Do San Antonio Spurs Need a Trade to Shore Up Front Line?

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2014

Matt Bonner's future in San Antonio is not guaranteed, but is a trade in the frontcourt a necessity for the Spurs?
Matt Bonner's future in San Antonio is not guaranteed, but is a trade in the frontcourt a necessity for the Spurs?Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Each season, many wonder if the San Antonio Spurs need to make a trade to shore up an apparently weak frontcourt behind the aging Tim Duncan.

The same question is posed every single year, but is the 2013-14 campaign different?

Recently, Ken Berger of CBS Sports notes San Antonio has been "unusually aggressive" in the trade market, possibly because the front office realizes this season is one of the last times Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili can make a run at a title together.

But up front, overall improvement is needed by the likes of Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw, Jeff Ayres, Matt Bonner and Aron Baynes.

However, under Gregg Popovich's leadership, San Antonio always seems to address its glaring weakness and coasts into the second round of the playoffs. The Spurs have only been knocked out in the first round in three of the last 16 postseasons.

That all said, can San Antonio make a serious run at its fifth NBA championship without making a significant change to the roster?


What San Antonio Has Up Front

Typically, Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan share the frontcourt as starters at center and power forward, respectively.
Typically, Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan share the frontcourt as starters at center and power forward, respectively.D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images

Duncan's numbers have dropped slightly, but he is playing a lesser role on the offensive side of the floor. Of course, Pop has limited his longtime star's minutes, keeping the 17-year veteran just above his career low of 28.2 minutes per night.

While Tiago Splitter has rebounded from his dismal showing in the NBA Finals, injuries continue to plague the Brazilian center. Late in December, Splitter was mired in an offensive slump, but as Murphy's Law would have it, he suffered a shoulder sprain during his season-high 22-point performance.

During a contract year, Boris Diaw has elevated his game beyond what was expected from the 11-year pro, increasing his scoring total from 5.8 per outing to a crisp 9.0 on 55.6 percent shooting.

Bonner made a name for himself as a three-point specialist, and although the Florida product has seen fewer minutes this season, he is knocking down a career-best 47.3 percent of his triples.

Ayres has definitely improved over the last month, too, grabbing 5.3 rebounds per game since Dec. 11, compared to 2.6 per appearance before that date.

Rounding out the interior players, Aron Baynes has played in 23 games, garnering just 8.0 minutes per outing.


Is the Current Roster Sufficient, Like Every Other Season?

Dec 11, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw (33) dribbles the ball as Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) defends during the second quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Late in 2013, Bleacher Report's Grant Rindner discussed whether or not the Spurs need to make a trade to cement their status as a title contender.

Remember, San Antonio has struggled against top competition in the NBA, topping only the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers, which were without Chris Paul at the time. Otherwise, the Spurs have fallen twice to the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, while losing once to each of the Indiana Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers and Clippers.

Save for the occasional "show" that is Nando de Colo, the only San Antonio players whose PER (player efficiency rating) sits below 12.5 are Bonner, Baynes and Ayres.

But it's only January.

Jan 13, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis (23) shoots over San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan (21) during the second half of a game at the New Orleans Arena. The Spurs defeated the Pelicans 101-95.  Manda
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

The trio primarily plays either mop-up dutyBonner and Baynesor is simply part of the second unit as a rebounderAyres. None of the three players are expected to make plays, especially considering how effective Ginobili, Marco Belinelli, Patty Mills and Diaw have been.

Compared to last season, though, the biggest difference in San Antonio is the overall depth in the backcourt. Teams are playing faster and faster, attempting more outside shots, and the Spurs are built to both attack and defend that style of play.

While the frontcourt weakness is an important issue to discuss, it is not necessarily one the front office needs to address.


Ultimately, If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

Yes, the reserve unit can get adventurous at times, but the post players are still dangerous in their own right.

Ayres' rating on the floor is plus-12.3, while Diaw posts a plus-11.3—both of which are absolutely fantastic for backups. Heck, midway through the season, Bonner has reached plus-9.6.

And the Spurs are set in the backcourt, utilizing the emergence of both Belinelli and Mills to complement Ginobili and fill the backup small forward spot behind Kawhi Leonard.

What's more, Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News notes Pop is not a fan of "upsetting well-honed team chemistry," calling it "scary."

Right now, the Spurs frontcourt may struggle at times or look thin, but Popovich will once again make the final adaptions to San Antonio's style for a potential run at the 2014 NBA Finals.

Granted, Splitter is expected to miss between three and five weeks because of the shoulder sprain, so things could conceivably change. If the Spurs struggle without the 7-footer, San Antonio can be expected to make some sort of move by Thursday, Feb. 20, which marks the 2014 NBA trade deadline.

But as long as the franchise repeats its own history once again, the Spurs' current roster does not need to add another piece. Besides, it's rather difficult to expect a team that nearly holds the league's best record to make a move.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.


Note: Stats taken from and and accurate as of Jan. 15, 2014, pre-Utah vs. San Antonio.

Follow Bleacher Report NBA Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.