Pacers-Heat has come down to game seven, which means we still have no idea who the Spurs will be facing. Since there are not a lot of news on the Spurs' front the wait is getting near impossible to withstand. So to make it more palatable let's talk about fun stuff, like T-Mac, the draft and how the Spurs could improve via trade.
Will T-Mac get a chance to play in the Finals?
If the Pacers advance, I don't see McGrady getting minutes even if Leonard struggles with foul trouble, as Danny Green would likely be switched onto George. And since the Pacers don't have a great shooting guard, the Spurs could survive giving Neal a couple of minutes at the two and Manu at the three when Sam Young plays. Vogel rarely goes small, so the Spurs shouldn't be forced to adjust, either. But what if it's the Heat?
The Heat can go small in a variety of combinations, some of which are very effective. The Spurs' preferred small ball lineup of Parker-Green-Manu-Leonard-Duncan has had a lot of problems on both ends so far in the playoffs, tallying a net rating of -23. So making a change to it and inserting either McGrady or Neal for Green would make sense. Neal would have to check one of their guards, be it Allen or Wade and that doesn't seem like a good match-up for the Spurs. But McGrady on Shane Battier with Manu/Green on Wade/Allen and Leonard on Lebron could work, as long as T-Mac is committed to rebounding the ball.
So McGrady could be hidden on defense for the most part and he has showed he can rebound in his last couple of NBA stints, pulling down over 15% of all available defensive boards when he was on the court both in Detroit and Atlanta. But can he do enough on offense? That's the question with T-Mac. As a 31% career three point shooter, he is not a huge threat from outside, which means Miami could send help off him and pack the paint, negating some of the offensive benefits of small ball for the Spurs. Or the Heat could hide their point guard on him and have Lebron on Parker. He just seems like a bad fit on those type of lineups and seems especially redundant with Ginobili on the court to be the secondary ball handler/creator. So unless Pop cuts Manu's minutes further, I doubt we see T-Mac unless Leonard gets into early foul trouble.
The Spurs have a ton of ways to upgrade the team in the off-season
I hate to do this with games left to be play and you know, the Spurs being in the Finals and all, but let's talk off-season for a second. You probably know by now that the Spurs could have a ton of cap room if they renounce Ginobili and Splitter and waive Bonner and his partially guaranteed contract. Personally, I think both South Americans return and I wouldn't be surprised if the Spurs also bring back Matt Bonner and maybe even Gary Neal. When your team gets to the Finals it's hard to say you need a lot of moves. But other teams aren't as blessed and will almost surely shake things up, which might present some opportunities for the Spurs. who have a lot of value contracts like Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo, Bonner, Boris Diaw (expiring) and even Danny Green to make things happen.
One such opportunity that seems to be out there already and has low-risk, high-reward potential is swapping Matt Bonner's partially guaranteed contract for the recently available Thomas Robinson. In case you haven't heard, it was reported that the Rockets want to dump Robinson's contract to clear enough room to offer Dwight Howard a max deal. They would also love to move Royce White for pretty much anything at this point. So a Bonner and De Colo for Robinson and White swap nets them about $3 million in cap room once Bonner is waived and gives them a movable asset in De Colo as opposed to White, who is as close to untradable as a talented, young guy could be. So the trade kind of makes sense for the Rockets, even though they almost certainly would want more.
The Spurs, meanwhile, get a 6-10 young power forward that doesn't look like a star in the making or anything but could develop nicely next to Leonard and under the tutelage of Duncan. With no expectations and a veteran coach to guide him he may even reach the potential that got him selected fifth overall, but it's unlikely. Fortunately, the Spurs don't need him to turn into an All-Star. If Robinson can learn to defend well and hit a mid-range jumper (and nothing suggests he can't do both), he would bring some needed size and athleticism to the Spurs big man rotation. If White ever suits up, even for the Toros, then that's just gravy.
The only thing that would give me a moment of pause before making the move is the fact that it might actually work out for the Rockets, who might land Howard. Still, someone is going to make it happen if the Rockets actually want it and it might as well be the Spurs. This is all just hypothetical, of course, but I'd go for it.
Get ready for a draft-and-stash
Since there are no Spurs games on, I've been reading up on the draft. Like every year, there seem to be some intriguing prospects near the top and then it all gets a little murky. The Spurs, who will pick 28th and 58th, were reportedly interested in Kiwi center Steven Adams but he seems to be climbing up draft boards and I don't think PATFO have the assets to pull a Leonard and trade up. They've also worked out shooters Tim Hardaway Jr. And James Southerland, who could be available when they pick in the first and second round, respectively.
But going through draft boards I keep coming across young international prospects and older, perimeter-oriented college players near the end of the first round. The Spurs already have nine players under contract for next season and will likely bring back Ginobili and Splitter, which means the roster is pretty much set. Sure, the Spurs could look to add a young back up small forward but they already have Adam Hanga and David Bertans waiting and no one that falls that far is going to be much better. Drafting a big that is good enough to contribute now would be great but the pickings will likely be slim that late in the draft and, if they resign Splitter and don't waive Bonner, the Spurs will have five F/Cs under contract already.
That's why I think the Spurs will select a big man to stash in Europe with their first round pick. Whoever falls to them out of Gobert, Saric, Nogueira, Jean-Charles or Jaite, the Spurs will pick. Now, I'm basing this completely on intuition. I'm not privy to any kind of info and I don't watch enough college ball to assert that this is the right way to go. But with Joseph as back up PG and Green and Leonard as the wings the Spurs have those spots covered with young players. What they need is a young big man that can develop into a starter and they likely have a better shot at getting one if they go the draft-and-stash rout.
I would love for the Spurs to uncover another gem but I doubt they can find a guy that late in the first round, regardless of position, who can contribute right now. And sending a first rounder to develop in the D-League for two years made sense with 19-year-old Joseph, not college juniors and seniors that haven't impressed despite numerous chances.
Of course, I'm the guy who didn't think the Spurs were going to be able to get a contributor with the 30th pick last season and the Warriors got Ezeli, who could have given the Spurs ten solid minutes off the bench. So, again, if you think there is a player that the Spurs could realistically get and could crack the rotation, let me know in the comments so I can read up on him.
Finally, a reminder. There's only one more day left before we finally learn who the Spurs will face and we can focus on that. Yay!