1 - Kawhi Leonard is one of the best in the league at scoring off the pick and roll. Should he work with screens more often or keep his attack varied?
Erler: Variety is the spice of life, or something. It's good to have defined strengths, but if there's one thing Leonard has shown throughout his career, it's that it's unwise to ever put a cap on his abilities or to limit him in any way. His game keeps expanding, year after year, and he keeps adding different clubs to his bag. For him to truly be comparable offensively to, say, LeBron James or James Harden, he'll have to show that he's a threat to score or pass from anywhere, against any kind of defense. He needs to prove that there is no one way to play him and stop him. By limiting his strengths, he's boxing himself in for defenders and doing their job for them. Keep mixing it up, especially in relatively meaningless regular season games. Let them be the laboratory.
Passos: Yes. I don't think the offense loses any dynamism or variety by having Kawhi operate more in the pick and roll and less, say, in isolation, where he's not been great. Those iso possessions made sense when the team had Tim in there and not Pau, but they now make little use of a guy who's primarily on the floor for his offensive contributions
Gomez: Efficiency vs. variety. Normally I'd take efficiency. Most of the time, if someone is elite at one skill, they should try to play to their strengths instead of insisting on doing things that they just can't do. That's not what's happening with Leonard, though. We've seen him excel in other settings. He'll also have to be ready in the playoffs to take what the defense gives him. Post and ISO possessions are tough to watch when the ball doesn't go in, but Leonard needs to work on those skills.
Itz: Last season he scored .99 points per possession in his isolation plays. This season he's scoring .74 points per possession. He's getting more attention this season but I think that he can up his efficiency and bring it closer to last season. I think now is the time for him to continue to experiment and find his way because the Spurs will need to go to him and have him score on his own in the postseason.
Wilco: I would love to see Kawhi initiating the offense more often, through pick and roll or drive and kick. Back when Manu Ginobili was in his prime, and able to beat his man routinely, he still frequently called for a screen. If Kawhi did this more often, I think it would only give him more options. But this isn’t just about Leonard, the Spurs are still in early After Duncan mode, and they’re fitting a lot of pieces together to see what can work. That discovery mode is more important right now than maximizing any one player’s touches.
2 - The Spurs are doing fine on the boards, but LaMarcus Aldridge is rebounding at a career low rate. Are LMA's struggles something to really worry about?
Erler: They are as far as he's concerned, because it's a sign that he's losing some athleticism or perhaps has just grown complacent. Team wise it's not as big of a deal since Gasol, Leonard, Dedmon and Lee are all fine rebounders, and even Green is above average for his position. I'm more worried about them forcing misses at all than I am them rebounding those misses, but I'd expect Aldridge to pick it up as the season goes on, the way he did last year.
Passos: At first I thought his numbers were worse in games where he was having to guard more small-ball fours and spend more time on the perimeter, but his best rebounding games have come against said teams (14 against GSW, 12 against DET, 10 against Houston). It may partially be a function of having to do more work defensively, but I don't think that's a good enough excuse for a 6'11'' guy pulling down 7.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. I think the numbers go back up some, but don't catch up with last year's 8.5.
As far as whether it's a worry -- maybe. San Antonio's counted on great team rebounding over the past few years, but with Kyle Anderson almost out of the rotation, Kawhi's numbers a little down, and maybe a little regression to the mean, San Antonio will need a greater effort from LMA.
Gomez: It's concerning only because he will have to be the only big man on the floor at times in the postseason. Opponents will force the Spurs to go small and Aldridge is their best option at center in those lineups. He has to be able to rebound on both ends to put pressure on the other team. In those situations his rebounding improves, according to NBAwowy.com, so I'm cautiously optimistic about his ability to own the boards when he's relied upon to do so.
Itz: To be honest I'm actually a little concerned about LA's rebounding but the Spurs are still among the League's best in defensive rebounding rate. It's something to keep an eye on but for now the team's doing alright and with so few games played it might be nothing.
J.R. Wilco: I was watching the Spurs win over the Wizards with Mrs. Wilco who commented that she thought Aldridge was moving stiffly before asking me whether he was coming off an injury. Now she’s not a basketball expert by any means, but she’s an athlete herself (volleyball and sprinting) and her eye as an artist has shown time and again that she notices things that I don’t. We know the Spurs played Tony Parker through an unreported injury early this season, so it’s at least possible that he’s not 100%, which could be a reason for his drop in boards.
3 - Dewayne Dedmon has been an elite rebounder and rim protector so far. Can it last or will he regress at some point?
Erler: Dedmon's 27, but it's only his fourth year in the league and he's never played more than 845 minutes, so it'd be rash to assume he's already at his peak. He's never been a solid rotation player for a full season yet. His per-36 numbers are outstanding and maybe they'll regress a bit, but only if he gets more playing time, and that would just be shifting his production from theoretical to actual. Even if he averages "only" 12 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per-36, the Spurs would gladly take that for 25 minutes a night. It's just about him proving he can stay healthy and earning PATFO's trust. Both are easier said than done.
Passos: If he stays within his current role, playing against second-unit guys, I think the numbers can stay as they are. But if he gets more run with the first unit and more minutes overall (as he should), then some of the advanced numbers may go down a bit. But the team will be better.
Gomez: If Dedmon continues to play at this level, then R.C. Buford deserves some serious Executive of the Year consideration. Those per 36 numbers are insane. I think he'll eventually regress to numbers similar to the ones he logged in Orlando, which would still make him great value. Other than the boards and the blocks I'm also interested in seeing if his rarely used mid-range jumper remains solid. It's a nice bailout weapon to have, so hopefully it will.
Itz: Per-36 minutes Demon is grabbing 14 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 3.7 blocks. I think we can all agree he needs more playing time and that as that comes his numbers will fall back to earth a little. I think that's a fine trade-off. He's clearly a great addition to the team.
Wilco: Even if we assume he’ll regress, he’s still a huge asset for the team. I’m all for seeing how he does with increased playing time to see if he’s capable of holding his per-minute stats with more run.