NBA.com's John Schumann penned an article yesterday discussing the moves that have been made in the offseason in the Southwest Division.
Or the lack of moves, in the San Antonio Spurs' situation.
While we've seen many new faces in new places, the Spurs made minimal changes to a team that had a NBA Finals appearance in sight last season. The coaching staff and front office believes that surrounding their aging "big three" with younger pieces like Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green could get that that elusive fifth title.
Schumann notes that while the Spurs did make a nice postseason run last season, they defensive rank (11th) continues to slip, which could be a cause for concern.
On May 31, everything was going great for the Spurs. They were two wins from The Finals, riding a 20-game winning streak with an unstoppable offense. Then, it all fell apart. Over the next seven days, the Spurs couldn't stop the Oklahoma City Thunder, who scored 112.0 points per 100 possessions over the final four games of the Western Conference finals.
If the Spurs continue their defensive slide, they have little chance at a championship. The last team to make The Finals with a defensive ranking lower than 11th was the 2000-01 Lakers. But if you look at that OKC series as a little flukey, you can see the reasoning for keeping the Spurs intact for one more title run.
While Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins will never shoot jumpers at such a high percentage again, and Nick Collison is unlikely to make such an impact again, I won't be the one to call the Thunder winning a fluke.
But if I'm Gregg Popovich, having an "old" team sweep through the first two rounds even after adding two key pieces at midseason, the what if questions would certainly arise.
The Spurs do need to get better defensively though, but that could work itself out with Leonard, Green, Jackson and Diaw together for a full season.
Making a bold prediction: Nando De Colo will become a lesser version of Ricky Rubio. I know the stats tell me that he has a high TO/Assist ratio. I know scouts say his speed won't translate to the next level. However, I can remember the EXACT same things being said about Rubio before he came over. Honestly, just comparing their speed on tape, Rubio seems much slower than De Colo especially considering De Colo's long stride. Now looking back at Rubio, it seems that his slowness didn't matter at all. He was doing great until the ACL tear.
Watching him play only a couple of games last year (the only full one being against SA) I saw Rubio keep up with, and at times confound Parker offensively. His passing ability and use of the pick and roll really seemed to frustrated TP despite Tony's blazing "speed." And defensively, Rubio seemed to do just as well as other PG's against Tony. I think the most stark example of why speed is useless as a PG while defending was put on display in the WCF. For all of Westbrook's quickness, he couldn't stop the pick and roll. In fact, Tony was picking him to pieces. The pick and roll defense requires team defense from the hedging big to the rotating off-defenders. All of this talk of "Nando is too slow" is really a misnomer to me. If a guy like Westbrook wants to go one on one with a speed burst towards the basket, he's going to beat pretty much anyone guarding him in the NBA. Speed is pointless to have in this equation. What is needed is rim defenders (which we still need another of) to rotate up and defend the basket.
Anyway, that's my Spurs eureka moment for the day. I really think De Colo's vision and size will benefit him at the PG spot. As was said previously, he has that undefinable "Manu flare" for the dramatic when he plays. I look forward to seeing him play in the pre-season as well as off the bench and hopefully prove my prediction right!
@CraigThomas You def could be right..Ive seen lots of NDC including all the last olympic games and frankly, It seems to me the "lack of speed" thing is overblown anyway. I dont recall him ever getting blown-by by another PG or SG.
@KrisPittman Depends on what manu and Splitter sign for, and jax if hes around and still in plans. Al is getting 15 mil this year and likely wont drop much next year..Long story short, highly doubtful Spurs have the space to get Al (and frankly Al isnt much of a defender)
@Spursfan66 37 Mil on the books next year because Manu and SJax contracts are up. Timmy led the way in taking a pay cut and now Jackson and Manu will as well. Manu and Jackson sign for 7 million a piece. Tiago for 7 and BIG AL will accept less... Why? because he wants to win. Jefferson is very much like the spurs and also similar to Tim Duncan. He's a low profile player, in his prime 27 years old. Still managed to pull 9.6 rebounds a game while sharing minutes with Favors, Milsap, and Kanter. For the spurs he pulls 11 + a game. Tiago and temporary Tim will make up for his defensive, even though he's above average already. He's a sleeper and plays when he needs to step up just like Tim.
