I was asked to contribute to a season preview series on Sheridan Hoops on the topic of five things to watch this upcoming season. An excerpt of the post and a link to the full post is available below.
Good article Michael. Good insights. I think, imho, that Leonard can and will show up but Pop is going to have to tell him to be more selfish and design more plays that run through him. I think we'll see that.
I think there are two more factors (not the cliched 'health' factor because that's true of any team)-and they are 1) the performance of Belinelli, Baynes and Pendergraph, and 2) the backup point guard situation
First, if Belinelli can contribute in a meaningful way that will be HUGE. Huge in terms of minimizing the # of minutes Manu has to play as backup during the season and also giving the Spurs more length and a more reliable guy than Neal coming off the bench in the reserve 2 spot. Belinelli can create his own shot. Neal really couldn't. I wouldn't be surprised if Belinelli gets the starting nod at some point.
The bigger unknown is the guys backing up Tiago and TD and Boris. TD and Boris can't be run into the ground. TD is old and Boris just doesn't rebound well. Bonner is what he is, a solid regular season stretch 4. The Spurs need Baynes or Pendergraph, ideally both, to really deliver and give the Spurs some 'nasty' and more boards. The poor rebounding killed us v Miami. So I expect Pop to give these guys every chance to prove they can help in this area. If one of them or both prove reliable, that will be a HUGE thing for our Spurs. We need nasty and toughness down low.
Second: Still not comfortable with the backup point. To think that we are one Tony Parker injury away from Joseph or Mills or De Colo running the team is to be honest scary. That's like giving an inexperienced driver the keys to a BMW. I think the Spurs could tough it out in the regular season for a stretch with one of these guys or a combination of these guys, but in the playoffs? No way. That would be a first round exit.
Spurs need a reliable, veteran backup pg. He doesn't have to be great. He just has to be able to drive the bus under pressure. I think all of our young point guards are great 3rd options at the point. None are ready for meaningful minutes in the NBA Finals. If it's 'Finals or Bust'-then the Spurs have to get a vet backup pg.
I get the idea of utilizing one of these guys throughout the regular season to build for the future, etc... but think with me for a sec: Look at Tiago and Danny (Kawhi is the exception and none of these backup pg's have his ceiling)-they are STILL works in progress when it comes to delivering on the Biggest Stage. Heck, Bonner is STILL a No-Show.
As long as TD and Parker and Manu are here, and the window is closing on the TD era, the Spurs HAVE to have a roster that gives them the best opportunity to win NOW. The Spurs are being wise with young players that are on the roster and the Euros they have. They are looking to the future.
But it's all about winning another ring before TD retires. There is no time for the young point guards we have to 'learn' how to perform on the big stage.
So, back to my oft repeated idea: I think imho the Spurs have 9,000 point guards and are interested in any guy that has ever played point guard in the league because they plan on making moves. I wouldn't be surprised to see trade(s) that bring in a vet pg and also a vet big. I think Joseph, De Colo and Mills as well as Bonner and a 2nd round pick are all on the table. It's all about winning one more ring before TD retires.
The vet big needed for same reason vet backup point is needed. Pendergraph and Baynes are young.
And to answer expected questions/objections:
1) No, I do not know who the vet big might be
2) No, I did not say 'elite' big. Serviceable big is more like it. A guy who can bang and grab some boards.
3) I don't know who the vet pg is. He might be an American playing in Europe right now. Might be some FA. I think the Spurs would prefer to get a vet through one of these routes as it would free them up to put a nice package together for the serviceable big.
That's my theory.
But good analysis Michael. I think these other two factors are just as important. We'll all find out soon enough though.
One thing we can all agree on: Captain Jack will NOT be brought back to back up Kawhi :)
Simply put, Spurs front line kept them from winning the championship last year and the Spurs Front Line will keep them from making back to the finals if they don't improve their toughness down low!
