In this edition of In The Bonus, the PtR staff discusses the Big Banger's surge, Kyle Anderson's prospects, players we enjoy now that we don't have to root for them and players that need to be saved from bad teams.
Micheal Erler: I don't think it's all one or the other, but it's closer to the latter. He has decent enough hands, okay touch around the basket, good size and athleticism. When you have that, and some experience in the Spurs system, it's not too hard to have some success as a big. Manu Ginobili could probably get a light post a couple of buckets if it rolled to the basket on time. Baynes is stronger than Splitter and a better leaper. The Brazilian's advantages are in his lateral quickness defensively and his length. Offensively though, it's not much of a drop-off at all.
Jesus Gomez: I think it's a bit of both. The competition he's had success against hasn't exactly been good. But on offense he's doing much better diving hard after setting screens, which is a must playing next to Manu, and he's playing smart. On defense is where I have trouble separating what's real and what's not. But there will be time to see how good he really is. For now, I'm happy he's making the most of his opportunity.
Taylor Young: He has definitely broken the Spurs out of their 3 point shooting slump with his hot stroke. Seriously though, I like Baynes and I think he is becoming a reliable fourth big man that could get 10-12 minutes a game in the playoffs.
J.R. Wilco: I wouldn't say it's a product of the schedule at all. Baynes is showing that he's an adequate backup for Splitter. His understanding of spacing might not yet be what Splitter's is, but I'm surprised at how better he's defending the pick and roll this year over last. And his timing on pick and rolls while on offense is every bit as good as Tiago's. Not to mention the rock-solid screens he's able to set.
2 - What are your early thoughts on Kyle Anderson and his NBA prospects?
Erler: I think he's too limited athletically to ever be more than a 7th or 8th man. Just too slow laterally and not explosive at all. Plus, he basically projects to a small-forward and the Spurs have that position covered for the next decade. I don't really see Anderson ever being a stretch-four. He'd get eaten alive by the PFs around the league. Right now he's just really tentative and sees to have no idea how to get his shot off in the pros.
Gomez: There's one reason why I think he can be a good rotation player in the league: he hasn't improved his body yet. His pre-draft measurements showed he had a bigger percentage of body fat than DeJuan Blair and Kevin Love, for example. And while some guys bulk up in college, he didn't have to because he was playing point guard. If he commits to maximizing his physical tools, the talent to be a good player is there.
Young: I haven't seen anything to make me really excited, but I also have to take it with a grain of salt. It's early and he's the only new piece in a puzzle with all of its pieces. I think he will find his place, but he is slower than I could have imagined.
Wilco: He's so young and it's quite early in his rookie season. That's the best thing he has going for him. Also, the Spurs aren't looking for him to be productive right now. They just want to see his progression continue at a steady pace. Just look at how PATFO handled Cory Joseph: he got all the time he needed, and now he's proving that he can be a viable backup point guard. With time I think Anderson will find his place, although I think it more likely to happen for him as a four than a three.
3 - The Spurs won eight straight before losing to the Nets and still rank sixth in the West. At what spot do you project them to finish the season?
Erler: 3rd. I predicted they'd finish second behind the Clippers before the season started and I'll stick to that for now.
Gomez: I'm feeling optimistic today. I'm going with first overall. The depth is just too great. And getting Mills back in January could help the team make that push after a demanding December.
Young: Second behind the Grizzlies or Warriors. Those teams will really push for it all year. I feel stupid for betting on the Grizzlies to miss the playoffs. However, if the Spurs get out of the second half of December gauntlet with a top 3 record in the West, they'll eventually get number the 1 seed. I think they stay at 2 or 3 purposely if it looks like OKC will nab the 7 or 8.
Wilco: I think they'll get a top 3 slot. Memphis, Houston and Golden State are playing out of their minds right now, but let's see if they can maintain this pace for an entire season before we assume that the Spurs won't be able to catch any of them in the win column.
4 - I found myself enjoying Gary Neal's game recently despite being ambivalent about him when he played for the Spurs. Is there any former Spur you like watching now that you didn't enjoy when he was a Spur?
Erler: I loved watching Hedo in Orlando and was pretty down on him as a Spur. I still despise RJ. I admit, it's petty and a deep character flaw of mine, but to this day I get visibly angry whenever I see him on the court. I want him to fail, wherever he's at, even as a 12th man getting garbage minutes. Oh, I thought of another one. I like watching Beno Udrih play for Memphis. I'm not sure if that counts though because I always had a soft spot for him as a Spur, even though he wasted his talent here.
Gomez: I came up with the Gary Neal question, so yeah, Neal. But you know who else is suddenly fun to watch? Drew Gooden. He's taking three pointers now and seems to be as weird a dude as he was when he had a cup of coffee with the Spurs in 2009 and disappointed.
Young: Honestly, no. I liked Gary Neal on the Spurs, but everyone else who I originally disliked, I still dislike.
Wilco: It's Udrih for me. When he was in San Antonio, I always felt upset when he made a poor play, but now I just watch to enjoy anything good he does. And it happens more often than I remember.
5 - If you could save a good player on a terrible team by magically placing him on another roster, who would it be and where would you send him?
Erler: Excellent question. I like Gordon Hayward a lot so I'd twinkle my nose and make it so the Jazz never matched his offer sheet from Charlotte. Let the Jazz have Lance Stephenson instead. I wouldn't mind seeing Goran Dragic on another team either, like maybe the Spurs after Manu hangs em up.
Gomez: I'm going to let my nationality affect my decision here: I would love for Pablo Prigioni to get 15 minutes a game as a back up on a playoff team instead of playing for the Knicks. The fans love him, which is nice. But he has one more year left, tops. It would be nice if he was playing for a team that mattered.
Young: I'd save LeBron James from the Cavs and put him on the Spurs. Can't use that one? Okay, I'd like to see Al Horford on a championship contender. I'd use these magical powers to make him healthy and put him next to Steph Curry. Then I'd use said Magical Powers to brainwash the Warriors GM to trade Steph Curry and Al Horford to the Spurs for Austin Daye, Vander Blue and the fan rights to Shawn Michaels. Wait no, I love the Heartbreak Kid. Danny Trejo!
Wilco: Sometimes it stinks going last, because my top three answers (Hayward, Dragic, and Horford) were already taken. Good thing I have a backup trump card.
Can you imagine Giannis Antetokounmpo on the Pelicans next to Anthony Davis?