The Spurs are one win away from advancing to the Conference Finals and it has taken contributions from pretty much all the rotation guys to get to this point. But with different expectations and prevailing narratives regarding players their true value gets distorted. Let's take a look at some stats and my own biased, subjective views and figure out who, in my eyes, is delivering and who is underwhelming.
Tony Parker and Tim Duncan have been beasts throughout the playoffs and I doubt anyone disagrees. They've had some tough games, like everyone else, but they have delivered so far, so let's leave them out.
Kawhi Leonard's numbers look great and he has played fantastic defense. His work on the boards has been phenomenal as well so the only problematic area is his three point shooting. And even that seems to be coming around. But as impressive as Kawhi has been, he hasn't really raised his game this playoffs.
Here are Kawhi Leonard's stats per 36 minutes in his two playoff appearances.
You'll notice that, while he is doing better in some areas like free throw attempts, for the most part the numbers are similar. It's not that Leonard's play has been underwhelming or anything. He's just playing pretty much at the same level he played last season. His role, while a little bigger on offense, remains basically the same. The biggest difference has simply been minutes per game.
Don't get me wrong, being able to handle more playing time without seeing your numbers plummet is a great thing. But it's not like Leonard took a leap forward. Without Stephen Jackson around and after earning Pop's trust Leonard is getting the playing time he deserves and is producing as expected.
It's hard to come to any conclusions about Ginobili because he defies the usefulness of looking at averages like few players do. Manu can play poorly for a couple of games, then great for one and just OK in the fourth. He was never the most consistent of players but at this point his game is more feast or famine than ever. So if I was to look at the first couple of game of the series I might think he was playing poorly but then he goes on to hit some threes in game four and gets vindication. But, regardless of the predictable ups and downs, I think this is worth checking out.
Those are the players that are averaging more than ten points, four rebounds and five assists on over .500 true shooting percentage on the playoffs, excluding Westbrook. That's some great company. I'm obviously not saying Ginobili has been close to the level of the other guys on that list asides from Jarret Jack but it does seem the all around game he is displaying is rare and, to a degree, makes up for his inefficient scoring.
The Spurs need Manu to shoot better from the field and the line to beat the Warriors and whoever makes it to the finals in the West (not to mention Miami), but it seems that he has been pulling his weight and how well the team does when he is on the court confirms that. His is getting similar per game numbers to those players, some of whom are superstars, while playing fewer minutes. I can't say I'm content with Ginobili's performance but the idea that Manu's days as a valuable contributor are over definitely seems to be an overstatement.
Green has gone through a bit of a transformation from regular season to playoffs in terms of shot selection. Since every team knows Green is a deadly three point shooter they are not leaving him open as much and, as a result, a smaller percentage of his total shots have been three pointers.
Fortunately, Green has been patient and has taken mostly good shots both from beyond the arc and inside of it. He is taking very few mid range jumpers and is working to find better shots, both in transition and half court sets. Other than his average-at-best rebounding, on an individual level Green is doing what the Spurs need of him by defending well and scoring efficiently. But, somehow, the team seems to be much better when he is resting.
In the second round, the team has a net rating of -10.7 when Green is on the court, by far the worst of everyone not named Matt Bonner. Both the offense and the defense are worse when Danny plays and the same happened in round one, when the Spurs swept the Lakers. When the other shooting guards (especially Ginobili but also Neal) are in against the Warriors, the team has a positive net rating. And when Danny is not on the court the Spurs have a defensive rating of 90, which is beyond great. It's important to remember these type of stats are noisy in small sample sizes and particularly against a team as streaky as the Warriors (they can get hot even against solid defense) but I'm pointing this out because of the stark contrast between the eye test, which suggests Green helps the team enormously, and the numbers, which don't.
I love what Green has done so far on both ends but it worries me a bit that the team numbers are so bad when he is on the court. Still, I think at least individually, Green has not disappointed.
Tiago Splitter and Matt Bonner
Here the eye test and the numbers converge perfectly. Splitter has struggled throughout the playoffs and especially this series. The team does very well with him on offense when he is on the floor but the defense is atrocious. Something similar happens with Bonner, who was great in the Lakers series but has had all sorts of trouble contributing anything of value against the Warriors. Simply put, this really is a bad match up for them.
Their individual numbers are OK but they are not helping the team on their current roles. I believe Splitter could do well as the sole big and dive man on pick and rolls playing on a spread out small ball unit but Pop has been reluctant to try that out. So Bonner is doing about how I expected him to do in this series but Tiago has let me down a bit. He should keep starting for continuity's sake and let's hope his bad performance is more injury related than anything else because he could be huge in a potential match up with the Grizzlies.
The other side of the coin is Boris Diaw. Diaw's terrible rebounding and tentativeness when left alone behind the three point line drives me insane but, at least by the numbers, he has helped the team in the second round more than I would have ever imagined. The defensive rating differential when Diaw plays versus when he is on the bench is a staggering -28 points and the offense seems to work better as well, although nos as dramatically. Even if those differentials are partially explained by his role in game one's comeback and his presence when the Warriors went ice cold for an eight minute stretch in game four, those numbers are ridiculous.
He definitely helped in game one but without going back and watching every sequence Diaw was involved in I can't really claim he is actually doing anything himself to contribute to that stingy D but at least we can say his presence coincides with offensive droughts for the Warriors. So he should keep getting minutes even if every time he passes up an open three to take a mid range jumper or to "penetrate" a little piece of my soul dies. I guess he has done something right.
Neal and Joseph
These two guys, not unlike Diaw, have individual stat lines that are pedestrian at best but the team does better when they are on the court on both ends. That being said Neal needs to find his shot, fast or he will see his role reduced even further.
The rebounding is nice and all but Neal is a shooter and he has to knock down the open jumpers he gets while limiting the bad shots. Even when he hustles like he did in game four his defense is still lacking so for Gary it should come down to either producing on offense or not playing at all. I and others have praised Neal for holding his own against Barnes on the post but he has underwhelmed so far in my eyes.
Joseph is what he is at this point and that's a limited but competent back up. He's doing a nice job with the short minutes he gets and is pretty much meeting the tempered expectations of the fans.
So who is exceeding your expectations? Who do you believe is having a bigger impact than he gets credit for? And who has been overrated so far?
Stats courtesy of NBA.com/Stats and Basketball-Reference