The Spurs will likely give the bulk of minutes at the wing to the same four guys that handled them last season. While there's still room for growth, a repeat performance from last year would be enough to turn the position into a great strength for the team. Let's look at the players:
Key rotation players
(66 games played, 29.1 MPG. 12.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.7 SPG. 19.4 PER, 7.7 Win Shares, 3.02 Real Plus Minus)
The lingering memory from Kawhi's third season in the league is the fantastic series he had against the Heat, but Leonard didn't show as much progress as some expected in the regular season in terms of offensive ability (he also missed 16 games due to injury). The big leap people expected out of Kawhi after a stellar sophomore season never materialized, at least not in any traditional way. Whether it was because of the way he was used or because he wasn't ready to make the transition into the offensive hub remains unclear.
So we are back again at hoping all those three-a-days and laser focus on improving result in a more nuanced offensive game that sends Leonard to the line more and forces other teams to put their best perimeter guy on The Hand.
Offense is only one half of the game, of course. Leonard more than makes up for his effective but limited offensive arsenal with elite perimeter defense and above-average work on the defensive glass. Kawhi made what should be only the first of many All-Defensive teams last season and he should continue to hound opponents into turnovers and tough shots. And if his offensive game ever catches up, look out league.
(68 games, 22.8 MPG. 12.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.3 APG. 20 PER, 5.7 Win Shares, 5.42 Real Plus Minus)
Manu was truly heartbroken when he found out he couldn't represent Argentina in the FIBA World Cup, as were many of his countrymen, including yours truly. But that bad break means he will get a shot at going into what could possibly be the last year of his career in optimal shape. And when Manu is healthy, he is an impact player of the highest level.
Ginobili's versatility allows the Spurs to get away with strange lineups, as he can act as a shooter, creator and, in a pinch, defensive playmaker. Manu had amazing advanced stats last season after a down year in 2012-13, and his per-minute numbers were on par with his career figures. The only problem with the 37-year-old version of Ginobili is he can't sustain that elite performance for long stretches.
Pop will take care of Manu by restricting his minutes because we've learned by now that even when Manu isn't trying to be reckless, he plays with an intensity level that sometimes betrays his body. Keeping him healthy should be the goal for the coaching staff because it's as true now as it has always been: if Manu reaches the postseason in good shape, the Spurs are a contender.
(68 games, 24.3 MPG. 9.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.0 SPG. 13.9 PER, 4.2 Win Shares, 3.51 Real Plus Minus)
Improbably, Danny Green has become an essential player to the Spurs and one that every other team in the league would love to have despite not being able to dribble, finish inside or offer consistent defensive focus. He did it by distilling the essence of the 3-and-D archetype to its very core, by becoming the new paradigm for the role Bruce Bowen helped popularize.
Green is such a great marksman that leaving him open is death. He has evolved past simply being a spot-up shooter, maintaining his efficacy from distance when shooting after screens. And when locked in, he can guard positions one through three effectively while blocking shots at a high level for a guard or stopping two-on-one fast breaks with surprising ease. If he could rebound at a higher level, he would be the perfect low-usage wing. But what he does is enough to make him an impact role player.
In the rotation
(80 games, 25.2 MPG. 11.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.2 APG. 15 PER, 5.9 Win Shares, -3.17 Real Plus Minus)
Some people will always look at playoff stats to determine a player's value. It's understandable, since there are no parades for best regular-season record. But to dismiss Belinelli's importance for a contender would be foolish. Durable dead-eye shooters who can bend defenses by moving without the ball are rare and should always be appreciated.
Can his '80s movie montage style training this offseason give him the strength he needs to prevent his man from going off in a playoff setting? Probably not. In all likelihood, Marco won't ever be a factor in the postseason outside of the occasional timely and ballsy 3-pointer. But if he can give the Spurs 1,500 minutes of competent play to keep Manu's legs fresh and plug holes when there's an injury, his presence on the team will be a net positive.
On the outside looking in
Anderson has two guaranteed years under contract to prove to the Spurs he can adjust from a lifetime of playing point guard and coasting on defense on his length alone to a role as a secondary creator in which he holds his own on the other end. Unless something strange happens, he will start his career by looking to do that in Austin.
There are reasons to believe Slowmo is a high upside guy. If he improves his athleticism and refines his shot, he could be a matchup nightmare, thanks to his already advanced ball-handling skills and court vision. He's also in a perfect position to develop at his own pace with the right coaching staff. But in all likelihood, it will take time.
For most of the Spurs, the season starts in October. For Anderson, it might start in December, when the Toros make their debut.
The Spurs' wing rotation has been missing a true backup small forward for years now to be picture-perfect. But the reality is, in practice, that would be more of a luxury than a need. Leonard is young enough to man the starting spot for heavy minutes and Ginobili and Green can hold their own against most backup small forwards.
Few teams can claim to have three above-average two-way wings and a killer shooter on their roster. The Spurs can, and that's a big reason why they are one of the few true contenders out there. Provided the injuries don't pile up like they did last season, the 2/3 spot will be one of San Antonio's biggest strengths as they look to repeat as champions.
Now it's your turn, Pounders. Am I off base considering Anderson a long-term project? And if he is, would Jamaal Franklin or Michael Beasley make sense as additions?