clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Counterpoint: Why The Sam Young Signing Doesn't Worry Me

Don't get the wrong idea, I know he's terrible and all, but this Spurs team is very different than the one Keith Bogans played on.


Boy, this is a fine how-do-you-do. All of a sudden your pal Stampler, whom you've come to rely on as PtR's resident curmudgeon and doomsayer, is shining warm rays of positivity into your bedroom window where... GAH what's wrong with you put on some clothes.

On the topic at hand of Sam Young's worth as a professional basketball player, I don't have much more to add than J. Gomez already covered in his excellent post. I hope by now most of you realize he is far superior to me when it comes to actual "analysis" and "research," and even "work ethic," whereas I have to fool you with my hackneyed Bill Simmons impersonations and crackpot conspiracy theories. Oh, and of course my hilarious jokes. I am to sports blog comedy what Tim Duncan is to... sports blog comedy. Mainly J.R. Wilco keeps me around as a cautionary tale to his kids to take their studies seriously.

Anyway, Young, who's only in the league for his defense, was tenth on the Pacers in defensive rating last season, with only George Hill finishing worse than him among guys who played a meaningful role on the team in the playoffs, and Hill's was worse by a fraction. Young had a defensive rating of 102. Gerald Green, who is generally regarded as a terrible defender, had a rating of 103. As a point of reference, Tyler Hansbrough, who despite his 6'9" height has arms as long as your iPhone and whose main defensive tactic is to tackle you with his face, was seventh on the club with a 101 defensive rating. Manu Ginobili had a 100 defensive rating last season and I could break every bone in his body just by touching him with the same force I used to type this sentence on my keyboard.

Then there's the other side of the ball, where Young had a 94 offensive rating, which ranked him 12th on an Indiana team not renowned for its offense. On the Spurs, the only guy who finished with a worse rating than 94 was Stephen Jackson, who had a broken finger on his shooting hand most of the season and has struggled with depth perception ever since that unfortunate strip club brawl he had in Babylon in 28 B.C., back when he was in his prime.

Young, who has averaged 0.7 assists to 0.8 turnovers in a tick under 16 minutes per game over his career, is not the kind of offensive player who provides much in the way of passing, ball-handling, shot-creation or passing. The good news is that he's also a terrible shooter, sporting a career 3-point percentage of 28.0. I say, with no sense of hyperbole, that I believe I could average 28 percent on three-point shots if you promised me that all my attempts would be totally wide open ones like Steve Kerr got. And I'm awful at basketball.

By any measure, Sam Young appears to be a quite horrid professional basketball player, and I'd guess there are literally hundreds of better options on the planet to fill the backup small-forward/15th man on the roster spot for the Spurs. Give me a Pietrus brother. I don't even care which one. Or Andres Nocioni to give Manu another Argie to hang with. What's James Gist up to these days? Anybody got Malik Hairston's phone number?

However, with all that being said, I must disagree with this section of Edg5's post:

Some players unequivocally hurt a team on offense but play defense "the right way," which endears him to coaches and fans. They are not great defenders, mind you -- just adequate. But since "defense wins championships," and not everyone grasps defensive systems quickly enough, these guys keep getting gigs despite being a net negative. I call it the Keith Bogans Syndrome but DeShawn Stevenson or Damien Wilkins are other examples that fit. Those are players that don't really bring anything unique to the table or have an elite skill but have continued getting jobs over more talented players on their incorrectly perceived defensive impact alone.

And once again, that's fine, as long as they are practice bodies or get limited minutes only when the situation calls for it. But the very nature of this type of player makes it hard for the coach to not give them minutes. Pop was susceptible to Bogans' charms in the 2009/10 season despite the team being significantly better with him off the floor (7.4 net rating) than on (1.9 net rating). Frankly, I'm scared to death of the mere idea that a guy like Young could get minutes that could be going to one of the back up PGs or Marco Belinelli in small lineups, just because he allows fewer back cuts. Yet I can absolutely see it happen because he plays "hard nosed D" and "is more physical" that his more talented teammates.

And that's why I can't be happy about this signing. The Spurs can use a wing for training camp and Young is a pro, which is always welcomed. Bringing in someone that is content to be played sparingly, but stays ready just in case, is unfortunately not easy. I still would have preferred to see the spot go to a younger player that has a semblance of an offensive game. But if Young is essentially a deep bench guy that only gets playing time when someone gets hurt, or in for mop up duty when the situation clearly calls for it, I'm on board.

But if I've learned one thing about Gregg Popovich, it's that he likes his fundamentally sound defenders. So if Young consistently gets ten minutes a game and kills the offense while Mills, De Colo, Joseph and Belinelli watch from the bench, don't say I didn't warn you.

First of all, I'd argue that Bruce Bowen is the Michael Jordan of Keith Bogans Syndrome, but I know I'm in the minority there. (Come at me, bros!) I think my fellow scribe is guilty of comparing apples to oranges, or, in this case, Richard Jeffersons to Kawhi Leonards.

