Transition Year and Tony’s Future

Yes, this is a transition year. After losing out on the Durant sweepstakes, the Spurs roster was always going to be a matter of duct tape and make-do. Pau Gasol is mostly used up, and was always a liability on defense but who else was there to add?

The hope was that Tony still had a step and Manu had enough guile to make up for his aging body. If you watched the Olympics you saw all three — Tony, Manu, Pau — look more like shadows of their former selves.

Tony has played three solid games out of four, but Manu has yet to show up. The Spurs should have enough to see out the Grizz but the next series will be an even greater challenge.

It’s a bit early to think about, but the Spurs’ backcourt has needed a refresh for a while. While the Spurs won the George Hill-Kawhi Leonard trade, they gave up the point guard of the future and haven’t found the guy to take over for Tony. Adding Aldridge meant losing Cory Joseph, and while Patty Mills has been solid, he has had to be the bench spark and the starting guard and that has been a tad too much to ask of him.

Tony is too old and Dejounte Murray is too young. Murray looks like the future but even Kawhi’s learning curve took three years. Looking back further, when Tony had the reigns in 2001 the Spurs relied on Speedy Clayton to close games in 2003. It takes time that isn’t there. LMA’s window is smaller than Duncan’s was then. Spurs are likely going to use the cap room created by a retiring Manu (~14 million) to sign a starting PG.

They supposedly kicked the tires on Mike Conley, even though it was a long shot. I would love to see Chris Paul come and ring chase here, but I think he stays and cashes out. George Hill makes about $8 million in Utah, but he might like life as part of a young up-and-coming team. He already expressed interest in resigning but negotiations hit a snag. His game isn’t predicated on speed like Tony so he might have a less steep decline as he enters his mid 30s (he’s 30 now).

A more likely target? Jeff Teague. He is 28, is in line to make $14 mill a year, reliable, and can score and defend solidly. He is Spur material.

The problem is that the Spurs are likely going to have to find a way to pay Dewayne Dedmon, Patty, and find a guy all with about $19 million. It’s doable, but only if Dedmon and Patty take a Danny Green-style deal favors the Spurs.

This assumes the Spurs don’t blow it all up and trade Aldridge for Alex Len and Eric Bledsoe of Phoenix, giving the Spurs a little room to resign Dedmon and going back to the run-and-gun version the Spurs used to win the title in 2014.

Restoring Order

There was a sequence in the second half in which Dewayne Dedmon got a vicious block, got a lob from David Lee, and also missed a dunk. That is classic Dewayne Dedmon and we’ve only seen him for a handful of games.

This Blog was always intrigued by his addition, and enjoys seeing so much press about his impact.

Ever since we saw Tyson Chandler, borderline bust, look like a man possessed while playing along side Chris Paul in New Orleans, the value of a big man that can defend the rim and catch lobs has been apparent.

For a very long time front offices have wanted slow, plodding big dudes to man the paint. While I loved me some Boban, he was more plodding than skilled and without a team built around that skill set, he would always be more of a curiosity than anything.

Dedmon misses too many dunks to be the starting center on your Finals-contending team, but he is good enough to support a second unit filled with willing passers and needing easy buckets.

The game saw the Spurs do more of the good of the home version of this two-game series than the bad. The Jazz still played relatively well, but did not benefit from the Spurs letting them hit wide-open shots.

While Manu may call Gasol a prototypical Spur, Gasol is the least defensive Spur we have had since, well, Matt Bonner?

He was responsible for more layups but the squad handled this fairly well. I figured these games would be flipped — Spurs would roll in SA, and kind of struggle in Utah — but that is why they play the games.

Next up: Clippers tonight.

Youngins Getting Some Run

This blog was intrigued with Dewayne Dedmond. He possessed the athletic ability and soft hands that is prized in the modern NBA. Offensively he can catch and finish at the rim and on defense he is an off-the-ball shot blocker.

Tonight he displayed a jumper that I honestly did not know existed. I am liking the addition more every day.

