Watching the San Antonio Spurs' greatest weakness be exploited over and over again in the opening round series versus the Memphis Grizzlies, it was clear to Spurs fans what was needed upfront for the Spurs to succeed next year.
But that's an overly simplistic view, and looking deeper into the numbers they paint a different picture then what you would reflexively say after watching the Memphis series. The Spurs don't just need more size, they need more size with a specific skill set.
This needed skill set enables the offense to run at a high level. The Spurs also need some added emphasis on defense, dropping out of the 10 top in league defensive rankings. Which is traditionally un-Spur like. And lastly, they need some good fortune in the trade market if indeed they do start dealing valuable parts to fill in roster weaknesses.
Here's the basic agenda for the Spurs off season with more expansion.
1) Draft or trade for a long 4-5 with a passable defensive game.
Tim Duncan plays better with Matt Bonner sharing the frontcourt with him than any other big man in the rotation. His FG% is at its highest coming in at 57% while he scores 18.3 points and pulls down 11.5 boards. His +/- is 4 points higher playing with Bonner then any other big man. The Spurs' numbers are up across the board against most teams when Bonner is in the lineup.
The plus/minus when Bonner is in the game versus when he is on the bench is as high as 13 points versus some teams in Bonner's favor. But when looking at the numbers against playoff teams with good frontcourts, the numbers tell a different story.
The Lakers benefit greatly from having Bonner on the floor. Their three-point percentage jumps 11 points with Bonner on floor. Their rebounding average jumps from 44.9 with him off the floor to 51.4 with him on it. They also have a +/- of +6.2 when he is playing vs 0.0 when he is not. You see the same pattern with the Grizzlies, though it's much more drastic. With Bonner on the floor Memphis' +/- jumps to +12.5 versus -6.5 when he's off it. Their three-point percentage makes a huge jump with them making 34.8% of their threes with him off the floor versus 52.4% when he's playing.
Rebounding was up for Memphis from 37.8 with him off the floor to 47.0 with him on it. That's almost a 10 rebound difference per game. Bonner's positive statistics during the regular season come from him fulfilling a specific role in the offense which requires a skill set rare to big men. He can shoot the lights out. And in the Spurs offense you need a long 4-5 to let the wings do their thing. They need to get in the lane and keep moving the defense. You can't do that with big men clustered around the hoop collapsing on them. So having Bonner play in the playoffs against teams with big and skilled front courts is a losing situation.
What the Spurs need is to draft or trade for a long 4-5 who can play some post defense and stop the huge leak Bonner brings to the table. If the Spurs acquire a long 4-5 who can play passable defense you will see a team prepared for a long playoff run.
2) Acquire a more defensive oriented wing player.
The Spurs weren't a strong defensive team this year, but I wouldn't call them a poor one either.
They were average to slightly above average and their defensive play didn't prevent them from winning a bunch of games. That's also how one could describe Richard Jefferson's defensive play. He was solid but unspectacular. This team lacked a defensive fire and it showed with Jefferson's advanced defensive metrics when defending bigger more physical forwards. When Jefferson was defending Paul Pierce, Pierce's FG% jumped to 58% from 50% when he was on the bench. Pierce's scoring exploded when faced with Jefferson, dropping in 21.4 points and 12.0 points when Jefferson was on the bench. Pierce's rebounding was up 3.8 boards, his assists were up 4.9 and his +/- was a 12.2 compared to 9.0 when Jefferson was on the bench.
The same trends exist for Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo's scoring is up 11.8 points when Jefferson is guarding him and his FG% jumps 14 points. When Jefferson is on the bench Carmelo's +/- is a -25.4 compared to a +3.0 when Jefferson is defending him. Kevin Durant continues this trend of big physical small forwards giving Jefferson problems defensively. Durant's scoring is up 4.6 point's, he get's to the line 4.5 more times and he dishes out 2.7 more assists. The Spurs easily handled the Thunder this year and the +/-'s reflect that. But it appears Jefferson's defense on Durant was the only factor keeping them in the game.
Durant's +/- was a - 10.6 when Jefferson was guarding him and a -21.3 when Jefferson was on the bench. This was mostly due to George Hill's defense on Durant who held him to -20.9 when guarding him. The Spurs need a physical wing defender whether coming off the bench or starting to handle the more rugged and talented wings the Spurs will face in the playoffs. It would change the whole team's defensive approach.
3) Get good value for whomever is traded.
