Initial Report Card Grades for Every Key San Antonio Spurs Player
The 2013 NBA Finals were disappointing for the San Antonio Spurs, but the league's most consistent team has jumped out of the gate to an 11-1 record that has everyone buzzing.
For another year, the Spurs will compete for a title, as they continue their trend of consistent excellence.
But who, in fact, is responsible for their early prosperity?
The bench has been impressive, but which Spur has been able to offset the struggles of Tim Duncan?
The team may be excelling, but individually each player has given fans something to talk about.
However, for some the buzz is positive, and for others it is anything but. Though the team is gelling as a unit, individually each talent has performed on a different level.
Fitting into the Spurs system takes time, and the team's newest frontcourt addition will have to be patient before he can make a big impact.
An exciting preseason gave fans hope, but Jeff Ayres has yet to find a consistent role in the offense. The resurgence of Boris Diaw hasn't helped him out either.
When he's in, he makes an impact—though not necessarily a high one.
His 39 percent shooting is less than ideal, though it can be credited to the vast array of shots in his repertoire. Still, it is his mid-range jumper that makes him so unique, and until he can shoot it at a high clip, the team will have little use for him as anything more than fresh legs.
The sample size is small, but the former Indiana Pacer hasn't given fans anything to cheer about.
Fans got a kick out of Patty Mills' towel-waving antics in 2012-13, but his days as a benchwarmer have come to an abrupt close.
The new and improved point guard ran away with the backup guard duties in the preseason, and his campaign thus far has lived up to the expectations.
It's hard to make a difference when stuck behind a superstar, however Mills has taken advantage of every minute of court time displaying his three-point shooting prowess and distributing ability.
He has managed a respectable 6.9 points in limited action although fans have witnessed the occasional scoring outburst from the Australian talent.
He has emerged as a bench spark and will remain a valuable member of the Spurs' system as long as he continues to spread the floor and make open shots.
On the topic of tantalizing bench guards, who better to talk about than Marco Belinelli. The most prominent offseason addition has found his stride within the walls of the Alamo City and has taken on a role similar to that of Manu Ginobili.
Belinelli can shoot, create and defend, all while exhibiting a kind of confidence only present in the elite tier of NBA players.
He isn't a superstar, but the talented guard is an ideal fit in the Spurs' system. The team is predicated on perimeter distribution and Belinelli fits the mold.
Inconsistent minutes have limited his production; he has only put on one high-scoring show so far. Still, his impact has been substantial.
The bench spark has caught on quickly, and despite a few flaws, Belinelli's value is evident and will only increase as he grows more comfortable to his new surroundings.
He may not have spent the summer shedding his excess weight, but Boris Diaw did something different over the offseason—and it appears to be working.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of 2013-14, the team's versatile forward has become a valuable piece in the Spurs' puzzle in ways that the organization could have never dreamed.
We've known that the 6'8'' Frenchman possesses an extraordinary passing ability when compared to players of similar size. We have also been aware that he is a capable scorer as well as a formidable defensive presence.
But few could have expected this.
Diaw is averaging 11.5 points in just over 24 minutes, and doing so on an impressive 59 percent shooting.
He has had his fair share of noteworthy contests and is one of the league's top reserve big men. An improvement is evident from last year as Diaw has helped ease any qualms concerning the Spurs' depth.
Anybody want to laugh at Tiago Splitter's contract now?
After entering the season under the microscope following a nauseating series in the Finals, Splitter's early play is proof that he was worth the sizable contract that he signed this summer.
As a rebounder, Splitter has been dominant, averaging nearly eight boards in under 23 minutes of play.
He is scoring 8.1 points on 56 percent shooting, while exhibiting an offensive and defensive rating that is envied throughout the league.
His finishing ability has improved, and while he still seemingly misses an easy one here and there, the number of difficult shots that he has executed with perfection offsets any imbalance.
Look for an increased role in the latter portion of the year—especially if Duncan fails to get going—as Splitter continues to verify that San Antonio made a smart investment.
Despite a handful of impressive showings, it seems as though Danny Green isn't yet ready to shed his label as the team's most inconsistent player.
On a good day, Green is an elite scorer who will give defenses nightmares. The North Carolina product simply cannot be left alone beyond the arc. He is also a top-notch defender and a legitimate force on the glass.
But not every day is a good day. He can go cold as quickly as he can heat up and provides little service to the team on those occasions.
If he truly wants to separate himself from Ginobili and Belinelli, the Spurs' starting shooting guard will have to supplement his talent with a level of consistency going forward.
Did you miss him?
The former All-Star hasn't returned to his glory days, although he certainly has escaped the bottomless pit that he fell into last season.
Last year, any time Ginobili touched the ball, fans would cringe. However, instead of a turnover or a missed shot, fans can now expect incredible passes and a strong scoring effort from their sixth man.
This won't be a vintage season for Ginobili; however he certainly is on the path to redemption.
Kawhi Leonard received a lot of hype entering his third year, but it's clear that he has lived up to it. Not many players in this league are effective in every aspect of the game while being just 22.
Leonard, however, has managed to supplement his defensive aptitude with a balanced offensive attack—highlighted by his strong finishing ability—as well as a rebounding prowess that became apparent in last year's Finals.
Currently averaging 12.6 points in under 30 minutes, the team's future superstar is solidifying the notion that he will one day carry the squad.
After a resurgent 2013-14 campaign, the current season has been anything but for Duncan. His shooting percentage—.375 from the floor—is horrific.
That said, the veteran has managed to make an impact despite his offensive struggles. He still anchors the defense and contributes to the offensive attack in other ways.
Still, the 2013-14 season hasn't been pleasant for Duncan, and fans are starting to worry whether he's simply in a slump or something much, much worse.
Luckily, Duncan's struggles haven't been too detrimental to the team's record. At 11-1, the Spurs sit atop the West, and it's largely due to Tony Parker.
Every game is a show for Parker, who is averaging 18.1 points and six assists despite playing less than the average superstar.
Few guards shoot above 50 percent, but Parker is managing yet again to score in loads while being remarkably efficient.
He alone hasn't led the team to a league-high 11 wins, but he serves as the team's primary offensive catalyst. He'll continue to improve his stats once his playing time shoots up, but as for now the MVP-candidate has been quite impressive.