Spurs Bench Report Card - 3/8/13

With Tony Parker out, Spurs guard Cory Joseph has been given the opportunity to showcase his talent. - Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Continually proven throughout a never-ending series of injuries, the San Antonio Spurs have one of the best, most hard working benches in the NBA. Pounding the Rock is now whipping out the red grading pens to keep tabs on their week-to-week performance. Sorry, kids. We don't do gold stars just for attendance here.

Starting today and continuing every Friday throughout the season, Pounding the Rock will be featuring a weekly report card on the San Antonio Spurs bench crew. Today's report covers the previous three games since last Friday - Sacramento (3/1), Detroit (3/3), and Chicago (3/6).

The report card is divided into three categories - offense, defense and hustle - which feeds the overall score.

-- Offense is scored on direct/indirect production, efficiency, clutch shots, and game management.

-- Defense is scored on how the player handles their assignment, team defense, defensive rebounds, and of course their production on steals and blocks.

-- Hustle is based on the player's activity/energy on both ends, play on 50/50 balls, rebounding overall (including boxing out), and causing turnovers.

The scores handed out are also relative to the player's role/position on the team, which is why the following scores are broken into three groups.

The 6th Man

The big gun off the bench. Master Ginobili is not likely to depart this category.. in either direction.

Manu Ginobili

Offense

Defense

Hustle

Overall

Manu A+ A A+ A+






It's no surprise that Manu Ginobili would step up his game during the absence of the Spurs primary offensive engine, Tony Parker. Injury or not, it just feels like we haven't seen "Manu this season. I'm not saying Manu holds anything back or takes it easy but he does somehow seem to find that extra gear when the team needs it most.

In the three games since March 1st, Ginobili averaged 14.7 points, 9 assists, 2 steals, and 2 turnovers. Manu's shooting efficiency from the floor also skyrocketed up to 54.5% from deep and 58.6% overall. In the previous 10 games Manu had played before March 1st, the Argentinean swing man was only managing an average of 11 points on an overall 41% shooting performance from the floor while only dishing out 3 assists per game. It's important to note that those 10 games were interrupted by injury, his 4th series of games missed due to some form of ailment.

There is quite a bit of rhetoric going on concerning the greatness of the "Spurs system" but regardless the team still depends greatly upon the Big Three. With no Tony, the level of dependency on Ginobili is higher than it has it's ever been this season. We all have faith in Manu's ability but, be honest, how much faith do you have in El Contusion staying healthy until the return of Tony Parker?



The Regular Rotation

The regular rotation features the primary role players in the Spurs offense and roughly 13-20 minutes per game in some type of consistency.

Gary Neal

Offense

Defense

Hustle

Overall

Neal
Inc Inc Inc Inc






Despite playing an effective 9 minutes against Detroit on Sunday, Gary's weekly report score is incomplete. Neal has dealt with a string of injuries over the last two seasons and recent news has shed some light on the extent of Gary's health woes. Gary revealed last Sunday that he has been playing through tendinitis in his left achilles and plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Many Spurs fans remember how Tim Duncan painfully fought through plantar fasciitis in the 2005-06 season. What Neal needs is rest but Gary is going into the summer as a restricted free agent and can't afford to ride the pine through the remainder of the season. Popovich will limit Neal's minutes as the season winds down but one has to wonder just how much impact injury after injury is having on the mindset of Neal in a contract year.

Boris Diaw

Offense

Defense

Hustle

Overall

Diaw B+ B B B






Wednesday's matchup against the Chicago Bulls was Diaw's first game back from a back strain suffered against the Phoenix Suns on February 27th. Boris only played 12 minutes in that game but they were an efficient 12 minutes (5 points 2-3 FG, 2 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal). My favorite play with Diaw: Boris sold a steady look on an inbounds play towards Manu Ginobili, thus opening up the opposite lane for a quick pass out to the opposite corner for a three-pointer.

Stephen Jackson

Offense

Defense

Hustle

Overall

Jax C+ B+ A B+






Stephen Jackson also suffered an injury in the same game against Phoenix but was able to return for the game against Detroit. Captain Jack has some meager offensive numbers in the two-game average of 21.5 minutes - 6.5 points on 417% shooting (33.3% from deep) and 3.5 assists. But to be fair, Jackson's role on this team is not to put up points (although he can do it). He's a defensive edge and a utility man, grabbing boards, causing turnovers, fighting for loose balls, and getting in the face of anyone who deserves it. Tim Duncan calls Stephen the "ultimate teammate" and that's just what he is.

Jackson will never fall below an A in the hustle category. Not on this team.

