In recent weeks, San Antonio Spurs fans have seen a change at the starting center position. In lieu of the scrappy DeJuan Blair, head coach Gregg Popovich has opted to go with the veteran Antonio McDyess. Blair exited the starting rotation in the early-March dismantling of the Spurs at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Offensively, the addition of McDyess stretches the opposing defense. McDyess is a pick and pop type of big man, who can hit long jumpers with regularity while Blair is a classic pick and roller, who may not have a long distance jumper that he can go to, but is much better at taking the ball towards the basket and finishing at the rim.
Since the time of the lineup switch, the Spurs have averaged 104 points per game while, before the change, the Spurs averaged only 103.5 per game. Okay, so I think we can call this a wash.
Defensively, on the other hand, since the switch the Spurs have been giving up an average of 102 per game. Interestingly, this is five points more than the 97 points the Spurs have given up on average this season. The worst of the stretch was 110 given up in the loss to Miami and 115 in the loss to Denver. It's hard to put either of these squarely on the center position, however, the addition of McDyess into the starting lineup does not get you much in terms of size. McDyess has only an inch over Blair. But what you do sacrifice is youth, quickness, and aggressiveness. What this means is hard to quantify over such a short stretch of games, but the five point differential in points allowed is telling of what you might expect.
In this span of games McDyess has averaged a little over 22 minutes per game versus his season average of a little over 18 minutes per game. Blair, on the other hand has averaged nearly 22 minutes per game on the season but only a little over 19 minutes since the switch was made. What I believe is more important than who is in the starting lineup and who isn't (lest we forget that Manu has spent many games over his career as the proverbial sixth man) is the fact that McDyess is seeing an increase in his minutes. Based on the indiscernible difference in production for the team, it seems more likely that what we are seeing is an effort by the coaching staff to get ready for the playoffs. One of the biggest knocks on the team this entire season has been the Spurs' relative lack of size. Indeed, when he is in the starting lineup, Blair is the shortest starting center in the league. While this is debatable as a handicap, the size advantage of the Lakers cannot be ignored. In their last meeting, the one we would all like to forget, the Spurs were out-rebounded 49 to 43 and, in the fateful first quarter in which the Spurs gave up an eye popping 34 points to Los Angeles, the Spurs allowed 6 offensive boards. I don't think anyone believes that this is not a concern.
While I believe that Blair is the best choice for starting center, I like the extra minutes for McDyess. If Blair, McDyess, and Splitter are not playing their best basketball, the gauntlet of the Western Conference playoffs will be that much more difficult for the Spurs to survive.
Tiago now is the time to step up and play ball. What's up with Blair? He has looked really bad lately. He went from beast to least in a matter of a couple of games. I believe without a solid core of players on the floor for Spurs, the season ends via second round. I don't believe they will lose home court in the west, Pop never lets the ship list too long. And a team with heart is a very dangerous team.
@Pasadena Our SPuRs can win it either at home or on the road. They won in New Jersey and Cleveland.
@Pasadena I forgot, in New York, too...
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@LFJeremy but can you really expect splitter to be all that in the playoffs? the playoffs are a different monster.
Both are effective players when on the floor, i was surprised to learn the Spurs defense regressed with McDyess starting because as far as I know, Dice has played better defense opposing team's bigs.
I like Blair and McDyess' game. But i think Blair rebounds better and take up much space on the floor that's why he is more effective.
Starting or coming off the bench, I think Blair has been effective. Maybe Pop needs to start Blair again for a few games and see if defense and overall play improves or not.
Im not a stat geek by any means so i'm not big on +/-'s and what have you. But i think the reason our defense has gotten worse is cause once tim/dice go out, teams are having a field day with the bonner/blair front line. When dice came off the bench there was still a solid defender (who isnt afraid to give a hard foul) alongside bonner. When you start tim/dice you sacrifice the 2nd unit's defense so if the starters don't have a nice lead it could be ugly as that 2nd unit is relying on 3 point shooting.I think maybe the blair/duncan lineup was good simply cause both units had a good post defender. But of course i would finish the games with tim/dice. And maybe with splitters performances as of late he's earned 15-18 mins consistently and he's another one who can play beside tim/blair (not bonner cause then it'd just be confusing lol)the blair/tim lineup got them to where they were, I understand pops thinking, but it may have backfired imo.
BLAIR is not the same BEAST since he was benched. Get over it DJ Blair. YOU still have to prove that you deserved to be in the starting 5. PLAY your REAL game. Don't be childish. YOU gotta EARN it! YOU are the future of the SPuRs. YOU have lots of years to put in. YOU want to be the BEST, right? Stay focus and have that POSITIVE attitude. Don't be a hardhead player. Grow up kid!
@JeffProjectSpurs @DJ @KyleDerrick I agree 100%. But when Manu came off the bench it worked almost immediately. Sometimes you roll the dice and hope for the best. That move brought us a couple championships. I think it worked almost 3/4 of the season with Blair starting why change? I think that really hurts our 2nd unit with bonner/blair in there together
@KyleDerrick that's exactly my point why I suggest to start Blair again for a few games and see what happens.