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Manu Ginobili stays with the Spurs, but can he have a better year?

Ginobili re-signed for two years with the Spurs. But whether this signing is a success or just a lateral move at best will depend on a lot of factors.


A day after we heard that Splitter was coming back, Manu announced he would also stay a Spur. He basically signed a contract for half of what he was making last season, which is exactly what Tim Duncan did. That means Ginobili will be with the Spurs for two more years, on a $14 million dollar contract.

At first glance, paying Manu $7 million a year seems a bit steep. But with Tiago Splitter already signing and the Spurs not showing signs of interest in amnestying Matt Bonner, the amount is pretty much insignificant for this year, since whatever number he signed meant the Spurs were getting the mid-level exception. San Antonio will still have cap space next season and Manu's new contract comes off the books at the same time Duncan's and Parker's.

As for whether this is a good signing or not, I'll make it short: it's good for the franchise off the court because Manu has been a part of the Spurs for a long time and is extremely popular with fans. On the court, it could also be a fantastic signing, although just how good it ends up being will depend on a lot of factors.

Manu's health -- and rest

Ginobili won't play summer ball, so he will get time to rest his body and hopefully work on it to add strength. It might seem inconsequential at first, but the last time Manu rested for a summer was before the 2010/11 season and he had one of the best years of his career. Expecting improvement from a 35 year old with a lot of basketball miles is a tricky proposition, but we witnessed a renaissance year by Tim Duncan last season after some fans considered his contract too high and his best years past him. Getting a full summer's rest could do the same to Manu.

Ginobili needs help

The other aspect needed to get a Duncan year out of Manu -- one the Spurs can actually control -- will be to provide him with the type help Duncan got. By starting Splitter, the Spurs made Duncan's life easier, as he would not have to handle the other team's best post player and could protect the rim and quarterback the defense from close to the basket. With Green and Leonard on the court, Timmy also had better perimeter defenders around him and on offense he used the less physically demanding pick and pop jumpers over post ups as his favorite weapon, and let Parker and Splitter provide the inside scoring.

Manu should have a ball handler next to him in the second unit to ease his burden a bit. Ideally it would be someone that could break down a defense out of a pick and roll, allowing Manu to spend a good amount of his playing time as a spot up shooter. Instead of using him almost exclusively out of high pick and rolls, the Spurs could have him catch the ball off a screen, with the defense already moving; like they do with Tony Parker. And he will need a dive man to create space for him with solid picks and the threat to score inside. That means Manu should spend time with a real point guard and not Gary Neal (if he comes back) and ideally next to Splitter or, if he makes strides in his game, Baynes.

While Manu will likely not be an above average defender next season, I'm confident that he will be less frustrated and more focused, which will allow him to avoid making mistakes. All of this is assuming that his body holds and he doesn't suffer nagging injuries. Contrary to popular belief, Manu wasn't gambling that much last season. He just lost his man as he watched the ball, and his help was late because he was hesitant. Those issues, along with either too soft or too aggressive closeouts, have more to do with fundamentals than physical ability and therefore can be corrected. Not having him defend point guards would also be a must, as Manu can no longer stay with the league's quicker players. And ideally, he wouldn't spend much time guarding more physically demanding forwards.

Do the Spurs have the help Manu needs on the roster?

The Spurs have three back up point guards, but none has proved to be able to provide them with all they need. Still, it was Nando De Colo's first year in the league and he is bound to get somewhat better. Joseph came out of nowhere last season and did a good job. If he shows he can effectively run a pick and roll, he'd be a great option. And there's always Patty Mills, who has value as a change of pace guy. There is no back up small forward but if either of Green or Leonard shares the court with Manu, he won't have to guard bigger players.

The Spurs could still target a couple of players with the MLE. Assuming Andrei Kirilenko is not willing to leave money on the table, getting a veteran floor general, like Jamaal Tinsley or Pablo Prigioni, wouldn't be a bad addition. But I'm assuming that if they can only get two players, they go with a wing and a big, which could also help Ginobili and the Spurs. Having another wing that can either create with the ball in his hands a bit (Carlos Delfino? Terrence Williams?) or provide solid, disruptive defense and rebounding (Corey Brewer? DeMarre Carroll?) would also allow Manu to focus on what he does best instead of trying to fill needs on the fly. And a better defensive big man (Earl Clark? Jermaine O'Neal?) would provide the second unit with a more sturdy defensive foundation.

Final thoughts

I'm both ecstatic that the Spurs re-signed Ginobili and concerned about how they will use him. A healthy, rested Manu will likely be a bit better next season but if I was part of the Spurs' front office, I'd make sure the team has the right pieces next to him to make the signing work. For now, let's just be happy that The Sickness is coming back for a couple more years and we'll get to enjoy his magic again. By re-signing their own guys, the Spurs didn't make the free agency splash some were expecting, but they still remain a contender.

And that's more than most franchises can say.