With barely a month before the playoffs begins, and a few bumps along the road recently, the San Antonio Spurs still hold the league's best record at 54-13 and will likely lock up the number one seed by winning 10 of their last 15 games.
But a quick glance at their schedule shows they still play eight games against playoff-bound teams -- including Dallas, Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers -- four games versus teams fighting for a playoff spot and only three against below .500 teams.
This means securing homecourt advantage throughout the post-season will be no cake walk for the Spurs.
Coach Gregg Popovich has managed the minutes of his starters very well this season. Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess are averaging career lows in minutes per-game at 28.7 and 18.1 respectively. Also, Richard Jefferson (30.7 mpg) is having a career low in minutes per game since his rookie campaign. Among the starters, only Tony Parker (32.2 mpg) and Manu Ginobili (30.9) have averaged more minutes than the previous season but not by much.
The Spurs are known to always look at the bigger picture and for them, resting their starters more and staying healthy will be key for a great playoff run. This begs the question, is it time to give more minutes to their bench as they get ready for the playoffs?
Tiago Splitter and James Anderson, two rookie expected earlier in the season to contribute to the Spurs, haven't panned out yet. Partly because both players had trouble staying healthy throughout the season and partly because they haven't received any consistent and significant playing time to show the team what they can really bring to the table. Not to mention how Anderson's injury paved the way for Gary Neal to shine thus pushing Anderson further back in the depth chart.
This could also be good time to give more minutes to George Hill, Matt Bonner and sharp-shooting rookie Gary Neal. By doing this, they will have a long look at the players who could give them a lift in the playoffs.
Nonetheless, with the number one seed still not secured, the Spurs might think twice about resting their starters this early.
Not only that, one major concern for the Spurs up to this point is improving their defense. They are currently second in offensive efficiency (108.9), third in effective field goal percentage (52.4%), but only eighth in defensive efficiency (101.7). In their previous five games, the Spurs went 3-2 and have allowed their opponents to shoot by an average 47.7% from the field while converting only 46.5% of their own shots.
Another thing is they must consider giving more time to McDyess -- who was just inserted into the starting lineup at center -- as they try to set the tone on defense early in games and at the same time, giving enough time to DeJuan Blair to adjust to his role off the bench.
Giving rest to starters and staying healthy are definitely keys for the their championship hopes. It will be up for the Spurs to decide on how to manage their rotation heading into the playoffs.
They could have the luxury of using their final games to give their bench more time and integrating more players into the mix and the same time secure homecourt throughout the playoffs but is it the right time? Maybe we have to wait a few more games to decide.
What do you think Spurs fans? Send us your thoughts.
First of all I want to thanks everyone for the continued support here on http://ProjectSpurs.com. I agree with most you guys said a win over the Mavericks tonight will really make it quicker for the Spurs to try and rest their starters. However, the Bulls and Boston are closing in on the Spurs but in the end, I think the Spurs will be able to pull it through, I'm just hoping they will be able to also give enough time to their bench to prepare them for the playoffs especially the rookies.
Thanks everyone for the comments and reads keep them coming!
Good point Robby, the integration of players to the mix will be crucial for the Spurs playoff success. Giving more time to the bench in their final games especially to Splitter and Anderson is definitely in order. Great article! I agree with everything you said.
If the Spurs wins tonight against the Mavs, I think the Spurs can rest their starters more in the coming games.
@SpursLover I agree, It will be much easier for the Spurs to try and rest their starters if they can pad the lead over the Mavs.
I think the Spurs can give their bench more playing time in their last 7-10 games, but first they need to make sure that they will gain homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. The Spurs can get it done!
If we beat the Mavericks tonight, I think the Spurs can try to use some games to rest the starters and give more playing time to their role players. This is a great read.
A few more games we can certainly decide. We must beat the Mavericks, Boston and Lakers heading into the playoffs to have that mental edge. Nice article by the way.
Resting the starters while giving minutes to key role players will be crucial for the Spurs, I think it's about time the Spurs do it. I'm confident enough we can secure the home court advantage even without giving heavy minutes to our big 3.
@Mark_M I agree with what you said, but I believe the Spurs should start resting their stars when the number 1 seed is already at hand. Give it five more games.
I think resting the starters more will benefit the Spurs, we all know Duncan will be called upon a lot in the playoffs so he needs to be fresh same with Manu and Parker. It's about time we give Tiago, and Anderson significant minutes.
Our defense has been a concern lately, but I think it's because the Spurs have folded early in those three blowout losses to Memphis, Lakers and Heat. I'm pretty sure we can get better as we head into the playoffs. In my opinion, if we still have a 5 game lead over the rest of the teams with 10 games left, then we give our bench more playing them to ready them for the playoffs.
I agree resting the starters will be key but at the same time securing homecourt advantage in the playoffs will be huge for them, we don't for sure if they will get that if they start resting the starters but it's a good suggestion considering they can use some games to give more time to other players like Splitter and Anderson.
Great article, the Spurs have a comfortable lead over Dallas at the Western Conference, I say the Spurs should take care of the big games and try to win it to secure homecourt then use the bench more in the final 10 games or so.
I think we have to give it a few more games if they win the next 3 games I will feel confident to give the starters more rest, especially if we beat the Mavs.