.
Tim Duncan - I figured I would start with Tim since he's probably the one guy who hasn't changed much, if at all. He's still doing his same old thing. He's still in great shape and looks like he's ready to have another great season. A lot of people think that Tim's decline is inevitable and that the emergence of our younger players will force him to take a step back in the offense but from what he's showed in the preseason so far, that's not happening anytime soon.
Tony Parker - Tony, like Tim, is pretty boring as far as bringing anything new to the table. He hasn't shown anything that he didn't show last year which is perfectly fine by me. From a numbers standpoint he hasn't blown us away like he normally does but I think that's a result of him taking it easy after coming off a championship run with France not to mention the fact that oh yea, it's preseason.
Nando De Colo - Tony's fellow French teammate hasn't had the greatest of impacts so far. After coming off a sub par outing in Europe this summer Nando hasn't quite gotten into the grove for the Spurs. He had a decent game against the Nuggets but was dismal against the Hawks. Consistency is one thing we've been looking for from Nando but he just hasn't quite found it yet. Hopefully he can find it soon.
Cory Joseph - One word that has always described Cory Joseph as a point guard is solid. He doesn't do more than he has to and as a backup to Tony Parker that isn't very much. So far Cory has been the same solid player he's always been. He doesn't seem to have added much to his game but does have a little more confidence running the show.
Tiago Splitter - Speaking of confidence, Tiago has a bit more of that this year than I remember. After basically getting his manhood taken away from him by LeBron in the finals, he seems to have come back with a little more swagger. He doesn't seem so unsure of himself when working in the post and seems ok with having the offense run through him at times.
Patty Mills - Patty Mills has come back this year a new man. He's slimmer and quicker now than he was before. Apart from that Patty is still the same come-in-and-get-buckets guy that he always was. Nothing different here although he does seem more aggressive. Looks like someone wants more minutes.
Aron Baynes - Just in case anyone needed another reason to ask for Bonner to be traded enter Aron Baynes. He certainly brings a physicality to the Spurs that we don't have in any other player. Unfortunately, Baynes still has a ways to go before he gets steady minutes in this rotation. He hasn't really done anything to separate himself from the rest of the bigs on the roster and even if Bonner's minutes are reduced, the Spurs have another big that I think is more deserving of minutes than Baynes is. He did have a couple nice clutch plays though. (As clutch as preseason can be.)
Matt Bonner - Matt Bonner....what can I say about this guy? He's Matt Bonner. Ok the one thing I've seen from Matt so far in the preseason has been the shyhook. I know it's not new but what's crazy is the number of times he's taking it. Matt has taken 11 shots so far in the preseason and only 4 of them have been 3 point shots. That's more than half his attempts coming from inside the three point line. Unheard of!!!
These are the players who I thought didn't show much difference in their games or the difference is only subtle. Next We'll look at the players who are bringing something new to the table or changing their games slightly.
Danny Green - Some people might say I'm crazy for saying Danny has added to his game but to those people I would say go watch the games again. His numbers have been pretty poor by his standards but the difference in his game is noticeable. Danny has been working on his handling and it shows. Before he was strictly a catch and shoot player but now he at least has the ability to counter and drive to the basket. Did he finish every time at the rim? No. Did he score a lot of points? No. But he did at least show that he's gotten better from last season in this regard. It will take some time for him to really put it together but I have to say, I'm happy with where it's going.
Boris Diaw - The Frenchman has not added anything new from a skills standpoint but he has changed. He actually shoots the ball. So far, in four preseason games, Boris Diaw has taken more shots than he did all of last season, including the playoffs. I know it's amazing. Him being aggressive in shooting the when he's open will add an entirely new dimension to the team and can actually make things easier for his teammates on offense.
Jeff Ayres - Jeff Ayres was signed as Jeff Pendegraph and decided to do the whole name change thing. Nice. I must say that I was surprised by how much he brings to the team. Physical big with a very nice midrange jumper and decent moves in the post. I know a lot of people want Aron Baynes to be that fourth big off the bench but this guy is certainly going to make that hard for him.
Marco Belinelli - Finally we have an Italian on the team. Wonder what took them so long. This guy has not played as good as he can in the preseason but I'm not worried about it. The impact he can have on this team is great. He can create offense for himself and others and his ability to shoot coming off screens give the Spurs flexibility in their offense. I also love the fact that he doesn't hesitate. He seems to always know what he wants to do with the ball before he catches it. Either pass it, drive it, or shoot it. This might be one of the more underrated signing of the off-season.
Manu Ginobili - Manu has been amazing so far in the preseason. Funny what being healthy can do for you. But apart from being healthy I think the reason he's been so good is the people he's playing with. Marco Belinelli can really help his game and I think he already has. So far, Manu has shot a tonne of threes and I think this gives us an idea of the thinking for either the team or Manu himself. Playing with Marco means that Manu doesn't have to create everything. He will have a lot more spot-ups this season because he knows he's playing with someone who can create as well.
Kawhi Leonard - Undoubtedly the most talked about player all summer. Everyone wants to know how much Kawhi has improved since last season and If I had to guess I'd say not that much. Before you start attacking me hear me out. Kawhi, so far in the preseason has been doing exactly the same things he did last year. The difference is he's doing them a lot more often and his teammates are giving him the chance to do them. We know he had the ability to run a pick and roll or post up last year but Pop and the team never gave him the chance. This year he's been given the green light to run some offense and I think he'll be just fine doing that. The fact that he now has the trust of his teammates is a big deal so I look for him to continue to improve as the season goes along.
The Spurs have a game today against Miami so we'll see what else we can learn from that one.