Our Spurs played their home opener and had the routine first game mistakes. By that I mean the clock operator messed up to begin the game. The squad never really looked threatened as Patty Mills basically led the charge as Tony and Manu rested. Kawhi put on a show later as the second half began and let the rest of the squad determine the game.

A fun sequence: Anthony Davis pulling a turnaround jumper on LMA, and Aldridge immediately returning that with one of his own on the other end. Nicolas Laprovittola had himself a game.* He showed flashes of young Manu, taking guys off the dribble with crafty hesitation moves and one-handed scoops in traffic.

*_Did you know he is one of only two Spurs to ever wear 27?_

David Lee is a blog-favorite now. I hated his over-hustle with every team he has played for but really appreciate it on our squad. He is one of those guys. If you have watched him you know he has more than a motor. His touch and his passing ability are well-known throughout the league and put him in good company on this squad. In the late third/early fourth shift he managed to drop a nice dime to Laprovittola on a give/go and later Nico found him on a ridiculously perfect outlet pass. Lee leaked out on a three and beat the defense deep.

David West was really good in spurts for the team last season, but count me among those that were nonplussed to see him leave. David Lee is not the swiftest defender, but again the hustle, the skill, and the basketball IQ are perfect for this second unit that needs more scoring aside from Patty shooting and Jonathan Simmons dunking. Effort points count the same as Kawhi’s midrange jumpers.

In the fourth quarter we saw Murray, Forbes, Bertans, Simmons and Laprovittola close it out and there was some fun had. Bertans showed some defense, his shooting, while Jonathan Simmons enjoyed being the focal point of the offense.

The Spurs are playing well and NO was coming off no rest so really the only way they were losing this was if something awful happened. Did we learn much tonight? Yes, a little. The beginnings of the next generation of Spurs regulars are getting some great time in a winning environment. If you have to learn on the job, this is the way to do it and not like Kyrie Irving did or Brow is doing now. Without the right attitude, it can be soul-crushing.

Next up: at Heat 10.30.16

Begin Anew

Life and basketball both move on without you.

The Spurs will move on without Tim Duncan. So it goes.

The 2016-2017 season is upon is and while the Spurs sport familiar faces, they have a new set of circumstances: inner turmoil.

LaMarcus Aldridge might be traded? What? Ever since Zach Lowe (see below) mentioned it, it has been brought up. The surprise is two-fold: it is the Spurs that are having this issue. And the Spurs just signed the dude last season.

But LMA might not have been happy before the All-Star break last year

The “rumblings in NBA circles” about Aldridge wanting to go to the Cavs last year do not make any sense. If his concern in San Antonio is an offense that doesn’t revolve around him, why would he want to go to Cleveland and be the third banana?

CBS Sports

Right. That does not make sense. But it still could be true. I never fully understood LMA’s unhappiness in Portland. More than a few dudes who follow the league mentioned that it was weird that LMA started doing the things he refused to do in Portland — rolling hard to the rim, defending, deferring on offense — but did in San Antonio with gusto. Or maybe it was only perceived gusto.

Really, it seems like LMA is frustrated that he is not the leading scorer and All-Star around whom the team revolves. Also, he does not feel ‘coddled.’

Wut.

While he says the right things about winning, he does hint at his discomfort with his numbers.

“To be seen as still valuable and still one of the top players in the league even though I’m not averaging 25, that’s pretty nice,” he said.

Winning is the objective, but Aldridge admitted, “When you do something for nine years, that’s who you are.”

This is a storm that is just beginning to brew. Let’s check in on other things.

What else does Zach Lowe have for us?

  1. The Clippers, not the Spurs, will be the No. 2 seed in the West

It’s ridiculous to worry about the Spurs. Their defense can survive without Tim Duncan; they allowed 98.6 points per 100 possessions when Duncan sat last season, a mark that would have led the entire stinking league. They beat younger, stupider teams just by making the proper play every time on both ends.

