Editor's note: Please welcome our newest staff writer, Paul Garcia, to the Project Spurs family. He'll be bringing his unique takes along with his "Views from the Couch" column to Project Spurs weekly. He is very active during Spurs games on twitter so be sure to follow him there.
With the recent departure of Ime Udoka, there is a roster spot still available for an extra wing player (SG-SF) with the San Antonio Spurs. The reason I focus specifically on “wing” player, is because the Spurs (33-6) already had three different wing players on the roster (Bobby Simmons, Danny Green, Ime Udoka) and neither made significant contributions to reserve a permanent spot with the squad. Really, right now the only wing players are Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, George Hill, and James Anderson (when he returns from injury).
So the question is asked: Do the Spurs still need another perimeter defender?
Three Levels: The Big Boys, All Star-esque, Just Playing Basketball
Let’s go look at some numbers against some of the league's top wing players that San Antonio has played thus far!
[Metrics: mpg = minutes per game. FG = Field Goal. FG% = Field Goal Percentage. FT = Free Throws per game. TO = Turnovers per game. Rbd/ast = Rebounds/ assists per game. PPG = Points per game.]
Horrible D = this player scored well above their scoring average, while shooting an extremely high percentage on limited shots. They also may have involved teammates well or gotten to the free throw line at will.
Solid D = The player got near their scoring average, but took almost as many shots per point.
Excellent D = this player had many turnovers, shot an awful percentage, or was held WELL under their average scoring.
The Big Boys
--Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) (24.9 ppg): One game (Spurs 1-0): 31 mpg, 8-27 FG, FG 30%, 2-2 FT, 5 TO, 21 ppg. Assessment: Excellent D.
--Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) (28.2 ppg): Two games (Spurs 2-0): 35.5 mpg, 8.5-19 FG, FG 45%, 2-3 FT, 5.5 rbd, 3.5 TO, 19.5 ppg. Assessment: Excellent D.
--Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets) (23.9 ppg): One game (Spurs 2-0, DNP in second game): 42 mpg, 10-20 FG, FG 50%, 10-14 FT, two TO, 31 ppg. Assessment: Horrible D.
--Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics) (19 ppg): One game (Spurs 0-1): 35 mpg, 7-10 FG, FG 70%, 2-2 FT, 1 TO, 18 ppg. Assessment: Horrible D.
--Danny Granger (Indiana Pacers) (21 pts ppg): Two games (Spurs 2-0): 37 mpg, 8-16.5 FG, FG 48%, 1.5-3.5 FT, 3.5 TO, 20.5 ppg. Assessment: Solid D.
--Gerald Wallace (Charlotte Hornets) (16.5 ppg): One game (Spurs 1-0): 32 mpg, 2-11 FG, FG 18% , 2-2 FT, 1TO, 7 ppg. Assessment: Excellent D.
--Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers) (13.7 ppg): One game (Spurs 1-0): 19 min, 3-7 FG, FG 43%, 4-5 FT, 1 TO, 10 ppg. Assessment: Solid D.
--Ray Allen (Boston Celtics) (17.6 ppg): One game (Spurs 0-1): 39 mpg, 13-16 FG, FG 81%, 3-5 FT, 1 TO, 31 ppg. Assessment: Horrible D.
--Eric Gordon (Los Angeles Clippers) (23.5 ppg): Two games (Spurs 2-1, Gordon had one DNP): 37 mpg, 9-17 FG, FG 53%, 3-4 FT, 6.5 ast, 3 TO, 22 ppg. Assessment: Solid D.
Just playing basketball
--Jeff Green (Oklahoma City Thunder) (15.5 ppg): Two games (Spurs 2-0): 26.5 mpg, 3-8.5 FG, FG 35%, FT 3-4, 9.5 ppg. Assessment: Excellent D.
--Luol Deng (Chicago Bulls) (17.8 ppg): One game (Spurs 1-0): 42 mpg, 6-17 FG, FG 35%, 5-5 FT, 18 ppg. Assessment: Solid D.
--Michael Beasley (Minnesota Timberwolves) (20.9 ppg): Four games (Spurs 4-0): 27.25 mpg, 5.3-12.75 FG, FG 42%, 1-1 FT, 2.5 TO, 12 ppg. Assessment: Excellent D.
The results show you that the Spurs held five players to horrific games (Excellent D). They allowed four players to get their usual numbers (Solid D), and only allowed three players to really put on a show (Horrible D). So, when you add the figures; it shows defensively, a 9-3 advantage for the Spurs perimeter defense.
Let’s look a little closer to the players that will most likely be involved in the playoffs (because that’s what matters): The Spurs held three players (Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green) to awful games (Excellent D). They allowed Luol Deng to get his average numbers (Solid D) and could not stop (Horrible D) Carmelo Anthony, Ray Allen, or Paul Pierce. So essentially, they went 4-3 against playoff players, but finished 5-2 in their team record.