While you may have blissfully pushed the 2009-10 Spurs out of your consciousness, I have not, mainly because that Spurs team had a rather awesome edition of Ginobili who for like a two-month stretch late in the year was something like a top-five NBA player.

Don't let that fool you though. That Spurs team was like the Charlotte Hor-cats of the Tim Duncan era, and Ginobili was just about the only good thing they had going for them. Tony Parker missed 26 games with a broken hand and other ailments and wasn't good at all even when he did play, with Pop benching him in favor of Hill late in the year and in the playoffs. Tim Duncan averaged the lowest blocked shots (1.5 per) and worst defensive rating (101) of his career. That whole team was a defensive abomination, really, relative to Spurs standards. They finished 50-32, seventh in the Western Conference, and barely qualified for the playoffs. Yes, they pulled a slight upset in the first-round, toppling hated Dallas in six games, but then were wiped out by the Suns in four, with Steve Nash and even Goran Dragic just running circles around them and scoring at will. A broken nose suffered by Ginobili early in the Mavs series did not help matters.

To really get a sense of how terrible that team was though, look beyond The Big Three. This was the first year of the Richard Jefferson experiment, and after a good first month he was an unmitigated disaster, especially in the playoffs, where he averaged less than ten points-per-game in 33.4 minutes and shot 20 percent from downtown. They had Roger Mason Jr., who was completely useless after Pop ruined him by trying to make him the backup point guard late in the 2008-09 campaign. The corpse of Michael Finley, who played every bit as well as you'd expect a 36-year-old Michael Finley to play, asked to be released halfway through the year and the team accommodated him. Bogans (106 offensive rating, 106 defensive rating) logged 44 whole minutes more the whole season than Mason got (19 and change per game), while Hill had to log nearly 30 a night. Oh and Duncan's fellow rebounders and "rim protectors" were Antonio McDyess, Matt Bonner and rookie DeJuan Blair.

Was Bogans given too many minutes by Pop? Absolutely. But what choice did he have? He was already running Hill and Ginobili to death, Parker was either out or severely compromised, Jefferson was loafing his way through an empty 32 minutes a night barely breaking a sweat and Mason was beyond awful. That team might as well have been Duncan, Ginobili and your 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers. It's a testament to how great those two (and Pop) were that they were able to drag this sorry bunch to 50 wins.

And even then, as bad as they were, as limited as they were, Pop still had the sense to not play Bogans when it truly mattered, as he totaled just 55 minutes and saw action in only eight of the 10 playoff games. Even Mason (61 minutes) and Blair (91) played more. For long stretches of that postseason, Pop had to resort to a three-guard lineup with Ginobili, Parker and Hill, if only because they were his only competent perimeter players. There were also stretches where they played a lot of small-ball, with Jefferson as the power forward to go with those three guards and Duncan at center.

Pop didn't give Bogans so many minutes in the regular season because he thought he was any good. He played him because that roster sucked and Parker missed a lot of time. It's not at all comparable to what Young's role on the 2013-14 Spurs would be, because Leonard is already a far superior player to Jefferson, Danny Green is a better fit for multiple reasons than Hill was, Belinelli can't possibly be worse than Mason was that year and guys like Cory Joseph, Patty Mills and Nando De Colo can fill minutes at point guard in Parker's absence.

Even if Young makes the team and he ends up playing over 15 minutes a night for the Spurs, it won't be because Pop fell in love with his gritty defense but rather, unfortunately, because the team had a tragic (albeit conceivable) rash of injuries to Ginobili, Leonard and maybe even Green. Even then, assuming that everyone's ready to go for the playoffs, Young's role would be every bit as insignificant as Bogans' was. I rip on Pop as much as anyone, but even I have to stick up for him on this one.

Finally, I would add that if you're worried about Belinelli or De Colo losing minutes to Young, my advice for them would be to play better. Here's a quick primer for them:

Pop's Keys To Being A Successful Role Player on the Spurs

1. Only three players are allowed to turn the ball over on this team. You are not one of them.

2. If you're not gonna rotate to your man on the three point line, you better shoot above 40 percent on the other end.

3. Under no circumstances should you take a contested shot, or one outside of 15-feet early in the shot clock.

4. Rebound the freaking ball (unless you're taller than 6'6").

5. Get back in transition.

6. Give the ball to Tony or Manu and then get open.

7. Quit fouling people.

8. Do not give ESPN any reason to talk about you off the floor.

9. Do not complain about your role or playing time to Pop or anyone else.

10. Easy on the What-a-burgers.

If they follow that list better than Young or whomever, then they won't have anything to worry about. If they don't, then they deserve to be in Pop's doghouse until they shape up. Either way I'm not going to concern myself much with the periphery of the roster. Getting back to the Finals (and winning it) will be all about the top eight guys on the roster, as always.

Good lord, it's come to this. I'm defending Pop and being the optimist. Something tells me JRW has been messing with my pills again.

More from Pounding The Rock: