Finger: Kyrie Talk, Aldridge Burn

As a counter to this, some will point to the Spurs’ acquisition of LaMarcus Aldridge, and how that has not quite met expectations. But if there have been any issues in that arrangement, it is not because Leonard hasn’t given Aldridge a chance to be assertive. It’s because Aldridge hasn’t taken him up on it.

That about sums up everything I have written about LMA. Emphasis mine.

I’ve heard that some players think Kawhi is a “system” guy whose success is dependent on the scheme, that a handful of other guys would be doing the same were they in his situation. This is a version of something even guys that are big fans of the organization have said, including Stephen Jackson.

Bob Horry even went so far to say that established players need to dumb down their game to play in San Antonio.

The thing to take from all this is that 1. This system isn’t for everyone. 2. Everyone isn’t for this system. The players that want to do the things to win value organizations that do so consistently. While Kyrie Irving looks like he is fleeing the greatest player of this generation for some substandard situation, he actually is taking control of his fate: LeBron is not long for Cleveland (because Dan Gilbert is a clown) and Irving wants some place where he can do his thing without uncertainty. San Antonio may not be ideal for his ego, but it is a model of consistency.

Uncle Drew in Silver and Black?

The NBA’s silly season just got sillier, as Brian Windhorst reported that Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland. This news is amazing in and of itself, and if Kyrie gets his wish before next June we can give up any hope of seeing a competitive NBA Finals matchup whatsoever.

What made it even more intriguing for we San Antonio Spurs followers was this from Woj:

Well then. The Spurs have had a relatively disappointing offseason and are mired in their own Trade Me saga in LaMarcus Aldridge. Kyrie is certainly no Chris Paul but he is the type of super star scorer the team only has one of. Winning in this league requires more than one guy nowadays, and getting one of the guys that partnered up to eliminate the Warriors would be a great step toward achieving that next year.

This is all part of a larger drama that stems back from the pre-LBJ-Return days, according to Windhorst, and exacerbated by the incompetency of one Dan “Comic Sans” Gilbert. David Griffin held it together and helped build a title-winning team and now he is gone and everything is falling apart.

The multifaceted question: Should the Spurs try for Kyrie?

The exceedingly simple answer: Hell yes.

There is a lot to consider, including whether Kahwi would be cool with deferring offensively to Kyrie, whether the Spurs care about that. It is all speculative at this point but I do not think the Cavs would be happy with LaMarcus Aldridge and change for Kyrie Freaking Irving. But then again, who knows what is going on with that team.

Link Post: Filling Out The Roster

Paul Garcia of Project Spurs has a post summarizing Euro Hoops for us and adding speculating about the rest of the roster. The Internet has been wondering about defensive specialist Adam Hanga. Garcia:

For Hanga, he’s already 28 and just came off one of his most productive seasons with Laboral Kutxa, where he was named the Euroleague Defensive Player of the Year. For now, it’s about two waiting games. Does he wait for decisions by Simmons and Ginobili, in the event they both leave, that would open minutes for him and possibly a higher salary? Or, does he take the offers overseas before they’re off the table and go to another free agent?

From an earlier post on Euro Hoops:

It’s not a secret that the Spurs are closely monitoring him, specially the last two seasons and the time for him to play in the NBA has come, according to sources close to the situation.

The situation is ripe with speculation, and only “sources” are cited.

This could mean anything and is true enough that we cannot dismiss it. Yes, the Spurs are closely monitoring their draftee. It does not take close sources to suss that out, however. We do not need super detective powers to figure out that SA cannot offer much to any free agent at the moment.

As Zach Lowe put it yesterday:

Last summer’s spending orgy, amid a one-time-only mega-spike in the cap, soaked up more of this season’s space than anyone expected — especially when the league’s projected cap fell from $107 million a year ago, to $101 million, and then finally to $99 million. (The league’s most recent projection for the 2018-19 season, sent to teams last week, sits at $102 million, per league sources — a tiny uptick.)

The team missed on Chris Paul in part because of the Aldridge drama, and settled for Rudy Gay. The tight market has created a quirky scenario where the Spurs are waiting on a guy to retire and another G-Leaguer to make a decision.

The bargain-bin season is upon us. Last year the Spurs picked up two quality guys in David Lee and Dwayne Dedmon, getting big minutes from both throughout the season. We never did find out exactly what it was that caused DD to find himself in Pop’s doghouse, nor what David Lee was thinking he could get by opting out.

