After another season without winning the title, the San Antonio Spurs face a long summer with a lot of questions. Will Tiago Splitter finally come to San Antonio? What to do with their free-agents? Is Richard Jefferson re-signing with the team? These are some questions which need to be answered.
However, one area the Spurs need to address is how they will return to the lock-down defense or more in particular, finding a suitable perimeter defender.
The Spurs won four titles because of their trademark stingy defense. In fact, during their last title run in 2006-2007, the Spurs were second in the league in defensive efficiency rating and fifth in offensive efficiency rating.
Since then, the team has declined steadily on both areas:
Season Offensive Efficiency Defensive Efficiency
2007-2008 15th 3rd
2008-2009 13th 5th
2009-2010 9th 8th
Last season the Spurs suffered a sharp decline in defensive efficiency. Not surprisingly, it was the same year when they lost defensive ace Bruce Bowen in a trade that landed Jefferson. He did lose a step or two after the teams' last title run but this past season proved how important a perimeter defender is to the Spurs defensive schemes.
The Spurs tried to bring in others to be the next "Bowen." Ime Udoka was one of them but was too slow to be an effective wing defender and didn't pan out. Keith Bogans was brought in last season and again, he could not duplicate what Bowen brought to the Spurs. George Hill has promise but he is too short to consistently defend the perimeter effectively against bigger players.
The Spurs have to find a capable wing defender to help bring the Spurs defense to where it was --- among the best in the entire league.
Maybe the Spurs already have the answer in Malik Hairston or Alonzo Gee. Hairston has proved to be a capable perimeter defender in short stretches last year. While Gee has the athletic ability to body-up his opponents not to mention he can score.
Free-agent Matt Barnes is an intriguing prospect in this role and he could fit well with a veteran team like the Spurs but do the Spurs have the financial means to sign him?
Don't get me wrong, finding another Bowen is next to impossible. No other player can ever duplicate what he brought to the Spurs.
If defense wins NBA championships, then bringing back the Spurs' once mighty defense has to be a huge priority.
It will take time but they got make sure to have the right pieces to make it work. If everything falls into place on the defensive end, the Spurs could be back into serious title contention in the upcoming season but it has all to start with rectifying the defensive decline.
What do you guys think? Are there any other free-agents that the Spurs should keep an eye on to get some perimeter help? What are the areas do they need to address? Share us your thoughts.