One of the storylines through the first three games of the season is how the Spurs offense is utilizing the many talents of French forward Boris Diaw. Coach Pop recently mentioned the perennial frustration Diaw's coaches (himself included) have felt in pushing the Frenchman to shoot the ball more often and with more confidence. In his third year with San Antonio, it looks like the team may have finally made a breakthrough. Then again, maybe it was the guru Pop mentioned after the Grizzlies game.
Through three games, here are his per-game averages: 14 points, 24.7 minutes, 63% fg, 2 assists and 3.3 rebounds. The 14 points, which has been the exact number he's scored in each game so far, is better than his career-best average of 13.3ppg, which he posted in his third season in the league way back in 2005-06. His points are coming both from the post and in spot-up situations, with Diaw comfortably extending his range beyond the three-point line. He's currently 3-7 from distance, which includes a clutch three-pointer he hit late against Los Angeles.
With the offense often running through him at times, the 31-year-old's usage rate is currently sitting at 21.6%, the highest he's ever posted in his career, and much greater than the 11.2% and 12% from his last two years with the Spurs. This high usage has resulted in another positive number: Diaw's PER is currently at a career-high of 21.6.
It's early and these numbers aren't too much to go by just yet, but there is reason to think that Diaw, and his unique skillset, will continue to be a big part of the Spurs attack going forward.
In this first play, Diaw takes advantage of the mismatch in the post and attacks the rim. He misses his first attempt but corrals the rebound and spins away from the hoop. Normally Diaw would've passed the ball back to Mills here who, along with every Laker defender in the vicinity, does not expect the normally unselfish forward to shoot it again. Instead, he turns back into a hook shot and scores.
Diaw is excellent at passing the ball in the post, even in traffic. In this crucial play in the fourth quarter against LA, Diaw drew multiple defenders under the basket. Looking up immediately, he quickly found Tiago for the shot at the rim. Splitter misses the lay-in, but stays with it and finishes off the second effort.
Despite his diminutive height and (to put it kindly) limited mobility, Diaw remains a solid defender. He gives up very little in the post to bigger forwards, stays in front of faster wing-type players (he did a respectable job against LeBron in the Finals) and is able to come up with the occasional loose ball, as evidenced by this possession, which led to his game-sealing assist to Manu.
Of course some numbers may not be sustainable, and a few teams will match up better against Boris than others. But in a season which will greatly rely on the contributions of the Spurs' supporting cast, Diaw's play could be crucial not only to pick up some key wins, but to give Tim, Tony and Manu the help and rest they need for another championship run.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.