"He's Manu Ginobili." - Coach Pop
Hey guys, so this is my first fanpost so sorry for typos, grammatical errors, long useless ramblings, and any weird opinions. I am a college student with a major exam this week and a ton of assignments due...so I thought I'd put it all off by writing a fanpost about a future second ball handler. Enjoy!!
The recent rumblings in Spurs land and around San Antonio have been...well more than just rumblings to say the least. "What's wrong with Manu?!" Now I'll give you fair warning, this article isn't to bash Manu or even point out recent performance, save for maybe a paragraph or two. The complaints about Ginobili's recent play has been drastically over-exaggerated and unwarranted. We all know what Manu has been able to do over his entire career so two things are against him right now: when healthy and feeling it he is one of the most dangerous and amazing players in the entire game of basketball, and he is the only reliable second ball handler for this Spurs team. The fact that we've seen Manu at his best makes it extremely frustrating to see him playing how he has been lately, which is at the level of a normal rotation player. In addition, when Tony is out of the game, all the pressure is put on Manu to be the leader of the team. The fact that he hasn't been fully healthy, add in the fact that Parker was sidelined by injuries, has made us begin to doubt Manu over the past couple of weeks.
I'm here to tell y'all the truth though: Manu can still be a top tier player in the NBA WHEN HEALTHY...but that's the problem. Manu isn't regressing, his instincts aren't fading, and he isn't broken down. Hell, did anyone watch him playing for Argentina less than a year ago?! The problem is that Manu hasn't been healthy, and at this point in his career it doesn't look like his body will ever get back to how it once was unless his minutes are cut and his role is changed. Don't get me wrong, he's still got it, and I can see him turning back the clock a bit a la Ray Allen with the Heat and defying age with a reduced role. But that's something the Spurs have to accept and, more importantly, Manu has to accept.
Manu is a free agent this summer and we all know he is loyal to the Spurs and the Spurs are loyal to him...but that loyalty needs to be tested for the better of the team when it comes to dollar figures and fine print. Manu can't take the load as a secondary playmaker anymore. This is something the Spurs, Manu, and his new contract (if he decides to not retire) need to reflect. So where to go from here? There are three roads in my opinion:
1. Sign Manu to a new deal and keep him as a secondary ball handler while Kawhi or one of the back up point guards slowly takes over Manu's load as ball handler.
2. Sign Manu to a discount deal, talk him into a reduced role, and try to find a secondary ball handler through free agency (minimal trade chips and the position of our cap space make free agency the best option).
3. Sign a secondary ball handler, see Manu reject a smaller offer/role with the spurs, and break the hearts of every Spurs fan as he walks(I wish that last part were exaggeration but if you know Spurs fans, you know how much Manu means).
Personally, I dislike 1. Kawhi is improving every aspect of his game...but playmaking seems to be the one part that's taking longer than everything else. Because Parker plays so much at point, I think an improving point guard would just cause a match up conundrum down the road (anyone remember what we went through with George Hill?) unless the pg is nando who can play sg as well. Options 2 and 3 seem the best to me, although 3 would make me cry my eyes out. Regardless, it seems we are destined to have to shell some money out for a new playmaker unless we hit the jackpot in the draft. So, who are some likely candidates for the Spurs (in my eyes, btw)? Keep in mind these are all shooting guards who can fulfill ball handler responsibilities, no offense to Danny Green:
I don't care how much Evans has disappointed the past couple of years. Does anyone remember his rookie year?! The guy is a monster!! Like Manu, he's the size of a shooting guard (if anything Evans is the height of a sg but has the muscle of a sf) but is often categorized as a combo guard because of his ball handling and ability to to collapse a defense and find the open man for a pass. Think James Harden but lacking a reliable outside jumper...and a gross beard. The fact that he's having a down year could help the Spurs because Evans will be a restricted free agent, meaning the most money thrown at him wins. Luckily, the Kings seem in such disarray that it seems like they're going to let Evans go without trying to keep him themselves and I haven't heard about other teams wanting to take a chance on him. The problem with all those teams? They're looking just at numbers. Has Evans ever been one to complain though? Throw his teammates under the bus? Listen to him during an interview and you'll find that he's a team player, smart when it comes to the game of basketball, and wants to win whatever way he can. You have to assume that with a much more controlled team environment, great basketball minds surrounding him, and a functioning system that he'll be able to fill the role as secondary playmaker and help the team look towards the future.
J.J. Redick has always been on the wrong team in my mind. I feel like he was born to be a Spur. First off, he started off his career as a spot up three point shooter...doesn't that scream Spurs from the get go? However, we want secondary playmaker. Fortunately, that's something Redick has used the past year to improve. His assists jumped from 2.6 last season to 4.4 this season. I know 4.4 doesn't sound like much, but the only players currently on the Spurs roster that average more than that are Tony and Manu, Manu being our point of comparison and even he is averaging 4.6 assists. Not much higher than Redick's assists average. By the way, our impromptu back up ball handler in Neal is averaging 1.8 assists...yeah that is a big difference. Also, only those who follow basketball religiously remember that at the beginning of the season when Jameer Nelson was out for Orlando, Redick took on all the playmaking responsibilities and his assists numbers were a lot higher than his average suggests, showing that his stats aren't indicative of the fact that he can fill whatever role is needed from him at the time. One thing people will point at is his lack of sg size and how that may be a negative on defense. However, Redick is known as a great defender with tons of hustle within a well organized system. And for those of you who doubt small players being able to defend in a good system (because we're all scarred by Neal and the fact that he can't defend in any system), DO YOU ALL REMEMBER AVERY JOHNSON AS A SPUR?!
The man to fulfill every Spurs fans' wants and needs. One of the hardest working, most versatile, stingiest defenders in the NBA. A do-it-all, coaches favorite pet, blue collar type of guy who will do whatever it takes and whatever is asked of him to win a game...and he's using his early termination option with denver to be a free agent this summer...making things tricky for the Spurs. The guy is an athletic freak who is a nuisance on the defensive end and a lightning bolt on offense. However, he can pass like a point and has the ability to run an offense effectively. On Denver, he's that veteran presence that helps a scoring point guard like Lawson when assists need to be found and for the Spurs he'd be the same for stretches when Parker is out or defenses are trapping. Like I said though, he's a free agent and will be looking for good money. But something tells me he's going to be looking for his best chance at a championship. Iggy is 29 years old, in his prime, and in the best position of his career to be a big piece of a championship run on a contender. People say money talks, but I say rings whisper in a players ear too. Ask Lebron how Pat Riley recruited him. In any case, the Spurs will have money, more than Denver at least, and the contender status to throw at Iggy, not to mention one of the best coaches of all time (knowing that Iggy is a coaches pet). The only problem will be the length of the contract. At this point in his career Iggy knows the best contract he'll get is right now, so i doubt he goes for a high yearly number, but I can see him asking for 4 years so that he's insured up until his game starts declining. However, I say take the risk and add a great floor general and defensive veteran. Who else wants to see a small-ball defensive line up of Iggy-Kawhi-Green? I can say it'll sure make other teams think twice about going small for a so called "mismatch".
To sum it all up, these are just a few of the best options I could see the Spurs going towards this summer to address the future need of a secondary playmaker. Manu is still an amazing player who isn't necessarily declining skill wise, but his health is bringing him down. And you can't over pay a guy whose health is betraying him, no matter how much you love him. Hopefully the Spurs make the best choice possible and find a way to reap benefits in the present while preparing for the future. Hey they've been doing a pretty good job these past sixteen years, right?