Every year around this time, a bunch of NBA team bloggers gather to preview the upcoming NBA season. With no idea of when the season will start, due to the NBA lockout, we thought we would change it up a bit due to these circumstances.
Team Name: San Antonio Spurs
Last Year’s Record: 61-21
Free Agents: Steve Novak and Chris Quinn
Team Needs: Size up front. A veteran point guard that could step in if Cory Joseph struggles as Tony Parker's primary backup.
1. What are your team's biggest needs this offseason?
The Spurs really need to get back to basics, and most importantly, that means defense. I'm not expecting the kind of defense the spurs had during Bruce Bowen's tenure, but the Spurs' efforts to outgun everyone and do their best on defense were only effective during their impressive regular season run, before falling short to the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. They gave up some defense on the perimeter by trading away George Hill, but they received what many expect to be a defensive stalwart in San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard. Leonard not only adds youth, but also athleticism and the ability to block and defend inside and out. Spurs GM R.C. Buford said on draft night that after taking a look at some of the teams the Spurs would have to face in the future, size at each position was a weakness and also something Leonard addresses.
Defensively, the Spurs could also use some help up front. DeJuan Blair had a sophomore season that left much to be desired, Tiago Splitter didn't live up to the probably unfair hype and I doubt Tim Duncan is going to go Benjamin Button on us. Antonio McDyess who said the 2010-11 season would be his last, is still a possibility, since the lockout could be kind to his aging body, however he'd likely play spot minutes at best. I'm not giving up on Splitter just yet. He had some bad luck in being injured within the first few days of training camp last season and missed some crucial time not only learning and getting comfortable with the Spurs' offensive and defensive schemes, but also in building chemistry on the court. Before his injury though, several Spurs players sang Splitter's praises and even McDyess said he would gladly take a backseat to Splitter. While he didn't exactly shine or have the most consistent performances at the FIBA Americas Championship, watching him for 82+ games showed me that he has the tools, but he just needs to get more comfortable, let the game come to him and his teammates need to get more acclimated to his game, especially the work he does on pick-and-rolls. An oft under-appreciated former Spur, Fabricio Oberto, could be a nice addition inside if he makes a full recovery and decides to return to the NBA. The Spurs are not likely to pull in any big name centers in free agency, but they just need someone to do the dirty work inside and make guards second-guess charging into the paint.
The Spurs front office, and especially Buford have confidence in Cory Joseph, who they drafted with the 29th pick in the draft in June. While I may have some concerns about giving a 19-year-old primary backup point guard duties, Joseph showed poise beyond his years leading Canada at point guard in the FIBA Americas Championship. While Gary Neal may play some minutes at point guard and Manu Ginobili can play the point, I'd still like to see the Spurs pickup a third point guard, and preferably in the savvy veteran mold, similar to the role Jacque Vaughn played a few years back. Earl Boykins, Antonio Daniels and Earl Watson are three free agents that could easily step into that role.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths & weaknesses? (so far)
One of the biggest strengths is that the "big three" are all still together and Parker and Ginobili looked to be in midseason form during Eurobasket and the FIBA Americas Championship. While offense didn't get them very far in the playoffs, they did boast a balanced scoring attack last season where several players were capable of stepping up and handling the scoring load when another player was off or being tightly defended. While the "big three" may be aging, the Spurs now have some much-needed youth, especially in the second unit.
As for weaknesses, the Spurs seem to be slowly fixing their defensive issues and will likely continue to make that a priority once the lockout is over. While I mentioned age as a positive, age is also a negative with Parker, Ginobili and Duncan getting older and more prone to injury. While they have players like Gary Neal that could be inserted into the starting lineup, a loss of any of the aforementioned players could be a detrimental one.
3. If there is no season in 2011-12, how is your team set up for 2012?
Luckily for a team like the Spurs, they have strong leadership in coach Gregg Popovich but also among the players. Having everyone on the same page is not an option and everyone falls in line and has the same goal. If the season is lost, a few players have already agreed to contracts overseas and I would think more would follow suit, keeping them in shape. Unfortunately, losing a season means players, especially the "big three" will all be another year older and that branch holding up the proverbial window is really starting to wear. One positive is the D-League. The Spurs own the Austin Toros and in a lost year, the Spurs staff could use the Toros as a year-long training camp for players that could be on the cusp of making it into the league and spend more time developing that talent.
4. If you could make one change the NBA's new CBA, what would it be?
In this situation where I am representing the Spurs, I would have to agree with owners that a change to guaranteed contracts is in store. Watching a player underperforming consistently and take home $10 to $15 million per year is obviously a major flaw and one that is especially evident in the Spurs' case. A large percentage of jobs pay according to effort. Underperforming workers are rarely given raises or paid more, so I'm not so sure why the same system shouldn't work in the NBA. If there are countless exceptions when it comes to player contracts, why can't a player performance exception be used. The one issue that seems to be in agreement on both sides is revenue sharing. San Antonio is a small market team and is in the middle of the pack in terms of team revenue. In order to succeed and get every team out of the red, revenue sharing is imperative. I believe it also creates an even playing field when it comes to free agency.