I know that sounds simplistic, but not every team in the league follows through on this. The Spurs reputation as the the best front office in the NBA is earned and then some. But even they have made some mistakes. For example when the Spurs didn't get much in value back for Goran Dragic or Luis Scola. Especially in the Scola situation.
If the Spurs trade Tony Parker, they get more than 50 cents on the dollar for him. Fill some Spurs needs such as a skilled young big man or a good young wing defender.
The Spurs can't afford not to make this trade count.
Two words, one name: Steven Jackson. Jackson for RJ and we can try and mix up the trade a little for Diop or Pryzbilla or any other big they have. Jack and RJ trade outright, one for another and both would be a better fit for the others team
Actually, Devin Harris would be best as a 6th man in my opinion and keep CJ Miles or Raja Bell as the starting shooting guard with Tony Parker running the point in Utah.. Kind of like how George Hill is our 6th man, except that with Parker traded Gary Neal could fill in as the guard off of the bench
@SpursForever AK-47 is actually a free agent, so the Spurs could just try to sign him straight out. I like Al Jefferson and Devin Harris, but you'd have to give up Blair or Gary Neal to get both away from Utah for Parker and Jefferson's contracts. And I don't think the Spurs have any intention of trading Tiago Splitter any time soon. But I would love getting someone like Big Al for TP.
Plus, the Jazz are plentiful at the 4-5 positions with Al Jefferson, Paul Milsap, Mehmet Okur, Derrick Favors, and Francisco Elson. Plus they have 2 top picks which should land them a quality young big in this year's draft. So they could afford to lose Al Jefferson and having Parker and Devin Harris in the backcourt would be cool. Besides Devin Harris is really a shooting guard and not a true point guard. The Jazz would then have Richard Jefferson and Gordon Hayward at the small forward. I don't want to get rid of Splitter, but the Spurs would have to offer something else besides Parker for Al Jefferson that they would want.
I agree with article. I would love to see the Spurs make a trade with the Jazz. The Jazz need scoring. The Spurs could offer that with trading Parker, Jefferson, and throw in Splitter. In exchange the Spurs could get Al Jefferson and Andre Kirilenko. Kirilenko and Jefferson both have hefty contracts that neither team loves, but I think Kirilenko's contract is shorter and has wanted a trade out of Utah for some time. On paper this trade would make a ton of sense for the Spurs as we have a plethora of guards and could afford losing Parker and yet could really use the offense, defense, and size that Al Jefferson provides. Plus Kirilenko is an excellent defender at the small forward position. I hope the Spurs are looking at such a type of deal. I know that Splitter has a lot of potential upside, but so does Al Jefferson who is more proven now which is what the Spurs need as Ginobili and Duncan are older.
And just to think Splitter almost didnt happen. People will see this kid is going to be the real deal if only Pop doesn't jack with his minutes. FOR GOODNESS SAKES!
If your going to trade TP for something valuable might as well get a young draft pick like Kanter. While they're at it send RJ and Bonner with him if people are that desperate to get rid of TP. TP has no business going anywhere unless its a big that's going to give us Duncan numbers. Good luck.
We must make a trade and i am guessing TP and hopefully RJ it wouldn't be bad to trade Bonner as well we NEED to get back to a Defensive identity.
@josespurs I'm big on Nogueira, simply because it's going to be tough to get value at the back end of the this year's draft. He could probably use another year or two of seasoning but if he comes out next year he's probably a late lottery or mid first round pick. I also understand the logic of grabbing a guy like JaJuan Johnson from Purdue and seeing what happens.
The players mentioned above will score against anyone so the spurs aren't alone in having this problem. But being a spurs fan I have a high standard when it comes to defense. Are there any good defensive prospects at the small forward spot that could come in the spurs this year? And by prospects I mean draft, or free agency.
@Stewart77 I don't know about Free Agency Stewart77 but I do know that David Lighty coming out of Ohio St is a promising defensive wing player. The Spurs have shown interest in him and he's projected as a 2nd round pick.
The problem with the Spurs is that they are stuck in the middle. The are not good enough to be considered championship material, but they are not bad enough to the team getting blown up. Their championship potential is all but over. That was shown in the Memphis series. Despite that, the Spurs can still win 50 odd games in the regular season. They'll laways be a playoff caliber team, it's just their championship[ hopes are all but gone. All the Spurs can hope for is to ride out every season squeezing what little left from Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker have while ushering new players such as George Hill, Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal and DeJuan Blair to take over later.
@slapdoghoops so then they are in a lite rebuilding phase