(Speaking of David Lee, he is in England for Wimbledon.)

Neither signing was thought to be huge, but they were notable. I am leaning toward a Serbian signing given the abundance of wings at the moment. While Rudy Gay and Kawhi can and will get minutes at the 4, an actual big man to set screens and battle is useful against the Thunder, Pelicans, Kings and other big front courts.


Further reading:

[PS]
[Eurohoops]
[Zach Lowe’s FA column]

Rudy Gay Signed For 2-Years, $17 Million

When I think of Rudy Gay, I think of this definitive Grantland piece that highlighted all that was wrong with “The Great Rudini” during his career.

He was inefficient, a criticism that Rudy Gay himself did not dispute, and was offloaded to make room for the DeRozan and Lowry’s development. This was a smart move, considering the Raptors went on to have their greatest seasons without Mr. Gay.

About five weeks ago the Raptors traded Rudy Gay to Sacramento. Since then, he’s looked like a marvelous scorer (not a typo). As a Raptor, Gay was using an insane 31 percent of Raptors possessions (a mark higher than Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James); he was easily on pace to set his career high in that category. Coincidentally or not, Gay was also on pace to bottom out in a lot of efficiency measures.

Most importantly for our purposes, is this:

Despite his increased efficiency, Gay is still not worth $17.89 million per year. This is not his fault […] Players don’t build rosters, they don’t write the contracts, and they don’t design the offenses. Rudy Gay, the player, has been traded two times in the last year. But it’s perhaps more accurate to say that Rudy Gay, the contract, has been off-loaded twice.

Rudy Gay was — for a time — inefficient and not worth the contract he was being paid. That said, he declined something to the tune of $14 million for an two-year MLE in SA for a total of $17 million. As Kirk Goldsberry wrote, Rudy Gay is better when he is not taking so many shots.

That is likely what the Spurs saw in him in his Sacramento career. He was taking about 15 shots a game and making good use of those. The Spurs will not ask him to change much of his game offensively:

Next to Boogie as a clear-cut No. 2 option for a season and a half, Rudy Gay finally found the best possible version of his game.

During that season and a half, in games in which Gay played, the Kings went 46-77 for a winning percentage of .374. The best possible version of Rudy Gay was the No. 2 scorer for the equivalent of a 30-win team.

This is the problem with Rudy Gay: He is a scorer only, and an old-school, mid-range scorer at that. He’s not in any sense a point-forward, he’s not an elite defender, and he’s not a dead-eye shooter. If he is your No. 2 scorer and you don’t have a world-class team defense, your team is going to stink. If he’s your second-best player overall, you are in a world of hurt.

Hurm. We can inelegantly put his 18-per ahead of LaMarcus’ 17-per and that would, in fact, make him the Spurs’ second-leading scorer with a world-class team defense behind him. So that’s good, right?

We hope so. The lineup is still in flux, with LaMarcus likely still on the trade block and Pau, Simmons, Manu still unsigned. If the roster consists largely of the previous incarnation but with Gay in place, that is doable. This does likely mean Dedmon will not return.

This makes the Spurs more versatile offensively. Rudy Gay can carry the load offensively for stretches while Kawhi sits. Imagine those dry spells trying to force the ball into an off LaMarcus being Rudy Time, where he is free to get buckets. The Spurs have had a tough time scoring against the Warriors in the Kerr era and despite what we saw in the first three quarters of the WCF Game 1 matchup, the struggle-fest is more likely than not. Getting Gay is a nod toward solving those problems and untying the Spurs from LaMarcus Aldridge as second-option.

Given that he is a veteran looking to win, he will do the things required. That is to say he will buy in defensively. Even if he is a poor individual defender, as long as he can execute the game plan he will be useful. For historical reference, simply look at Pau Gasol who was instrumental shutting down the Rockets.

Welcome Rudy Gay. You are a Spur now.


More Reading:

[Grantland]

[SBNATION]

[BBall Breakdown]

_Image via evs

FREE AGENCY

Patty Mills re-signed.

Jonathan Simmons is going to date around before he commits, and given his origins that is good. Let him go and see what the market will pay for his services and if the Spurs will match it.