Perfect Example out of all the outstanding games Al had last year against MIN his previous team..this one game says it all for me. 12 reb 3 ast 18 pts 6 of 14 shooting with 6 of 6 FTM-A. Kevin Love - similar minutes 8 rbs 15 points 5 of 21 shooting. Rubio had 11 ast but Utah destroyed them. Jefferson has a long productive career ahead of him. His touch is like David West but he's taller and can defend the best. Hes always willing to take a back seat if needed but will step up any time he's called upon.
@KrisPittman @CraigThomas I get your point Craig, but Kris is right..and it's all about the market. Another example is DeAndre Jordan..I believe his deal is for 10-11 mil per..and DJ shoots slightly better FG% but lower FT%. TS scores 2ppg more in 8 mins less pg and rebounding would be about even when you factor in MPG difference. TS has a PER over 4 points higher than DJ as well. Bigs are just more rare than the old days so they get more $ now. It may suck, but its the same for every team at least. Given his #s we were actually lucky to sign him to a deal as low as we did the first time. AND ya, we all hope he can get better this year. I would be surprised if he didnt improve in a few categories, and get more burn.
Tiago splitters per 40 min stats put him as a much better offensive player than Omer and still an above avg rebounder.
If you've paid any attention to what the markets give these big guys you would understand.. we may loose him unless we're willing to match a rediculous contract.
@Spursfan66 @KrisPittman lol what a joke that big men like Splitter are "commanding" $8 mil. What exactly has he done that we own him this? He has next to no post moves, is a FT liability, is a walking foul waiting to happen, still has not developed any sort of thing resembling a shot, and honestly is not the best finisher when there is minimal contact.
Is this what "commands" us? A glorified pick and roll guy? I don't want to sound like Stephen A. Smith, but Splitter has been vastly overrated from my estimation. From the reports, I thought we were getting a refined big man who was too busy making lots of money and winning championships in Spain to be bothered to come to the NBA. Turns out, he cannot do much of anything at the NBA level and on top of everything else, happens to be injury prone. Anyway, I hope he shows improvement. At least that's one thing Splitter gave us last year.
@KrisPittman ..not trying to hamper creativity, just being realistic. Spurs will almost certainly not be going into tax, ESPECIALLY in the year it gets even more expensive, and unless Manu or Jax or Splitter go elsewhere, getting Al wont happen. And JUST losing DJB and GN still doesnt create enough room imo. Al will most likely sign for the most he can get and that very likely will be Utah.
@Spursfan66 http://hoopshype.com/salaries/san_antonio.htm Your right, I was counting the qualifying offers for GN and Splitter from Hoops hype. Besides that I was not counting DJB because he can't defend other bigs and he hasn't developed the kind of touch required for a forward of his height. Also, I'm not counting GN because other teams will offer him more money and we will not match. We already have guys on contract that can fill his shoes. Joseph, Nando and hopefully we resign Patty because he's a stud .Splitter.. the hope his we resign him but we may loose him because bigs get a premium even if they're not outstanding.
Besides that- we certainly have the cap space to sign Al Jefferson if he's willing to accept 10-11.. yes we may be just under or maybe even just into luxery tax but that will change when Tim retires. We can make up for Als lower pay upfront by adding some onto the back end.. My main point is... we owe a move like this to Tim. Al is only 27 years old and as been an outstanding player on mediocre teams for a long time. Surround him with our guys and his level of play goes up. He's the kind of player that turns it on when he wants to.
