CENTER: Probably the most vital position on the floor as it concerns defense. Whether a team is good defensively or horrible, the Center is always important. For good defensive teams that rotate well on the perimeter, a center is needed to clog the middle, secure rebounds and deny second shot opportunities (offensive rebounds). On a bad defensive team that either gambles for steals a lot on the perimeter or simply isn’t interested in staying in front of their man, a Center is essential for not only rebounding and taking up space in the paint, but for blocking or altering any shot attempt that comes his way, thus stopping a guaranteed basket for the opposing team.
Tim Duncan ht 6-11 | Last season 13.4 pts 8.9 rbs 1.9 blk in 28 mins a game PLAYOFFS 12.7 pts 10.5 rbs 2.5 blk in 35 mins a game
The Tim Duncan everyone tries to remember is the Duncan that had a solid back to the basket game, a face up game as well, which included some of the best footwork of that time, and when it was all said and done a jumper with range out to about 16-18 ft. Last season the Spurs went away from Duncan on offense. They also overworked him on defense by having guys who either don’t rebound or play defense next to him at the Power Forward slot. Duncan did well for most of the season, trying to use his older slower body to grab most of the rebounds and attempt to clean up all the defensive mistakes that the other Spurs made. Thats a lot to ask an aging Center in a youth-filled league. In the playoffs it took its toll. Duncan had to guard Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, and try to protect the paint all by himself. It didn’t work!!!!! Duncan has limited mobility, but his I.Q. on defense and offense are enough to help the Spurs go far, provided he gets legit help at the Power Forward position.
Tiago Splitter ht 6-11 | Last season 4.6 pts 3.4 rbs in 12 mins a game PLAYOFFS 6.7 pts 4.7 rbs in 17 mins a game
Tiago Splitter definitely got the 08-09 George Hill treatment. Yeah sure, they raved about him before he got here and then the guy barely played. Sure he got a few injuries; but come on, seriously??? Splitter, like Hill in his rookie season, showed signs of being able to contribute on a nightly basis. In Hill’s case, Pop wouldn’t let him get past Jacque Vaughn, and for Splitter he couldn’t get past Blair, Bonner, or McDyess. In the 08-09 playoffs the Spurs were eaten alive by the smallest guy on the court (maybe the smallest guy in the building), JJ Barea, and after going down in the series Pop put in Hill who did well. Not to mention what he did to the Mavs the next year in the playoffs. Splitter was put in the same situation. Tim Duncan can’t stop two good big men(much less one) and protect the paint at the same time. Splitter came in and did a better job than all the Spurs bigs except Duncan (obviously), and maybe Dice gets a slight nod. Splitter, despite not having a jumpshot, is mobile on both ends, is an Oberto-like rebounder (thats a good thing), and has some solid post moves.
ANALYSIS: The Spurs have decent size, good rebounding, and available low-post scoring. The Spurs, as mentioned, went away from the low-post game while allowing Parker and Ginobili to run around and do the scoring and distributing. However, if you look at the last six teams to win the Championship, they all have something in common – low-post threats on offense and equally defensive minded big-men*. With Duncan being the only big guy to get consistent touches on offense and at the same time the only legitimate big to protect the paint, the Spurs would have never made it far even if they had somehow managed to beat the Grizzlies. To get back to championship level basketball, the Spurs must once again establish a post game. This does not mean they force feed Duncan, but simply get him more consistent touches on the block, mixed in with Splitter and Jefferson getting post-up opportunities a few times a game as well. You can also never have enough big men. So if the Spurs would like to add an extra guy, free agent Aaron Gray, formerly of the Hornets, may be the answer. He’s not much statistically, but he can bang with the Bynums and Howards of the league. Next week we’ll look at the Guards.
*Lowpost threats and defensive bigmen of the last six championship teams
2009 and 2010(Gasol/Bynum)
1999,2003,2005,2007 (Duncan/Robinson 99′ an 03′ – Duncan/Mohammed 05′ – Duncan/Oberto 07′)
2004(Rasheed Wallace/Ben Wallace)