But I’m a little worried about the Spurs. Their defense and rebounding should take a hit with Pau Gasol sliding into Duncan’s starting spot alongside LaMarcus Aldridge. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are a combined 73 years old, and San Antonio didn’t add anyone to soak up some pick-and-roll duty. (Scouts love Dejounte Murray, but it’s hard to see him playing much as a rookie.)

Zach Lowe’s 30 Crazy Predictions

That is good analyzing. This Blog maintains a sense of unease at the thought of relying on Pau Gasol for anything other than offense. We watched him in the Olympics, and while he put up nice numbers, he could not move his feet well defensively. As the New Looming Threat is the same old Warriors, the prospect of Gasol and Aldridge having to guard Draymond and — gulp — KD?

I am starting to see why the Spurs would consider trading LMA. I disagree on the Dejounte Murray note. I think he gets significant minutes. Barring some miraculous jump in production from any of the back end of the roster or an injury, DM should be getting the third PG minutes that translate to lots of playing time in blowouts and back-to-backs.

He is the athlete we gave up (George Hill) and the youth that we do not have any more (Tony Parker) at the premier position in the league. He is still learning his place in the league but his ability combined with the confidence (cockiness?) provide some of the swashbuckling swagger that Manu just does not have every night. Also, he still has Tony, Manu, and even Patty to learn from. That’s something to be hopeful of.

Roster Moves and Prepping For A Rebuild

The Spurs are making moves.

> Happy to tell you guys that I’ll be coming back to the Spurs for another season. #backhome

— Manu Ginobili (@manuginobili) July 7, 2016
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Manu is back.

Tim is probably (eek) going to retire. Pau is coming to the River Walk. Boban, meme star is gone, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein and so the Spurs “replaced” him with Dewayne Dedmon, formerly of Orlando, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo’s The Vertical

While Dedmon doesn’t compare amazingly well to Boban statistically, he is intriguing. Intriguing the way Boban was, just in a different way. Boban was freakishly big. Which feels insulting to write about a human but I mean, just look. The Spurs simply couldn’t match the Pistons offer sheet and picked up a bargain big man who will be useful. He can run the floor and finish above the rim fairly spectacularly. While the Spurs are losing Tim (likely) and West, they are gaining mobility and height, and youth. Remember Pau is five years younger than Tim.

That’s the positive outlook of the post-Durant scramble to build rosters. While here in San Antonio we are used to “rebuilding” years of 50+ wins, feeling outside of the championship favorite cool person table is not fun. If you want to feel a little better about it just remember that the 2011 Mavericks pulled off an upset against a super team. So did the 2004 Pistons. So yeah. Hope.

More on Dedmon: He’s a hard worker who has improved every year he’s been in the league. He is pretty good on the pick-and-roll and likes to block shots spectacularly. While that is fun, having an energy guy to run the floor and get easy buckets is basically a poor-man’s Steven Adams. A two-year deal for $6 million is a steal. I love this move for days. From Yahoo:

Dedmon has carved a niche in the league becuase of his defenisve motor and ability to finish at the rim.

I’ll take that.

Meanwhile, the Spurs are looking to fill out the roster with some of those draft-and-stash guys we’ve seen glimpses of the last few years. Guys like Livio Jean-Charles. He’s also young, can run, and could use some time learning from a future HOF center and a All-Star C/F. You know, guys like Pau and LMA.

The team is also expected to sign Davis Bertans this summer. He’s a shooter and has some game. Basically younger, more mobile Matt Bonner.

Bertans, Charles, and Dedmon are the makings of a lottery team if we started these guys or depended on them for major minutes. They should be a part of a younger, more athletic bench that supports the MVP-candidate, All-Star PF, and HOF Center, and aging Spurs Legends as they lead this team to somewhere in the 50+ win range. Although I may be underselling it a bit, apparently.

Wins Projections based on roster moves:

> Here’s a very (very) early wins projection for the 2017 season based on the current @Rotoworld_BK depth charts. pic.twitter.com/D4nGWW0SvV

— Kostya Medvedovsky (@kmedved) July 6, 2016
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