Considering Paul Pierce and Ray Allen shot 76% combined, it’s highly unlikely they will ever shoot that great a percentage against the Spurs again. Even though Carmelo had a big game, rumors are he may not finish the season with Denver. He could end up in New Jersey or New York. So by those calculations, the Spurs perimeter defense could have held all these players to a 6-1 defensive performance. What does that translate to? The Spurs 3 wing players (Ginobili, Jefferson, Hill) have been doing a great job defensively against the leagues top wing players.
Holding Down The Fort
Here’s a quick look at how the Spurs wings are holding down the perimeter defense and contributing on the offensive end:
[I measure a wing by: minutes, FG shooting, 3PT shooting, steals, Turnovers while in the game, personal fouls committed and points]
Manu Ginobili: 31.8 mpg, FG 44%, 3PT 37%, 1.87 stl, 2.5 TO, 1.8 PF, 19 ppg.
Richard Jefferson: 31.7 mpg, FG 48%, 3PT 43%, .58 stl, 1.24 TO, 1.9 PF, 13.3 ppg.
George Hill: 27.8 mpg, FG 47%, 3PT 38%, 1.09 stl, 1.42 TO, 2.3 PF, 11.4 ppg.
James Anderson (Only played in six games): 17.7 mpg, FG 42%, 3PT 50%, .33 stl, .67 TO, 1.5 PF, 7 ppg.
What’s the call?
Judging whether or not to add another wing; instead of a big man, I think, rests solely on how well James Anderson plays when he returns from his injury. He only played in six games and looked magnificent. But, how do we know that’s how consistent he’ll be in March? Jefferson, Ginobili and Hill average 30.43 minutes per game right now. With a fourth wing getting steady minutes; such as Anderson or another player; Ginobili, Hill's and Jefferson’s minutes would decrease in the long run. This would be great for RJ and Ginobili. It’d be good to have Ginobili under 27 minutes by late March, to make sure he’s ready for the playoffs. The Spurs could use another big, but we’re already at the point where Tiago Splitter is barely getting any playing time nor has DeJuan Blair been getting steady minutes either. My call, is to give Anderson a shot when he returns from the injury and see how he fits in. If he’s back to being consistent; rotate those four wing players, if not, start searching the market for available wings before the trade deadline. The Spurs are 33-6, to have a record like that and be number one in the NBA, they’re doing something right.
[All stats used as of 01-12-2011]
Follow me on twitter: @24writer
The Spurs need inside presence. That's why they lost yesterday. Pop may be stubborn but because of his stubborness he is going to cost the Spurs another championship. This lineup won't cut it. They had a fairly easy schedule. Wait 2 more months. Someone will catch them. Go get inside presence.
@lthsone3 Well, rumors are the Spurs could have a shot at Troy Murphy if the Nets buyout his contract. If he were to be picked up, that would mean Larry Owens has to go. But Murphy would just be a better version of Bonner. It'd be an upgrade but not significant. The first half of season wasn't a cupcake either, of the first 44 games, 21 have been against good teams.
Ignorance of Parker is no different than the lack of including San Antonio as a championship contender. Neither Parker or the Spurs will ever get the recognition they deserve. His past success and the fact that he is currently the leader of the most dominating team in the NBA doesn't mean much since he isn't a self-promoter or a cocky, arrogant punk. He doesn't beat on his chest, run around the court with his arms in the air, do a dance every time he scores, give himself a catchy nickname or star in nationally televised commercials, and that hurts his recognition.
How can you compare players like LaBron, Rose, Howard, Wiilliams, Nash, Paul, Kidd, Nowitsky, Roy, Anthony, Bosh and many others to someone that has lead his team to three NBA championships? None of those guys have ever won a championship and most have never even won a conference championship. Unfortunately I doubt he'll ever be grouped among the best, no matter how many future championships he wins.
@RogerSorensen Thanks for chiming in, I agree with you 100%! I think your comment would go great on my fellow writers post about Tony Parker (http://bit.ly/hzSBVP). I didn't concentrate on PGs in the article, just SGs & SFs. But I hear you on the lack of respect for Parker. Here's my reason why he's always overlooked: 1 stat. ASSISTS. All those kids like Rondo, Paul, Deron, Nash even John Wall already are always the big names because a stat column looks "sexy" when you see 18ppg 12.5ast. It just does, that's the sports society we live in. Parkers line for his career will say 18ppg 7.3ast. If TP were a +10 assist guy every season he'd def not be in the shadows of great PGs, he'd be the highest ranked every year. But, as you said, he's the one who is currently the best PG in the game today and will def have his jersey hung in the AT&T center when it's all over. It'd be a shame though, if those "assists" prevent him from being a Hall of Famer. A damn shame!