DeJuan Blair

Offense

Defense

Hustle

Overall

Blair B C- B C+






DeJuan had a fantastic game against the visiting Sacramento Kings last Friday but his production, as well as minutes, quickly tailed off in the following two games. Against the Kings though, DeJuan Blair put up 16 points on 8-12 shooting. Blair is a scrapper on defense with his active hands and hustle for the 50/50 balls but his size and mediocre-at-best defense gets him in trouble on defense. I'd bump his hustle up higher but his rebounding, a strength for the littlest giant, has been suffering (3.7 per average of 17 minutes over last 3 games). With one foot firmly planted in Pop's doghouse, DeJuan's minutes are anything but consistent.

Matt Bonner

Offense

Defense

Hustle

Overall

Bonner C D C+ C-






Like DeJuan, Matt Bonner minutes and production took a nose dive after the Sacramento blowout. The Red Mamba knocked down 3 three-pointers and recorded a rare ginger block in 23 minutes against the Kings. After that, Bonner went 0-4 FG (with only 2 points coming from the charity stripe), pulled down 2 boards, 1 assist, and tallied another block over a total of 15 minutes across two games. Not horrific offensive stats but Bonner's job is to stretch out the interior with his ability to shoot from deep. From three, Matt is shooting just 26.7% over the last ten games and 31.3% since the start of the new year. So Popovich isn't running out the redhead for good reason.

Defensively, Matty Boy was decent against the Kings but back to struggling against the tougher big men of Detroit and Chicago.The last 5 minutes of the 1st quarter against Chicago was definitely one to forget. Bonner missed his only two shots of the game and helplessly watched Noah throw down on on the first basket of a Bulls 6-0 run to keep the game tight at the end of the quarter. That stretch was basically the bulk of Matt's game time.

Nando De Colo

Offense

Defense

Hustle

Overall

Decolo C C+ B+ C+






De Colo is losing court time to Mills and Joseph. Nando only managed 2 minutes of court time against the Bulls after recording 12 and 14 garbage time minutes against, respectively, Sacramento and Detroit. Nando is 2-7 over the last three games but, as always, does an excellent job with the motion of the ball (assist, pass to assist, etc.) Defensively, he was alright against low-quality opponents. It is what it is. That block in the Detroit game was nice though.

Despite the poor shooting numbers, De Colo's shooting motion is looking smoother, more natural, and less like the pushing motion that made some of us cringe. Regardless, I think Nando might be slipping down into the next category...



The Victory Cigars

These are the guys we demand to see more off because they rarely get to play and whose talent generally gets subjected to meme treatment and/or overblown to mythical proportions.

Patty Mills

Offense

Defense

Hustle

Overall

Mills A B- B+ B+






With Parker and Neal both out, Patty Mills' name has been called upon. And, as expected, the Aussie came out firing. Mills is 5-7 from deep (13-17 FG overall) in the last three games and, despite only a total of 5 assists, is doing a solid job moving the rock. With only 2 turnovers since last Friday, Mills has also done a great job in protecting the ball as well. Small, fast, and with an even faster release, Mills has been taking advantage of off-the-ball screens. Patty played a big part in closing out the Bulls on Wednesday night.

Defensively, Mills is still a bit of a liability. Patty gets lost easily (understatement) on crossovers and ball fakes and tends to get a bit over-zealous on rotations. Patty's energy on defense does close a small portion of his defensive shortcomings and he never takes a play off. There are parts of his game that still need refinement but his attitude in no matter what situation has earned him the respect of his teammates and coaching staff.

Aron Baynes

Offense

Defense

Hustle

Overall

Baynes B C+ C C+






To be honest, I'm not certain of what Baynes' actual score is since Aron has only seen the floor in garbage time. I was hoping Popovich would give the big man a tiny run against the physical front court of Chicago but I would have had better odds betting on the Washington Wizards to win it all this year.

Baynes scored 7 points in his 4th quarter run against Detroit, 4 of those off nice (quick) turnaround bank shots. I gave Baynes a C+ on defense since there is no such thing in garbage time.

Cory Joseph

Offense

Defense

Hustle

Overall

Joseph A A+ A A






Cory Joseph is the co-star of the week along with Manu Ginobili. On February 28th, Joseph was once again called up from the Spurs Developmental Leage affiliate, the Austin Toros. And as it goes in professional sports, one man's injury is another's opportunity. Popovich started the second-year guard in place of Parker against the Detroit Pistons. Along with some garbage minutes against Sacramento, Joseph produced 21 points on 61.5% shooting, 6 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, and only turned it over once in the three game stretch. Cory operated the high pace offense smoothly, running the breaks and quickly initiating the ball movement.

Joseph looks right at home on the Spurs roster and not like a typical D-league call up. He has managed the game incredibly well, earning high praise from both Coach Popovich and his teammates. With Neal's injuries and the lingering uncertainty surrounding Patty Mills and Nando De Colo, Cory Joseph could very well cement his spot on the roster.

Follow me on Twitter at @DukeOfBexar for more Spurs news, notes, quotes, and poorly-worded opinions.

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