The Spurs have now played three preseason games, half of their scheduled total. They have lost all three games but wins and losses don't really matter this early in October. What's important, especially for a team that has added core players, is how comfortable everyone looks out there. On that front, so far everything seems to be right on schedule.
Drawing any definitive conclusions from a few preseason games is silly but there are some observations we can make about individual players and how they have performed. Here are five things we've learned from the Spurs' preseason so far.
LaMarcus Aldridge is really, really good
Sure, we already knew that but it's still nice to see him destroy defenses while wearing Silver and Black. Aldridge is clearly the best offensive big man Duncan has been paired with [Ed note: Remember that the David Robinson Timmy played with wasn't the DAVID ROBINSON we remember. -jrw] and should give an offense that finished seventh in the league last season the boost it needs to be elite.
The best part about Aldridge's performance so far is that he seems to fit in seamlessly. The Portland Trail Blazers ran a pretty offense featuring a lot of ball and player movement so it's not like Aldridge was used to glacial pace and one-on-one play. He did, however, used to hold the ball a lot more than the average Spurs big man. So far it seems he has made the adjustment to his new team just fine. Aldridge has only logged one assist but has created good shots for the starters after receiving the attention of the defense.
Granted, the way the Heat defend the pick and roll by design leaves shooters open for a few seconds but Aldridge deserves credit for immediately recognizing it and actually making the pass instead of pulling the trigger or forcing a drive, which is what someone concerned with numbers would do.
Once he develops chemistry with Tony Parker, even simple two-man action should get the defense moving, which is death against a sharp Spurs team.
The Big Three looks fine
Yes, even Tony Parker. He had a rough start to both the Heat and Hawks games and he's obviously not the player he used to be. That said, a lot of his issues during preseason seem to be the result of being out of rhythm. Tony forced some pick and pop passes against Miami and missed some open jumpers against Atlanta but he's doing a good job of making the first move that gets the defense off balance. Hopefully the shot returns and he becomes a threat on pull up jumpers again.
Ginobili has looked great. He's gotten to the rim, hit his three-pointers and wrecked havoc on defense. Obviously he won't play at this level all season but if he continues to be productive early in the year, that would help integrate the new additions without added pressure to produce.
As for Tim Duncan, well, he's a cyborg. You can tell Big Fun is not even really trying but he's still averaging nine points, three rebounds and two assists in just 16 minutes. It's ridiculous how good he still is.
The other additions have been uneven
David West is a veteran and he will be fine. He still hasn't found his place within the offense, often looking tentative before firing a pass to a cutter or looking for his shot. He will get there, of course, and he has been solid on defense. I don't adhere to the notion that teams need "tough guys" to be good but I have to admit I like to see someone giving some hard fouls, even in preseason.
Boban Marjanovic has surprisingly been better on defense than offense. He's missed a couple of bunnies after post ups, he's unnecessarily brought the ball down close to the basket and his hands have been terrible so far. His struggles are understandable since the pace of the game is so much faster. On the other end, however, being gigantic and in the way has been enough for him to hold his own. The offense will come along. Hopefully his defense sustains.
Ray McCallum hasn't really done anything to distance himself from the rest of the players that don't look ready for rotation roles. At best he can be described as adequate on both ends, which is not bad for a second rounder starting his third year in the league. He might need some time before showing his true worth.
Kyle Anderson owns the fourth wing role
Anderson has played poorly the past two games but looks like a better option than anyone else on the roster right now for that fourth wing role behind Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Manu Ginobili. He's still not taking three-pointers when he should but he can attack a moving defense and his length could come in handy on defense.
The Spurs have tried out small lineups that can switch everything in preseason, likely as a way to mitigate the lack of a rim protector in the second unit, just like the Warriors did last season. Anderson is long enough to battle some power forwards and sometimes makes up for his slow legs with his quick hands.
At the start of preseason it seemed like there was a rotation spot up for grabs. Anderson has done enough to likely secure it because...
There have been no positive surprises
Normally there's at least one guy in the edges of the training camp roster that excels, adding some drama to the final cuts. So far this year that hasn't been the case.
Rasual Butler started out great against the Kings but struggled in the two following games, going a combined 0-for-7 from the floor. He was asked to play some power forward and he did so with energy but it's clear he won't be able to survive against quality opponents at that spot.
Jimmer Fredette received a sizable guarantee on his contract because of his shooting prowess but has not made an outside shot yet. He received a DNP-CD against the Heat and while he really hasn't shared the court with the type of players that would make his life easier, he has done nothing to dispel the notion that he's a fringe player.
Jonathon Simmons hasn't been able to replicate the magic from Summer League. He has connected on only one of his eight attempts, and while his vision is good, his handle is a little too loose. Just like Fredette, he hasn't necessarily been in the best situation to showcase his talent but he hasn't looked special either.
Reggie Williams has hit some threes but at this point in his career, it makes little sense for the Spurs to keep him and bank on further development. He's not a rotation player and likely never will be one.
With Matt Bonner likely getting a spot, those guys will have three more games to make the front office notice them or they could end up looking for another team soon.