@24writer @RogerSorensen TP will be a Hall of Famer when its all said and done thats not what the problem is. Tony Parker is a scoring point guard and the only guard you mentioned that is truly a scoring point guard is Deron Williams. Tony is doing perfectly fine, I cant imagine what we would do without him. Our problem is that we dont have a dominant presence in the paint. No Tim Duncan and Antonio and Blair don't count. They aren't big and they are slow with the exception of Blair. They need a big man. A true big man. I was looking at free agents and the best one out there is Nene. He would fit in perfect and is a big long strong YOUNG guy. We should do anything we possibly can to sign him this offseason because this season is over. Next we need a perimeter defender. Again I was looking at free agents and Tyshawn Prince is available and I'm 100% sure he would want to be on a winning team again and get out of that mess they call the Detroit Pistons. If we could sign those two free agents the San Antonio Spurs would be back in business for at least a couple of more years. We have good young pieces like Neal, Hill, Blair, Anderson, and Splitter. If we could get those free agents or if not them then someone like Tyson Chandler or Kenyon Martin, Kris Humphries, David West, Carl Landry, or Leandro Barbosa, Mickael Pietrus. They NEED NEED NEED to get someone this summer. They NEED to or kiss the San Antonio Spurs goodbye. That is what I think.
they need a new perimeter defender. they are lacking of a perimeter defender in 6' 7" ht. the same as a relentless defense showed by the legendary bruce bowen in the spurs last 2 championship. that is the missing piece in the championship run of the spurs right now. a ron artest/trevor ariza like defense will fit in the system of coach popovich.
@MigsPajinagNaidas Thanks for your input! When I was writing the column originally, I was trying to think of 1 specific question. Who could the team add to really stop Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and Paul Pierce? The only answer would be "Ron Artest". But, he is on the Lakers, his salary is too high and he lives in another world (that's just a joke). I too like Ariza, but New Orleans just recently got him and he's working fine with Chris Paul (Not to mention the contract he signed while in Houston). 2 other SFs I liked were Tayshaun Prince and Shane Battier. Problem? They are both being paid too much and it would really shake up the roster to try to acquire one of those 2. I like where the team is right now, they are winning and the only counter to not having a quality SF is to make up for it with Better-Overall-Team-Defense.
@DarlingBryan He's doing pretty good with the Toros right now: 14pts 8rbds and 2nd leading scorer on the team. He's a Center though, so I don't see how he'd get any kind of minutes in the rotation. Maybe by playoff time, if a spot is still open, they could put him out there just as an extra body to rack up fouls on the Lakers, Mavs, Celtics, Magic, etc.
GREAT first article, Paul. I have to agree with all of your assesments with our perimeter players. I do feel that Anderson needs to come back healthy to give Manu a much needed break. Manu is playing too many minutes right now, and lately we look like we need him on the floor to help run and spread the offense better. Neal is doing a great job, but he is too short to help defend when Manu sits, so Anderson is needed more for his intangibles and size than his scoring. I also feel we need to look for some help for Timmy, I fell into the hype of Tiago over the summer but he has not shown me much. I know Pop hasnt given Tiago much run, but when he does play he looks lost and gets pushed around by guys smaller than him. Blair and Dyess have been good in spurts, but Timmy needs some consistent help to keep him fresh for the playoff run, and also we could use some size for the bigger teams like Boston and LAL.
Keep up the good work Paul,
@BlairForceOne Thanks for the feedback and I can definitely see your reasons for needing another big man. I too have questioned how good Tiago can really be this season? In all honesty, the only way to get a quality big man to really produce and help Tim would be via a trade. That being said, the roster has gelled well and most players know their role. It would be a gamble to trade a role player for a quality big when your team is the best in the league right now. That's on Spurs management to make that call.....
We don't need to add another wing, what we need is another big man to bang bodies with LA, Dallas, Magic and Miami.
@Andrews Also, big thanks for giving me your input! It really helps to know other fans perspective's on the team.
@Andrews As I told "BlairForceOne" above, would you want to gamble the teams chemistry by adding a big guy, when the product we have right now is winning? I do see the lack of depth up front, but the Spurs have also incorporated this new quick-pace-motion offense to help minimize the lack of size in the front line.
We need another perimeter defender, Hill is too undersized to consistently guard the other team's SG/SF. Jefferson can only play good defense occasionally.
@JasonD Thanks for the input! Here's how I see it: There are 2 players in the league that really scare me from the wing perspective: Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. Now, it's really impossible to matchup with those guys because they are fast and big at the same time. Carmelo lit up the Spurs in the first game and I figure LeBron will have big numbers offensively when the Spurs meet the Heat. Jefferson is the only one who could semi-matchup with those 2, but that's for maybe 25% of the game. In the case of the "Star SF" it would have to be a WHOLE team defensive concept on that night. Who could the Spurs add on the wing to matchup with them? I just don't see a player on the market who has those qualifications.....
I agree, let's see how Anderson plays out first before adding another wing. But I do think we need another big man, Blair will have troubles against the longer and taller players in the playoffs.
@Mark_M Thanks for the commentary! I too would like to see another Big Man such as a Camby or defensive player of that stature, but if i means breaking up the teams chemistry for that gamble, I'd prefer to use the tools we have. If the Spurs can run for 3 quarters in the playoffs and slow it down in the 4th, their lack of size won't be easily exposed.....