Given the lack of offers for LaMarcus Aldridge and the strange trades (Paul George to OKC for nothing, Jimmy Butler to Minny for nothing, CP3 to Houston for consolation prizes) there is no obvious move that makes the Spurs significantly better. In fact, coming back with the same team keeps the Spurs’ institutional advantage that other teams mixing in new players lack.

The looming Warriors Question is unanswerable. No move outside of signing LeBron James makes any team serious contenders for dethroning Golden State. Andre Igoudala taking a peek at offers is the first crack in the dynasty-in-progress and injuries, random occurrences, and the disease of more can always happen.

LaMarcus Aldridge being anything less than 100% committed to the team is an issue, but there is no move to make at the moment. And so we wait.

Blake Griffin Hypothetical and Aldridge Fallout

Kevin O’Connor has a nice piece talking about Blake Griffin possibilities. During the Finals there was a Trade Machine screenshot that tossed Aldridge to New York, Melo to LAC, and Blake Griffin here. I liked that. Give me that.

Every report and blogger thinks this offseason for SA is going to be very complicated. As I [wrote previouslhttp://spurs.sanantonioreview.org/tag/chris-paul/http://), we all want Chris Paul but I would really prefer a CP3 making a LMA better, not throwing lobs to random signings. The fact remains that Chris Paul is worth too much money to come here. Signing a George Hill or a Lowry is unsexy, but probably more ideal for the long-term health of the roster.

Also interesting is this conversation in 2015 with Aldridge about what he wants as a Spur. It explains more of why he is unhappy. He averaged 17 and 7 this past season. Now read this (emphasis mine):

“So we rode – and I had my kids with me and my mom – so they sat in the front of the plane and him and I went to the back of the plane and talked the whole flight. It was just conversation, about the system, about me. It wasn’t really a lot of questions. It was just him telling me how I’m going to fit in. Everybody was making this big fuss about how I’m not going to be able to take shots anymore, or be the scorer that I am, and he was just telling me, ‘We need a guy to score down there. Tim (Duncan) is older, and we need a guy to command a double team down there.’ So I was like, ‘Maybe I’m not a Spur, because I’ve been averaging 23 (points per game) for the last three to four years, and maybe I don’t fit into y’all’s system of let’s all average 17 (points per game).’ And he was like, ‘No, we’re not trying to change who you are and make you average 16 or 17. We want you to be you, because you’re going to help us be better and vice versa.’ He kind of reaffirmed that they didn’t want to change me, and that who I am is ok.”

On choosing between Phoenix and San Antonio:

“I feel like me being there with Pop in the system with the guys, I should be ok. That was what I was weighing: Go to Phoenix, be the face and the guy, or go to San Antonio and probably win sooner and be more blended in. That was my issue. And I was like, ‘If y’all want me to come here and average 12 or 13 points, that’s not who I am. I like scoring.’ They were like, ‘No, we want you to play in the system, but you scoring is needed here.’ Once I heard that, I was fine.”

The irony here is that LaMarcus Aldridge is the guy who stopped LaMarcus Aldridge from scoring here. He had and has plenty of opportunity to get buckets and simply does not get them at the rate the Spurs need.

[Hat tip to The Ringer’s Paolo Uggetti]

More Chris Paul Rumors

The Cavs are trying to unlock the Warriors juggernaut and not having a great time of it. The Spurs and Chris Paul are flirting with each other.

Deadspin:

Free agency doesn’t start for another month, but Paul’s camp floating the idea to the media is the hardest proof so far that he might actually leave the franchise he helped rescue.

Deadspin is quoting Marc Stein:

Sources told ESPN that Paul, for all of his undeniable fondness for Los Angeles, is intrigued by the idea of teaming up with the likes of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and MVP top-three finalist Kawhi Leonard in his quest to achieve the deep playoff success that has eluded Paul to this point in his career.

Honestly not much has changed and Stein says what everyone has been saying recently, including this little blog.

There are too many variables and permutations at this juncture to know exactly how the Spurs will proceed. But the list of players whose futures in San Antonio could be affected by a full-on Paul pursuit includes longtime Spurs mainstays Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili as well as Pau Gasol, Danny Green, Patty Mills, Dewayne Dedmon, David Lee and the emerging Jonathon Simmons.

