San Antonio Spurs: Why DeJuan Blair's Play Is Key to Title Run

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IApril 3, 2012

The Spurs are looking to take home yet another championship, and one of the keys to them being the last team standing is center DeJuan Blair.  The man is an absolute tank in the middle and has a great inside game a la Kendrick Perkins, so it's natural that the aging Spurs would look to the 22-year-old Blair to carry them defensively.  Yet, that's easier said than done.

You see, much like Perkins, Blair isn't exactly what one would call a natural athlete.  At 6'7", 270 pounds, he's a bit on the hefty side and moves fairly slowly.  Seeing as how the Spurs have seven-footer Tim Duncan manning the 4-spot, it's interesting how they don't move him to center and shift Blair to power forward.

That isn't to say that Blair is a bad player.  He has a good low-post game and despite modest averages of 9.6 points and 5.7 rebounds this year, his work on the inside speaks for itself.  In terms of overall defense, he does a fine job at making life hard for the opposing offense.  When push comes to shove, his reliability is unquestionable.

Still, Blair is a big question mark as the Spurs, currently the No. 2 seed, look to rebound in the postseason after losing in the first round last year to the No. 8 seeded Memphis Grizzlies.  You'll recall that in that series, Blair averaged just 12.5 minutes per game as he struggled to defend bigger and tougher forwards and centers like Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

Sure enough, the Spurs were eliminated by the younger Grizzlies as their defense just couldn't figure them out.  In a nod to the adage that "defense wins championships," Blair needs to be locked in this postseason as the Spurs will most likely be facing one of three teams: the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets or Utah Jazz.

Each of those three teams has a low-post player who Blair will most likely be assigned to defend.  Given how each of those three players will be more experienced than Blair and have multiple talents, the odds are not exactly in his favor.  That being said, Blair should be spending every minute of his down time watching tape of anyone he may have to cover come playoff time.

His defense is going to play a key role in the Spurs making another title run, and the better prepared he is for the opposition, the greater the odds are that San Antonio will walk away as champions for the fifth time in team history.  Sure, Blair is backed up by a fine option in Tiago Splitter, but his defense is hit-or-miss while Blair's is very physical and pesky.

Thus, the tools are there for Blair to be the X-factor for the Spurs in this year's playoff.  All he has to do is use them so that he is fully prepared in shape for a long run.  Given the events of last year's postseason, Spurs fans can only hope that he takes full advantage and doesn't waste the opportunity.