For those of you who have been around awhile, you may remember the Spurs signing TJ Ford, and me writing a brief intro piece about how excited I was for him to sign. Well, if this signing had taken place at the beginning of the season, I'd have been twice as excited about TMac. As is, with him likely getting no game-time in before the end of the season and at best a few practices before the playoffs, I'm still fairly excited. Two seasons ago, Tracy was playing point guard (yes, you read that right) for the Detroit Pistons. And he was doing it very well. Last year, he was arguably the most consistent playmaker for the Atlanta Hawks on the perimeter. This year, he just finished up a season in China, where he averaged 25 points and about 8 rebounds for his last-place team.
So what can we expect from him now? That's a fair question, and while I recognize some people may be pessimistic about his contributions, I'm definitely not in that camp. I expect him to average between 12 and 20 minutes per game in the first round, particularly if we play Houston. He's going to be one of the primary playmakers off the bench until Manu gets healthy, which we still don't know when that will be. I expect him to play smart, make plays, and hit open shots. I'm not anticipating him to be a lockdown defender, but I also think he'll do significantly better than Gary Neal, and no worse than Manu or Tony Parker have done on that end this year.
Most importantly, I expect him to play better than Stephen Jackson. I see a rather minimal defensive drop off, but a significantly better offensive player. He's not going to get major minutes (especially once Manu and Boris come back), but he should be just what we need to get through the first round. His size keeps us from having to play the micro-ball on the wings that helped Memphis eliminate us a few years ago.
As far as actual rotations are concerned, so much depends on the health of Manu that it's tough to prognosticate, but I would suspect that with Manu healthy, Tony will play about 36 minutes at the point (maybe a few more if he's able to completely heal up as well). Manu and Green will play all 48 minutes at SG, with Manu perhaps going back to picking up 6 at the backup point, but I'd be hesitant to play him any more than 30 minutes unless we go into overtime and just have to have him on the court. Kawhi should average between 36 and 38 at the SF slot, with McGrady picking up any minutes there and any leftovers at the point guard position. I don't see the Spurs playing much small ball and sliding McGrady to the four, but perhaps one of the reasons we've seen Leonard post up a couple times a game is to get him used to playing that role. Duncan, Tiago, and when healthy, Boris, will probably play at least 80 of the available 96 minutes at the two big spots.
The only way I see Pop going a different way with this is if he doesn't want to freeze Gary Neal completely out of the rotation, in which case we'll continue to see some three-guard lineups, which shouldn't hurt us against Houston but definitely would in the second round.