I think Leonard will get into the lane more to create more scoring opportunity and get fouled, but I think the main thing for the Spurs to get back to the finals is Diaw and Baynes becoming better rebounders and becoming a little bit better scorers.
Did I read this right ? Marco can not do all the things Neal can do ? Are you serious ? I really liked Neal, but he had trouble bringing the ball up court under pressure, took crazy shots, played weak defense, was too short to guard his position, what else ?MB is twice the passer, a better ball handler, takes fewer crazy shots, defends his position better and can be on the floor matching up at the 2-3 if short term. He will alos take some pressure off Manu.
There is very little forgiveness in any City where a key player causes the team to lose a title. Bill Buckner anyone ?
I can't believe the season will start in a month. Well, preseason starts in a month, but still, it will give us a chance to see what our new additions will be like. It seems like yesterday I was neck deep in despair while watching Game 6.
@gymbear I'm with you on what our key concerns should be, except that I still think a backup SF and solid defender to backup Kawhi Leonard is more important than another PG or big man. I like what I have seen of Pendergraph and Baynes. I expect them to improve as Splitter has improved.
I think our PG situation is sufficient. I thought CoJo performed well enough to earn more minutes in the NBA finals. You have to remember that anybody off our bench is replacing an all-star PG in Tony Parker; of course none of them will perform at TP's level. The real shocker from last season was Manu's inability to manage the point in spot minutes, which had never been a big problem in the past. Marco brings with him some PG skills that can strengthen our backcourt.
A lot will come down to Pop's willingness to trust the new players with increasing responsibilities, because mistakes are going to be inevitable in their first year. Too many times we've seen guys get in Pop's dog house and almost never come up for air! LOL
@prjSpurRon Agree that the Spurs need more toughness, but Pop was THE reason we didn't win the championship last year, not our lack of toughness. Why in the ______ is Boris Diaw in for Duncan for the most critical plays of your season?
@prjSpurRon Hopefully Coach Boylen can quickly prove his rep as a big guy guru and help our bigs increase their effectiveness as well as toughness
@prjSpurRon Just curious..do you see Baynes or Pendergraph getting more PT this year?
@jojo707 You got to it before I could say it. From what I have observed, Marco is a more versatile player than Neal, even though I liked Neal and admired him for his scorer's mentality. Marco is a better ball handler, defender and rebounder.
@jojo707 I too agree that Beli has the edge over Neal. And I predict that his game will be a better fit to Spurs than Garys' was.
@JohnAbney I thought the same thing lol
@ajd21 Now, it's just knee deep in dispair. LOL
@jaws3 @gymbear I agree with you on a lot! I love the potential of Pendergraph and Baynes. We won't know much though till half way through the season. And I also agree on Kawhi's backup though with Marco, Manu, and even Danny Pop has ability to throw all kinds of guys in as a backup 3. Still need a reliable one.
My point is if this were 6-7 years ago and we knew there was more time for TD and Manu and Parker was younger-then I think Pop would be more patient with young guys and allow them to develop. I think with TD's age, there will be a push to bring in someone at the pg spot and a big who is a proven 'reliable' guy. If worse case scenario happened with TD, Pop could have a big man by committee approach and that could conceivably be effective if he had another vet in the mix who mostly had the skill set of banging and rebounding.
If worse case scenario happened with TP, the pg by committee approach (imho) wouldn't be as effective because I still don't think any of our young guys are ready to run the team on the big stage. Pop would have to rely too much on Marco and Manu (which wouldn't be ideal for many reasons) for too many minutes. Again, it's all opinions and speculation. We'll all know soon enough, and perhaps as late as trade deadline just how much Pop trusts guys with the TD window closing.
Thus far Bonner and Diaw have refused to use their big body to become better rebounders. Therefore Baynes and Pendergraph should get the opportunity to see how physical they can be in the paint. Duncan needed rebounding help last year and will need it even more this year. Leonard will probably end up being the best rebounder after Duncan.