The San Antonio Spurs were painfully close to a fifth championship in franchise history in 2013. Naturally, they have stood pat this offseason, save for a few small personnel changes that will tweak the depth chart a little bit in 2013-14.
So how will the Spurs' depth chart look next season, taking into account player development and the changes from free agency?
Players will be given approximate predictions for their regular-season playing time. Remember, the minutes won't all add up to 240 minutes per game, because that figure assumes that every player plays all 82 games and none of the games go into overtime.
Also, players will be listed according to the positions they will play on offense, not defense.
Point guard: Tony Parker (31 minutes per game)
Shooting guard: Danny Green (28 mpg)
Small forward: Kawhi Leonard (34 mpg)
Power forward: Tim Duncan (28 mpg)
Center: Tiago Splitter (27 mpg)
If the Spurs are healthy and rested, this is the lineup they will start every game with.
According to 82games.com, this five-man combination got over 362 minutes of playing time last year, more than double the next group of five players. They scored 1.08 points per offensive possession, while allowing just 0.89 points per possession on defense.
Any lineup that is that much better than its opponents deserves to start.
Now, there is some debate as to whether or not Tim Duncan is truly a power forward anymore. ESPN lists him there, but Basketball Reference says he has been a center for seven years. For the sake of this depth chart, I'm considering him a power forward, because he is more of a threat outside of the paint on offense than Splitter is.
There won't be any significant minute changes in the starting lineup.
Point guard: Manu Ginobili (21 mpg)
Shooting guard: Cory Joseph (18 mpg)
Small forward: Marco Belinelli (21 mpg)
Power forward: Boris Diaw (19 mpg)
Center: Aron Baynes (15 mpg)
You may be scratching your head seeing Manu Ginobili at point guard, and rightfully so. He's been listed as a shooting guard his entire career, but I predict he will play more at point guard in 2013-14.
I recently wrote an article examining Ginobili's role with the Spurs next year. Read the article for more information, but a variety of factors led me to the conclusion that Ginobili is best-suited to be the point guard for the Spurs on offense when Tony Parker is on the bench.
However, I also noted that Ginobili will guard shooting guards and small forwards on defense.
Cory Joseph hasn't turned 22 yet, but he is a rapidly improving guard that will get more than the 13.9 minutes per game he got last year. His quick feet and hands will allow him to take on the opponent's point guard on defense with ease.
Marco Belinelli is only 6'5", but he is taller and longer than the 6'4" Gary Neal, who occasionally played in the backcourt with Joseph and Ginobili last year. He isn't a natural small forward, but he has the athleticism and length to suffice there.
Boris Diaw's minutes stood at 22.8 per game last year, but went down to 17.1 in the playoffs. Nineteen minutes per game for Diaw seems to an agreeable middle ground, considering his advancing age.
Diaw played some at small forward, power forward and center last year, according to 82games.com. He is the wild card for the bench unit, because he can be moved around, depending on the matchups.
Here's to going out on a limb, but Aron Baynes could be a breakout candidate for the Spurs next season with the loss of DeJuan Blair. Outside of the starters, he is the only Spurs big man (aside from the starters) that has the strength and size to take on the Dwight Howards and the Marc Gasols of the NBA.
The powerful Baynes will fit well with the finesse of Boris Diaw to form a nice second-unit duo of big men.
Point guard: Patty Mills (13 mpg)
Shooting guard: Nando De Colo (14 mpg)
Small forward: None
Power forward: Matt Bonner (11 mpg)
Center: Jeff Pendergraph (12 mpg)
Here, we get into the players that will not be playing every game for the Spurs. Their minute totals may look decently substantial, but that is because they may go from not playing in a game to playing 20 minutes, due to a star's injury or rest.
Patty Mills is the most talented player here. The 6'0" Aussie's trigger finger to shoot is always itching, and better yet, the shots often go in (46.9 percent on field goals in 2012-13). A lack of size, strength and playmaking ability keep him from getting big minutes, however.
Nando De Colo has the passing ability of a point guard, but in a shooting guard's body. He won't be getting many more minutes than last year, with the Spurs' depth at the guards still very strong.
As of now, the Spurs' 15th roster spot is empty, leaving a hole at small forward. There are many candidates for this spot, as Paul Garcia from Project Spurs pointed out on Twitter:
#Spurs' rumored 15th man roster spot candidates (update): Deshuan Thomas, Antawn Jamison, Bobby Brown, Anthony Tolliver, & No One.— Paul Garcia PS (@PaulGarciaPS) August 10, 2013
The other three options (including no one) are still there, though.
My prediction is that the Spurs leave this spot empty. Kawhi Leonard, Marco Belinelli and Boris Diaw can all play minutes at the three. If that platoon is not working, the Spurs can pull the trigger on a trade before the deadline or a waiver-wire pickup late in the season (a la Tracy McGrady).
At power forward, Matt Bonner will continue to get phased out of Gregg Popovich's rotation. He averaged just 13.4 minutes per game last season, his fewest in five years.
Free-agent acquisition Jeff Pendergraph is a banger down low that can play either post position, thanks to his mid-range jumper.
Who will lead the Spurs in minutes in 2013-14?
The 2013-14 Spurs are good enough to contend for another championship thanks to their star power and solid depth at most positions.
The one position they don't have great depth at (small forward) has 22-year-old starter Kawhi Leonard manning it. Leonard showed he could play big minutes throughout the playoffs (36.9 minutes per game), but he sure could use a true small forward backing him up.
If the Spurs find the right guy, watch out. This team will have it all.
Depth Chart Prediction:
Point guard: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills
Shooting guard: Danny Green, Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo
Small forward: Kawhi Leonard, Marco Belinelli
Power forward: Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner
Center: Tiago Splitter, Aron Baynes, Jeff Pendergraph
Don't agree with my predictions? Comment below with your opinion!
Note: All stats used are from Basketball Reference, unless otherwise indicated.