The San Antonio Spurs have the third best record in the Western Conference (25-8) and are only a half game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers for the top spot. They've been rolling lately after losing four of five in an absolute murderous stretch of the schedule. So overall, they're in pretty good shape.
Their defense has also improved (eighth in opponents field goal percentage, second in opponents three point percentage), but it feels like they still have the same concerns as last season. They're not athletic enough, yada, yada, yada. With that in mind, if the Spurs were to make a move, who would be the most likely suspect to go? It's easy to say DeJuan Blair because so often he seems like the odd man out in the big man rotation. Only problem is the Spurs tried and couldn't find a deal they liked for Blair last summer (things can change of course).
Despite his increased role while Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson are out, I think that guy is Gary Neal. This opinion actually has less to do with Neal and more to do with the development of the Spurs other guards not named Parker and Ginobili. As Kyle Boenitz touched on earlier this week, the Spurs are trusting Danny Green to shoot much more this season then last, regardless of whether he has an off night shooting. Often times last year games ended with Neal out on the court with Parker, Duncan, Ginobili and either Leonard or another big. This season Green has been out there just as often as Neal and has hit some big shots (see: game winner in Kobe's eye).
Danny Green is also a much better defensive player than Neal, specifically defending the pick and roll ball handler. Green's defensive numbers won't bowl you over by any means, but Neal's numbers show he's a liability. Additionally, while people think of Neal as a great shooter, the numbers show he is just a good shooter, especially from long range. He's excellent from mid-range and in the paint. However, Green's numbers are better than Neal's in every area of the court except inside the paint but outside the restricted area. Green's development as a mid-range shooter cannot be overlooked, as his offensive game looks down right J.J. Reddick-esque when his shots are falling.
Before all the injuries, Neal started the season as Parker's back up, even though he's not a great facilitator and really shouldn't dribble if a defender is within like 12 feet of him and there's no one to set a screen. However, Nando De Colo and Patty Mills' recent play shows that both could be competent to good back ups to Parker and both have shown an ability to play alongside Manu Ginobili, who is the primary ball handler in the Spurs' second unit.
Generally speaking, I like Gary Neal. He's possibly the ballsiest shooter the Spurs have ever had and has hit some big shots for the Spurs. He's also gotten better as an all around scorer, but the rest of his game hasn't really improved. If he can be moved in a package for a big guy or even a first round pick, I'm all for it. If not, well then I guess I'll have a lot more "WAIT, DON'T SHOOT THA-Oh cool, good shot Gary Neal" moments as the season moves on.
Until green learns how to make layups and handle the ball like a pro basketball player who's a shooting guard, i don't think we should give up gary because even if he isn't as good as defense as I would like him to be, his offense more than makes up for that
Our weakness is still the other young big guy that can help out duncan in the post. Yes I know we have Tiago, and he's been doing pretty well recently, but I think we still need some added length and some defensive prowess to the front court. I know I'm probably going out on a limb here, but I think we should go for Larry Sanders. Heck, I'm not even sure if Milwaukee will give him up. The bucks currently have 7 guys on their roster who are 6'10 and above. We only have three, two of which are not dominate in the post and aren't great defenders. Larry Sanders' defense is pretty good, he's currently the second best shot blocker in the league, just barely behind ibaka (Ibaka is at 2.97 and Sanders is at 2.96). He's a good rebounder, could probably get more if he played more minutes with the bucks. I know his offense isn't that great, but isn't it defense and an athletic, young body in the paint what we crave the most? He's young and an up and comer. We already average like 104 points a game, is scoring really what we need more of right now? Zach Randolph is freakin 6'9, and he torched us in the 2011 playoffs. Under the basket, he just did whatever he wanted and old and slow Duncan (played like it at the time) and old McDyess couldn't stop him. Someone with a 7'6 wingpsan like Sanders (or maybe Bismack Biyombo) could help with the defense under the rim. I just want Blair and Bonner gone. If another shooter like Neal has to go, I'm find with that too. As long as the front office brings in a defensive minded big man, or a big man with physically gifted tools such as a long wingspan or crazy athleticism. Hopefully I'm not asking for too much:P
Heck if that can't happen, maybe Anderson Varejao is someone we could bring in. Fourteen rebounds a game? Shit, we could use that.
If the Spurs want to make an impact in the post season, trading (if available) Gary Neal together with Bonner and Blair is in order. First, because they have 8 guards in the lineup and they need a guy to protect the rim. Of late, both Bonner and Blair are used during garbage time only. There are teams out there that will not figure in the post season and ready to let go of some players. Cleveland, MIlwakee, Detriot, Charlotte, and some other teams will not be in the post season. Of course, there is still S Jackson who has an expiring contract. Reduce the number of guards and upgrade the frontcourt is necessary.
absolutely love the last sentence. thats how i feel throughout the entire game whenever gary checks in. and i hate it cause whenever i watch the game with other people i give gary a by on his first few shots and dont say anything but the minute i start complaining about him to my friends he goes on those mini neal runs we've seen before. makes me feel like a jackass every time :/
but in all honesty gary is the most expendable player and probably our best trade chip, especially for teams that know he has ice in his veins and are looking for a combo guard to help spread the floor. could probably land us something if we pair him up with one or two guys (ive used bonner in almost every one of my trade scenarios but in all honesty the guy is great in these short minutes hes getting, its small amount of minutes to where he can spend energy on defense, and i feel like hes one of those guys everyone loves to have in the locker room)
Pop seems to insist on trying to turn guys into backup point guards, that do not have the tools for the position. Ever since Speedy Claxton, it's been a turnstile position for us. For example, I really wish he would stop using Manu in that role, particularly in the 2nd half of games. Manu is soooo much better playing off the ball. Let Nando or Patty handle the ball with the 2nd team...That being said, Gary is probably the most likely guard choice if the team does pull the trigger on a trade. I LOVE Gary the sharpshooting 2-guard...not a big fan of Gary the backup PG. And, Danny does seem to be a more rounded player & long-term choice at the 2...he needs to show more consistency before I'm a true believer in him, though. Can't we just clone Kawhi ?!?
Right on point. I makes sense when it comes to trades because I like Neal, andif the trade doesn't "hurt" a little bit, then it's probably not a trade another team would be interested in. Losing Blair wouldn't bother me at all. The guy cannot jump and thus, cannot get his shot off. I think the leaugue sees that now -- but talking fans of other teams, they covet a guy like Gary. They notice the nights that he scores 22pts in limited time ... and are blinded to his missed assignments, lack of handle, etc. I would love to have a 6'10" guy that has energy, can rebound a bit, and wants to tear the rim down on dunks. That would blind me to his missed assignments, 50% freethrows, etc.