5. Do the Spurs have a shot to get back into title contention?
As Doc Rivers told me in an interview once, the Spurs will always be a contender as long as they have Duncan, Ginobili and Parker. The only thing I would add to Rivers' quote is the word healthy. The Spurs were on a remarkable pace last season and the team seemed to be firing on all cylinders. A Duncan injury, which affected team chemistry and momentum, followed by Ginobili's injury in the final game of the regular season had a definite impact on their playoff success. The Spurs second unit lost a lot in the Hill trade, but a healthy James Anderson paired with Neal, a wildcard in Leonard, and Blair and Splitter should be an interesting combination. Richard Jefferson and an open spot next to Duncan are two major question marks for this team and will be directly associated to their success. When looking back at the healthy team the Spurs had during the regular season, I certainly would not rule this time out, if they play this season. If the 2011-12 season is lost, all bets are off.
I'm sorry, but from what I saw last season, the Spurs are no longer championship contenders. To get beaten the way they did and by what some would call "inferior competition", it could only go downhill from there. They'll still be able to make the playoffs, but forget about them winning another title. They're old and they're tired; their time has already passed them. They kind of remind me of the Celtics of the early 90s when Larry, Kevin, and Rob were in their waning years. They still competed, but they were no longer the force that they once were. It was only a matter until the celtics collapsed.
The same will happen to the Spurs, albeit not right away. It may take another two or three seasons until that team becomes irrelevant. Duncan is on his way out and Ginobli is not getting any younger. The signing of Richard Jefferson was a complete bust and the Spurs will more than likely trade Parker because of his earlier staements that the Spurs are no longer contenders. Who do you have left after that: an undersized and underwhelming center in DeJaun Blair; a disappointing Tiago Splitter; a bevy of unproven players in Cory Joseph, Gary Neal, Kawhli Leonard; a perrenail life-time backup role player in Matt Bonner, and two aging and broken down veterans in Jacques Vaughn and Antonio McDyess?
I did read your last 2 useless sentences, but I still think that baron davis doesn't make us a better team, because of the reasons I told you earlier and I just threw in that last richard Jefferson line because I wanted to, it wasn't because of anything you said,so don't be so sensitive and you're called shawn the freak and you don't want me to to tell you that you are freaking me out, Okay makes sense, but if you have another crazy opinion, you know what I'm gonna say.
You still don't read, do you? Read my last 2 sentences before saying something like "freaking me out." Could you?
Shawn, you really are freaking me out, You can crunch up all the stats in the world on baron davis, but you still can't convince me that he is better than tony parker. Let tell you something about Baron Davis, he can't play defense, he takes bad shots and it looks like sometimes he doesn't even want to play ball, I don't think he plays hard enough to be on our club. Overall Tony is better, even though I don't like him too much because he can't shoot, I'll take him over baron any day of the week. Oh yeah and I hate Dick jefferson, If it was me I'd trade him for a Bum on the streets.
What Makes anybody in their right mind think that the hornets are going to give up omeka for anything we have, be realistic, and how could the spurs have 7 players 6'9 or talller, nobody in the league has 7 players that are 6'9 or taller. Not even the redeem team had players that tall, c'mon man! BD? I hope you're not talking about Baron Davis because he i already past his prime, and if you thought Tony didn't distribute the ball, you're in for a rude awakening when you see Baron play.
@isaacd35 Yeah Davis has already past his prime. However, last season he averaged 25 minutes, dished out 6.1 assists per game, while shooting .414 beyond the arc. TP? Averaged more than 32 minutes a game, 6.6 assist per game, 0.357 from 3s. Per 36 minutes Baron would averaged 8.7 assists compared to TP's 7.3. And you guys seem just don't understand, I didn't say the trade would upgrade "every position on the team." However, the deals make us a better team especially defensively while get rid of RJ's fat contract.
this article comfirms our earlier comments on the needs of the spurs - height and steady pg sub, citing the spurs vs grizzlies games. May we add our ten cents worth observations? On the pf/c position, we believe the addition of at least 2 players is necessary and imperative. As rightly stated any injury to TD disrupts and derail game plan.While Splitter didn't come uip to expectations, he should be given more time to gel and develop with the team. PLs not Oberto who is I think already 36 years old. As pointed out E. Okofor if available would help and 1 more pf/c for insurance.If the spurs can recruit K. Fesenko who is just 23 would yet develop playing alongside TD. Yes, why not R. Richards? For pg, I would rather sign R. Sessions or N.deColo who was a 3rd ranked pg in the ACB league in europe. The latter could have an added advantage of already playing behind TP in france. The coming of okofor and sessions may entail some trading. The spurs may offer Mcdyess expiring contract, Blair's unguaranteed contract, R. Jefferson, or other combinations not involving the "big 3." I would like to see a more balance distribution of players by position where there are at least 7 standing at least 6'9" playing pf/c.
