The Spurs Have Already Rebuilt
And we only really took notice of the Kawhi Leonard piece.
While average NBA fans watching the San Antonio Spurs will point at Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker and say, “they are old,” the team has quietly put together a foundation for competing with the Warriors, Timberwolves and Rockets for the next several seasons. And as of last week’s victory against the Denver Nuggets, the rest of the league has noticed.
Rookie point guard Dejounte Murray has filled in for the injured Tony Parker in the starting lineup since January 19, and has shown flashes of adjusting to professional competition just fine. On their visit to Cleveland last Saturday, Murray repeatedly attacked Kyrie Irving off the dribble and took him to the hoop, where his size [6–5 with a 6–9 wingspan] proved to be a legitimate difference-maker. Eventually LeBron James decided he wanted to guard Murray instead, but that didn’t disrupt his aggressiveness.
What makes Murray so interesting on the offensive end is his ability to start and stop to keep his defender off-balance and a knack for hitting floaters all the way out to the free throw line. He doesn’t have the pure quickness that Parker had as a rookie, but he’s close enough that simply getting into the paint, rather than all the way to the basket, will be effective enough.
Defensively, he has the size and length to switch across multiple positions — looking at you, Warriors — without being put into incredibly compromising positions. Within the first minute of the game against the Cavaliers, he didn’t close out on an open Iman Shumpert 3 from the corner, but the little mistakes are going to happen.
He isn’t ready for a big role on the team just yet, but after a total of 23 games, he’e shown tons of promise.
Though widely assumed that the Spurs simply traded in the old Matt Bonner for a new one, Bertans also comes with a few 2017 updates the old one did not have. Like, say, the ability to catch the ball on the move and shoot:
or the ability to jump a passing lane and continue to run down the court without his New Balances becoming untied:
Or the ability to successfully shove a large man named Greg Monroe, only to be shoved even harder by a silly person named Michael Beasley:
You get the point. He is 6–10 and agile, he can shoot from deep, he has a nice lob chemistry with Dewayne Dedmon, and he doesn’t know he shouldn’t push dudes that will squash him in a fight. He should continue to get playing time this year and eventually develop into a nice complimentary piece in the front court. His deal expires after next season, but look for the Spurs to keep him around.
Back in 2006–2007, the Spurs picked up a tall, athletic center by the name of Francisco Elson. He had some moments, but ultimately was not a centerpiece for the franchise. He was just OK. Dedmon could possibly be the 2017 version, but he also could be a legitimate difference-maker come playoff time. He’s mobile and has nice instincts as a shot blocker, rim runner and rebounder.
That’s a nice defensive play. He was prepared for the alley-oop pass, which is the first half of being prepared and then executing, which is how you are successful at things.
Twitter Spurs fans have voiced their concern over the Gasol-LaMarcus Aldridge pairing being too slow to defend the Warriors, and they’re correct in that assessment. However, keeping Dedmon in the bench role that he’s in now unlocks his rolls to the hoop because he is paired with the dynamic passing bench units involving Ginobili, Patty Mills, David Lee, Jonathan Simmons, and Kyle Anderson. It will be interesting to see if Dedmon opts out this summer and hunts for something bigger than the $3 million he’s due in ‘17–18. After missing out on playing time and substantial paydays up to this point, I would bet he does.
In year three, Slo-Mo is making an impact. Here he is with multiple solid defensive rotations against Cleveland over the weekend:
Anderson’s been a very good passer since day one, but he doesn’t possess the quickness to hang at all with the better athletes on the perimeter, nor the size or explosiveness to hold his own down low. However, this season he has shown the ability to keep defensive rotations and at least be passable. He gave up two bad 3-pointers to Kyle Korver in the second quarter against Cleveland, but Korver got both looks mainly due to two incredible LeBron passes [starting at the 1:39 mark]:
The Spurs exercised their team option in October, so Anderson won’t be a restricted free agent for another year. He’s a safe bet to be in San Antonio for a while. Who knows, he might even be Boris Diaw 2.0 but just in the young Boris stage right now!
Patty Mills and Jonathon Simmons are going to command a lot of money this summer, so it’s possible neither return to the Spurs. However, they fit long-term plans as the third guard to bridge between Parker and Murray and the sixth-man replacement for Ginobili. I would bet my money on Mills staying put in San Antonio and Simmons being something like a coin flip at this point, but if they stick around then the Spurs will be that much closer to fully rebuilding without hardly anyone noticing.