It's that time of the year. Sites are starting to rank NBA players for the next season in a somewhat meaningless but still entertaining act.
The Point Forward, one of the best NBA sites on the interwebs, came up with their 100 player ranking and six Spurs made the cut. Since Ben Goliver and Rob Mahoney know their stuff, I thought their ranking would be a good jumping off point to discuss where the Spurs' players stand relative to their peers.
(The parameters they used to rank them are better explained on their site but they used recent past performance, a prediction on how they were going to do and even took injury concerns into question.)
Green is one of the league's better three-and-D types, a classification that makes him amenable to most any team or system. The ability to guard multiple positions allows Green to complement his perimeter teammates through defensive cross-matching, while his elite three-point shooting helps the Spurs clear space for a high-functioning offense. Within that system he's shown a knack for both scripted and unscripted offense, thriving in structure and chaos. Players who perform well under both conditions are rarer than they should be, but Green has an excellent feel for when to follow assigned cutting routes and when to break free for needed improvisation. - RM
I think that's a fair assessment. Green is not an elite defensive player but he is definitely above average and his versatility makes him very valuable on that end. As for his offense, Green improved greatly as a cutter last season but it seemed to me like it was mostly by design. A lot of what seemed to be spontaneous cuts appear to have been drilled. There was a time last season when the Spurs first basket regularly came from a Green cut that was not improvised. The same happened with Green moving without the ball against the Heat.
Considering there are 150 starters in the league, his placing seems adequate. It's hard to see Green getting significantly better at this point but he is definitely an elite 3-and-D role player. He ranked 15th in his position behind Klay Thompson, Vince Carter, J.R. Smith, J.J. Redick, O.J. Mayo, Jamal Crawford, Kevin Martin, Monta Ellis, Tyreke Evans, Joe Johnson, Manu Ginobili, James Harden, Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade. I think that's fair.
74. Tiago Splitter, San Antonio Spurs (F/C, 28)
2012-13 stats: 24.7 MPG, 10.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 24.7 MPG, 56.0 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 18.7 PER, 8.2 Win Shares, +3.7 RAPM
Far too many consider Splitter to be a mere sidekick for Tim Duncan or a prop for a LeBron James highlight, but the Spurs' center is one of the few big men capable of both high-level team defense and highly efficient pick-and-roll play. That combination makes him more or less ideal for the modern NBA, where the ability to navigate the space in the lane on both offense and defense is paramount. When looking to score, Splitter does a terrific job of hesitating on his rolls to the rim - a simple delay that allows him to capitalize on the gaps in the opponent's coverage. The result? An impressive 66.3 percent shooting in pick-and-roll scenarios, with a healthy dose of drawn fouls to boot. Splitter also brings that same understanding of space and timing to wall off opponents from the paint, where he's just quick enough to help against opposing guards before then recovering to his assigned man on-point. That he strikes that balance so consistently makes him quite a catch, no matter his limitations. - RM
This seems a bit low for Splitter, to be honest. Check this out.
Those three other bigs ranked ahead of Tiago, who leads them in PER, Win Shares and RAPM (Regularized Adjusted Plus Minus). All three are better offensive players than Tiago but they all also have their weaknesses. Boozer doesn't get to the line, Anderson can't finish at the rim and Nene has no more range than Tiago. Splitter is not the only one with limitations.
Considering Splitter is the superior defensive player by a significant margin, I would rank him ahead of Boozer and Anderson (and Rudy Gay and Monta Ellis) and closely behind Nene. He might have a smaller role but he is better at it than those other guys are at theirs.
56. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs (G, 36)
2012-13 stats: 23.2 MPG, 11.8 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 42.5 FG%, 35.3 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 19.0 PER, 4.5 Win Shares, +3.7 RAPM
The end is in sight for San Antonio's sixth man, and he toyed with the idea of retirement this summer after dealing with injuries and uneven play in the postseason. Ginobili might be a shell of his former self, but he's still capable of magic, and his PER remains in the top five at his position. After a series of high-turnover, poor-shooting games in the postseason, Ginobili momentarily quieted his critics by delivering 24 points and 10 assists in San Antonio's Game 5 victory against Miami in the Finals. How many two-guards in the game today are capable of a night like that on a stage like that? (Not many.) Yes, his body can no longer handle a huge workload over an 82-game season. And, yes, Kawhi Leonard has replaced him as San Antonio's No. 3 guy. But Ginobili will remain one of the game's most respected guards until he finally decides to hang it up. - BG
Durability questions alone are enough to rank Manu this low, so I get it. That being said, when Ginobili is on the court, he is one of the most complete guards in the league. It's not a coincidence that he ranked so high in PER, Win Shares and RAPM last season even in an undeniably down year. Ginobili assists (and yes, turns it over) like a point guard and is not afraid to go up for boards, ranking among the league's best shooting guards in defensive rebound percentage. He had one of his best statistical seasons in terms of steals last season and while his overall defense has deteriorated, he doesn't hurt the team on that end more than he helps on the other.
What hurt Manu more than anything last season was how his outside shot abandoned him, which combined with his health issues caused him to lose confidence. He was good in spot up situations (41.8%) and off screens (39%), numbers that are similar to past seasons, but saw a huge decrease in percentages on isolation three pointers (45.5% in 2011/12, 18.5% last season) as well as three pointers in transition (34.3% in 2011/12, 28.3% last season) and as a pick and roll ball handler (31.6% in 2011/12, 26.4% last season). If those percentages go back to his career averages or he simply shoots those shots less, his efficiency will climb. Remember, Manu was still very, very good at getting to the line and above average at finishing at the rim last season.
Ranked at 56, Manu is among the best third options in the league and there are just three other SGs (Harden, Kobe and Wade) ranked higher, which seems perfectly reasonable. But with a full summer's rest and hopefully a more suitable supporting cast around him, he could have a bounce back season. Of course it's also possible that the wheels really fall off and he could merit an even lower rank. As is always the case with Manu, the biggest hurdle is his health.
Part two, discussing Leonard, Duncan and Parker will come soon
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