Under this scenario we keep most of our team in tact, keep our Vetrans young guys and only loose DJB, GN. If we can resign Manu and SJax for 7 mill a piece then we can spend 10 - 11 on Al and be slightly into the Luxery tax depending on Tiago.
Even though.. chances of this happening are slim.. it can happen if Al wants to play next to TIm and is willing to accept more money on the back end of his contract.
Rather than hampering creativity why not encourage anyway.. it's no fun hearing guys talk about what's impossible. I'd rather hear what is possible.
@KrisPittman Your # of 37 mil doesnt align with hoopsworlds http://www.hoopsworld.com/san-antonio-spurs-team-salary
And you didnt include GN and DJB (or their replacements) in your mock up. Cap holds will also be significant. Inclusive total (which includes TS QUALIFYING offer of 5.8 mil, and imo he will command 8 mil, and GN Q offer of 1.1 mil, again he will get more too if spurs still want him) comes to $ 48 mil. So add 2 mil to TS q offer and 1 to GNs = 51 mil. The cap is projected to be 60 mil. You now have only 9 mil cap space to sign Manu, Jax, AND DJB (or his replacement). Imo, those 3 will not only exceed the cap, it will take us to just under lux tax again. And Al may take a BIT less than 15 per but theres no way he signs for less than 10 or 11 MINIMUM. TD has spoiled us all a bit into thinking its common for stars to take less $. Those others that have (LBJ etc) took SLIGHTLY less than market but many times those types can make it up in endorsements and such since they are in better markets generally. Al would not get that in SA. If Deandre Jordan Mc Gee and Tyson Chandler all make over 10 mil, you better believe Al does too. In this scenario, there is no way Spurs get Al. AND many other teams will be interested and willing to give more than spurs will be ABLE to. MAYBE Spurs could swing it if they cut loose Jax AND DJB and replace them with minimum contracts, but would we be better in that scenario? Maybe, maybe not. Imo, I'm afraid the best we can hope for is a full MLE player or MAYBE a LITTLE bit more. Spurs simply wont have room for an all star type until 2014.
I don't see any reason that we need a major overhaul in our roster. The players are more than capable enough to deliver us another title. It's best to keep them together since the chemistry is already intact. I agree the Thunders did took us by surprise but i'm confident if we were to meet them again this year we will put the record straight. They're display in the Final against the Heat is a testament that it was the Spurs that should have been there. Well nevermind then...
We made some slight adjustment for this season and I'm sure Pop will tightened on the loose screw where it matters so behold as we start another journey towards title No.5!
@SivanJohn They don't need a major overhaul but.. they do need an inside guy that can take over like Tim used to. Adding that one guy next year will complete our team for at least another 5 years. There's a reason why the spurs are holding out.
@KrisPittman It doesnt matter at all what Jax wants tbh. Its a business, and Jax' expiring contract will likely be sought after. And ANYONE that doesnt have a no trade clause can be traded..look at the R Jefferson trade.. Next to no one thought we could trade him and look what happened. Same with Joe Johnson..One of the WORST contracts in the league and boom. And lets just be real, I like Jax but theres no way hes worth 10 mil per as a player. If Spurs get a good offer on his deal, they will pull the trigger. Thats the NBA.
Al is arguably Jazz' best player..and their only vet Center. And Kanter is nowhere NEAR starting center quality. And I think they prefer Favors at PF. Milsap is definitely the most likely to go and the ONLY big guy that has been mentioned in trade talks to this point. As I said before, Utah would be crazy to let Al OR Favors go, and at this point Milsap seems to be the odd man out. And if that does happen, Spurs would certainly have a better shot at Paul than if Al hit FA and didnt re sign in utah. Plenty of teams will have significantly more cap room than Spurs next summer, and as I said before, Utah has full Bird rights on him so they can pay more than anyone can if they so desire.