Shawn - worthwhile thoughts. I don't see replacing TP with BD, only because BD is rarely healthy. He'd be a great backup. The Okafor deal gives up too much. Why not guys like Sean Williams, who can jump, block shots, run like the wind, etc. They are cheap and hungry. Maybe even S Hawes. He will take $4mil, but is just developing. Gray is also a good option to pare with Splitter, and TD, but yes to the RJ and Blair for BD and maybe add someone and get Varijeo. Too bad we don't realy have say so.
I see that one coming. I'm not saying BD REPLACING TP, think about it logically, the whole team get better after the trade! That's my point. I didn't say this trade will strengthen "all positions" on the team like you may think, which is non-exist anyway. BD is older than TP, yes, but I see him capable playing 20-25 minutes a game and run a team. Manu can be the main ball-hander, Regardless the Height issue, in recent years he's playing more like a PG while TP playing more like a SG! If you watch games enough especially when TP was injured last year, you see Manu is our TRUE floor general, not TP! TP is a scoring machine himself, but lack of court vision and sometimes a ballhog. With a healthy coming back JA and G.Neal, scoring won't be a problem for us. We have ENOUGH scorers already. What we need is a Top defensive-minded big who can protect the paint, rebound and block shots; Okafor is the best suit I can think about now. You mentioned Hawes, who is known for his shooting touch from outside and SOFT under the basket. Sounds familiar doesn't it? OH! We already have Bonner !!!! Why we'll want another one?! As for Varijeo, his playing style is similar to Splitter's. However, Splitter is younger, faster, and probably has more potential. So the trades you suggest are basically repeating the rosters we already have. Wake up! TP is the only player on this team may have above-average trade value TO OTHER TEAMS. And getting Davis along with his bad contract is the ONLY way to unload RJ's. THINK ABOUT IT. @jojo707
True stats from Hornets247.com telling that how Okafor effect the game defensively:
(http://www.hornets247.com/journals/2011/02/17/emeka-okafors-importance-to-the-hornets-by-the-numbers/)1. "In the team’s first 49 games with Okafor, the Hornets averaged a team efficiency difference of +8.96, which would be good for 6th in the NBA for the entire season. In the 7 games without him, this number has dropped to -10.6, which would be 26th in the NBA for the whole year. It seems pretty clear that Okafor not only provides a positive impact on the team’s defense, but on the offensive side as well, something we probably could not have said about him last season." 2. With Emeka in the starting lineup, opposing PFs & Cs shot 46% from the field, which would be 3rd in the NBA. Without him, that number jumps a staggering 8 percent to 54%, ahead of only Detroit’s 54.6% season average.3.With Emeka, the Hornets allowed an average of 16.59 defensive rebounds per game to those two positions, which would put them around 23rd in the NBA today. Without him, it’s been really ugly – 19.4
And remeber one thing. Hornet's David West is a defensive liability while Gray played average only 13 minutes last season. That means Okafor nearly anchored the interior defense by HIMSELF!
Yeah the Spurs own Austin Toros but when does Pop and RC ever pick some quality, rotation players from Austin? I'm saying solid players who get playing time on regular base, not some garbage time Mercenaries. Speaking for interior help, as far as I am concerned, quality bigmen are hard to find. Don't expect the FO can acquire some young talented bigs through free agency. We don't have enough money as well as the market as appealing as other big cities. That's why history indicated that Spurs' free agent signee were most old/veterans. This formula is not function well anymore because with our current line-up, our best players are the very old ones. So the pieces we need are relatively young but experienced talents who are enthusiasm to prove themselves. The only way we can achieve that is via trade. My suggestion: Trade TP to New Orleans for Emeka Okafor and draft picks. Then trade RJ & Blair to Cleveland for Baron Davis. Then convince Aaron Gray to sign the bi-annual exception. These strength all weakness we have. Okafor is the Top 5 interior defender and is so underrated by those TV analysts. He is a fierce shot-blocker and excellent help defender. Look the difference of Hornet's defensive efficiency when he is/isn't on the court. He and Aaron Gray did excellent job containing Gasol and Bynum. Think he teams up with Splitter defensively with Leonard haunted the wing, how great we will be. Okafor is not much an inside scorer but he's good around the basket, plus with lobs from Davis he will bump his stats sheet. There's reason he was the rookie of the year in 2004–05 season over D.Howard. I'm not saying he will be like Howard but hey, who knows what will happen after he can learn from TD, the greatest PF of all time? Davis is the wildcard here, but he can certainly run the team. He's been in the league for years, he wants championship. As long as Pop can convince him not shooting those quick 3s, his experience and leadership will be valuable to have. As for Gray, he will not give you double-double stats but he is a 7 footer who's not afraid throwing his body to the likes of Gasol brothers, Bynum, and Randolph. Give him 12~15 minutes a night he can bring you tough defensive presence and 6 hard fouls every night.