The Spurs may well feel they had a shot of taking on the Warriors, much like the Dubs probably would have been the favorites without KD. Adding him has turned an all-time great team into THE all-time greatest team. The Spurs’ chances — however big or small they were — will be improved by adding a future HOFer. Tony Parker would have started if he had not tore his quad and he could be the backup.

Honestly, I am hoping this is real simply because I cannot look at LaMarcus Aldridge and think about him as the second-best player on this team for another 82-games.

Spurs and Chris Paul; Roster Thoughts

Since the Spurs exited the WCF literally limping to the finish the post-mortems have begun in earnest. Perhaps the biggest rumor is not a rumor at all. No less than every single outlet ever has reported Zach Lowe’s podcast as the source of the ‘realness’ of the Chris Paul possibility. Henceforth we will refer to this situation as CPP.

Here is the Lowe Post podcast in question.

Two other decent reads about this offseason:

The likely scenario is this: The Spurs bring back some version of this current roster with an update or two. How do we know this? The Spurs have essentially done this for ages. The biggest overhaul was when LaMarcus Aldridge came over and the Spurs parted ways with Thiago Splitter, Belinelli, and others to make room.

This year’s team was not remarkably different than last year’s.

Pos 2016 2017
PF LMA LMA
C TD Pau
SF Kawhi Kawhi
SG DG DG
PG TP TP
6 Manu Manu
7 Kyle A Kyle A
8 J Simms J Simms
9 Patty Patty
10 West Dedmon
11 Diaw David Lee
12 Bonner Bertans
13 Andre Miller Forbes
14 Kevin Martin Murray
15 Boban Joel Anthony

Okay, Pop made much of the seven new players and there was a difference. But the 67-win team had loads of changes also. The key differences were unchanged and that was key. By key I mean the starters and the major minute-getters. The Spurs late season drop contributed to the difference in win totals, and there were some early season struggles to get Pau acclimated and Tony healthy. The Spurs’ preference is to keep what is working and a 61-win team is the very definition of working.

Okay, but what about the playoffs? That wasn’t working. Sure it was. While the two losses to Houston were telling, the Spurs won. Of course, the general feeling about the Warriors was that the Spurs were the lesser-talented team but had a shot to win — or at least be competitive — given they were healthy. The 25-point lead will forever be the great What If? but it is important to remember that the Spurs were playing outside of their minds, while the Warriors were recovering from a layoff.

So if the Spurs had themselves a chance if healthy, why would they not bring back the same team, with some reconfigurations, and compete again?

The Fun Stuff

Let us be honest here. Staying pat is not fun. Signing Chris Paul: Point God is really fun.

Zach Lowe called it “real” and I am not sure what that means, exactly. If it is something along the lines of mutual interest. Of course the Spurs would be interested in adding a HOF player at a position of need. As everyone is reporting, that will be exceedingly difficult considering the circumstances. Moving Tony Parker seemed to be outside the norm of the Spurs pattern, but it was rumored heavily in 2011. Instead of Tony the Spurs traded George Hill. It was still possible. The injury is what takes him out of the shuffle.

Moving LMA would satiate the portion of the base that calls him Dick Jefferson 2.0, part of the appeal of playing in San Antonio is the quality post play of LaMarcus Aldridge. Seriously, why would you leave DeAndre Jordan and (perhaps still) Blake Griffin for an rusty Pau Gasol and Dewayne Dedmon? No, of Chris Paul is coming that means LaMarcus is staying. In fact, he would not let him check out of games. Getting yelled at by Pop is one thing, being scolded by a fellow player — and future HOFer — is another level.

The roster with CP3 looks something like this:

Pau, LMA, Kawhi, DG, CP3. Bench: What, ever, scraps, are, left.

Okay, well Bertans, Murray, Kyle Anderson, the ghost of TP. Those are the guys on the best team-friendly contracts. Depending on how much CP3 takes, the Spurs would have to lose (this is the best case scenario) Patty, Jonathan Simmons, and Manu. At minimum. The even more likely scenario is that SA has to find a landing spot for Pau.

You know what this means? It means the Spurs will be less deep than the Clips are now currently constructed. For Chris Paul it would mean he was taking a pay cut for a jump in team culture and coaching. That is not a stupid move, but it banking a lot on Pop and the Spurs strength and conditioning staff.

Chris Paul himself organized the CBA to favor players like himself in these situations. I do not think it is likely to happen no matter how much each side would like it to.