Ya, Dennis knows Spurs players, but are you really expecting that theres even a small chance of a trade going down that sends Al to Spurs for one of our guards? Our only guards that come even CLOSE to Al's 15 mil is Manu, and I highly doubt EITHER team would do that deal. Manu is close to retirement so why would Jazz want to lose their best big (rare) for a SG (not rare) that is about done? Only other guard above 12 mil is TP and he was our best producer last year and is 3 mil cheaper than Al. And then Spurs would still be 3 mil short so would have to include another player around 3 mil or a good pick or something as well. Highly doubtful. AND, Al is expiring, so we could lose him to FA this summer, AND will have lost our ONLY proven PG. Chance of this happening is too slim to even consider imo. Dennis is ex spur staff, but to expect favors like this from ex staff is expecting a bit much.
And again ,Im not saying it could NOT happen, but the possibility is remote all things considered.
@Spursfan66 No way Jax gets traded. He doesn't want to be traded and he's openly stated he can finish his career here.He's also accepted less of a roll for us.. Seems like hes serous.
Utah has big reason to get rid of Al. They have Milsap, Favors and Kanter. If (which they will) Kanter and Favors come along like they should Utah has to get rid of someone and I think it will be Jefferson. (Teams can't afford to keep that deep of a front court long term) .But, who knows.. if they decide to part ways with Milsap maybe we have a shot at him (doubt it) but.. I do remember reading an article about how Jefferson modeled his game after Timmy and think big Al likes the idea of coming to a major contender. His respect for the spurs last year during the playoffs was great.
Next point - Dennis Lindsey is now Utahs GM. GMs always keep the tallent they know. Danny Ferry brought over Danny Green. He also resigned Anthony Tolliver now for the hawks. Lindsey understands the Spurs Culture, he understands and highly values the spurs tallent (He was part of drafting and recruiting them so of course) <- This is even more the reason for this to happen. Just so happens spurs are loaded with very talented guards.
Wither it's through trade, sign and trade, or whatever.. Since this is something that could happen.. I think it may turn out to be a good move for both sides.
@KrisPittman I'm not trying to step on your dreams..I'm just trying to be realistic. Possible? Yes, depending on MANY factors. But the chance is quite small and that's the reality of it. And Jax won't be taking a minimum offer, that I can assure you. Utah will have Al's bird rights, and plenty of room to re sign him. And Al is the only experienced C Utah has, AND will likely lose Paul Milsap too, so Jazz would be fools to let Al go.
And name some of these BIG time players other than TD and Heat in small markets that sign for less than what they were offered elsewhere. SOME have, but its a stretch to claim it happens all the time.
I think its more likely Jax gets traded before deadline then Al coming to Spurs. And if that happens, we will most likely get a player/players back that have around 10 mil yr worth of salary, so that will even lessen our cap room more. Plus (hopefully) jax could actually bring the big we need in trade.
The money certainly can be there and you know it's possible. I like SJAX but if he's in a position where he has to accept a minimum contract because we're bringing someone in.. he may just say.. ok.. Mainly because of the much higher potential for a ring. Big players are accepting less money all the time in the NBA.. It just takes respect and a choice of a ring over the extra bucks. That's not up to you or I to decide.
@SivanJohn What we needed was someone to check Harden. He destroyed throughout the series especially with his heartbreaking 3 in the closing minute of game 5 (which I got to witness personally...). For some reason, his penetration and getting to the line crippled us. There were times when Durant couldn't even get the ball b/c of the great defense of Kawhi and Westbrook didn't know what to do so they passed it to Harden and he created something from nothing. Then, mysteriously, Harden pulled a vanishing act in the Finals. He was completely MIA ( turrrrible pun) for the entire series. I don't know what happened, but whatever the Heat did, we have do to to him. I don't think we should make any drastic changes either other than shop for another big obviously but we've seen how well that's been working out for us lately...
@sa2ny2004 @projectspurs @mdeleon To much overhaul may not be ideal too, keep the core and improve on where it matters, that's the right way