It’s certainly great to have Basketball back in SA. After the billionaires and millionaires finished dividing the spoils (Or lack thereof they claim) we get to see the big three in action again. Let’s take a look see at this first week where the Spurs went 3-1, and let me tell you there are some bizarre numbers that pop out.
DeJuan Blair (16 pts/7 rbs) is having a very good start to the season. Although the jumpshot isn’t there and the free throw shooting is a work in progress, he has played solid. Blair on offense is finishing better around the rim and is figuring out how to use his body in the post more. He also has added the “floater” to his offensive arsenal. On defense he is doing a little better job of moving his feet and taking charges, but there is still work to be done in that area. Rebounding has steadily gone up as well.
Richard Jefferson (11 pts/47% 3pt fg) is hitting his jumper like he did last season, but if there is something I really like about Jefferson it’s that he is taking shots with guys in his face. Confidence has always been an issue since RJ has been wearing the silver and black, but so far this season he has been more aggressive taking jumpshots and has had less mental lapses during games.
Tim Duncan (9 pts/6 rbs) has gotten his butt kicked by father time it seems. He is kind of slow on defense and is not the leading shot-blocker for the Spurs thus far (a role he’s had since ……………?????? yeah, that long). In all seriousness though, Duncan has played more of a supporting role, allowing Blair and Splitter to do the heavy lifting for now, which is probably fine with him since the Spurs are winning by comfortable margins. He’ll definitely come around when he is needed.
Tony Parker (13 pts/6 ast) has been solid. His assist numbers are the same as always, but how he is getting them is what impresses me. In years past, the floor would be spread and he would do a lot of dribbling in an effort to get to the paint for a score or an assist for a spot up 3. This year he has been allowing the motion of the offense to develop while he waits for the perfect opportunity to pass to an open player all while he is standing at the top of arc. With Parker this opening week it has been to play smarter not harder.
Manu Ginobili (19 pts/54% 3pt fg) has come out firing and putting teams in the torture chamber (as Sean Elliott likes to say). His shot is on, he’s driving well and his play making is still great, just ask Dejuan Blair. As Manu goes so do the Spurs. His inspiring play fuels the team, as we have seen in game 1 and early in game 2 as he lead the charge in delivering a stunning blow to the heavily favored Clippers. Unlike Duncan, who will pick up the slack as the season goes on, Ginobili will eventually get tired and will need someone from the likes of Anderson or Neal to step up during this fast paced season. That way he’ll have legs left for the playoffs.
THE BENCH: The good, the bad and the ugly
Center, Tiago Splitter is undoubtedly the good (7 pts/6 rbs) finally getting meaningful minutes. Impressive about Splitter is his footwork on defense and his ability to stay in front of his man. Last season Splitter showed his ability to take charges, and that trend has continued this season. What nobody expected was for Tiago to be the teams leading shot-blocker at any point in a season where Tim Duncan is on the team. Splitter has averaged almost 2 blocks a game. Let’s see how long this continues.
Forward, Kawhi Leonard has been a good acquisition for the Spurs. For two seasons the Spurs haven’t had a backup for the sometimes lackluster Richard Jefferson. Kawhi has averaged 6 pts/6 rbs playing behind RJ. The great thing about Leonard is that he is athletic and a good rebounder, which at times allows Coach Pop to play him at PF and not get burned.
Guards, TJ Ford and James Anderson we can say are the bad (or fair). Ford has shown that he has a much easier time being a setup point guard than Parker. However, while he does a good job passing the ball, he also tends to pass up shots and turn the ball over by jumping in the air to pass. James Anderson has played with confidence, but his shot hasn’t fallen as much as he’d like and at times it seems that defense isn’t a priority to him.
Forward, Matt Bonner is obviously the ugly. We know he is a poor rebounder, but averaging 20 minutes a game, being third tallest player on the team, and being next to last in average rebounds at a whopping 1 per game is beyond bad. Bonner’s three point shooting, his and Pop’s usual alibi for his poor rebounding and defense, is fading so far. He has shot only 38% from deep. While that may seem high, it doesn’t look very impressive when you factor in last season where he led the Spurs and the league in 3 Pt FG% and grabbed a few more rebounds (3 per game). This year he already has 2 guys on his team ahead of him.
Date: January 2, 2012