Diagnosing the San Antonio Spurs' Weak Link in 2014-15

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Diagnosing the San Antonio Spurs' Weak Link in 2014-15
Eric Gay/Associated Press

The San Antonio Spurs dominated the Miami Heat en route to an NBA title this past summer, but it didn't mean the champions were without weaknesses.

As the new season approaches, a simple examination of what could hamper the 2014-15 edition of the Spurs unveils a lingering problem.

Of course, San Antonio collectively has many strengths, such as three-point shooting and outstanding offensive efficiency. Additionally, the team's overall defense is solid when Kawhi Leonard spends the game hounding his assignment, containing a player who is often the opposition's best scorer.

Now, the Spurs' worst-case scenario is Leonard suffering a season-ending injury. Over the last two seasons, the 6'7" small forward has sat a combined 40 games.

Granted, Leonard has encountered some freak injuries, like a stray nail cutting his knee or breaking a finger. Plus, the tendinitis that slowed him in 2012 didn't bother him during 2013-14 to the point he missed time.

Nevertheless, stopping Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder sans Leonard would be nearly impossible.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

But a merely prospective injury is not the weakest link; Leonard could stay healthy for the entire 82 and the discussion would never arise.

Danny Green, on the other hand, remains a compelling situation. Entering his sixth NBA season, the shooting guard boasts excellent range and superb defense, especially in transition.

However, Green's offensive versatility—or lack thereof—is an issue San Antonio will continue to tip-toe around. Since he cannot create for himself, Green needs to play alongside Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili, period.

The Spurs have found ways to free the outside specialist for a split second, which is typically off a "hammer" set. Green starts on the wing, runs his man into a pick and drops into the corner. Then, the San Antonio ball-handler is responsible for finding the sharpshooter with a cross-baseline pass.

However, Green doing anything besides launching threes is relatively terrifying. 

Every time he puts the ball on the floor, the result feels as random as roulette. Green has managed to sporadically bury some insane floaters or awkward transition buckets, but is otherwise a liability on the scoring end of the court.

In other words, hold your breath and buckle up, because he's taking you on a roller coaster.

When things are going right for Green from distance, the North Carolina product is a blazing fire of hot lava topped with a truckload of ghost peppers. But when Green is cold, he needs a bulky winter jacket, thermal blanket and—actually, just fly him closer to the sun.

ESPN's Andrew McNeill has dubbed Green "Icy Hot" after watching many scorching hot streaks morph into freezing cold performances, and vice versa, within the same week.

The Spurs' three-point shooter goes through stretches where he'll struggle to hit the broad side of a barn, going 0-for-5 one night and 1-for-6 the next, then immediately turn it on and be the guy opposing defenses can't leave alone.

Considering his offense is generally limited to perimeter shooting, these drastic swings in his performance have made him both a fun and frustrating player to watch.

The overall problem with Green is he can shine as the team's most dominant player one game, followed by a trainwreck the next. San Antonio never knows which "V3RD3" will show up on a given night, and it's exhausting.

His shooting struggles can occasionally be attributed to spacing problems, considering he is completely reliant on both ball movement and defenders temporarily losing track of him.

This isn't to say the Spurs should be attempting to move their starting shooting guard before the upcoming campaign. Green is absolutely valuable to the franchise, and finding a perfect replacement for his defensive contributions would not be easy.

According to HoopsHype, 2014-15 is the final season of his contract, and he's due $4.25 million. Following the season, San Antonio should not tender a big raise—though a marginal increase is a realistic expectation after what he has provided since breaking into a starter role.

Admittedly, if the roster's weak link probably receives a slightly larger contract offer, that's not a terrible situation for the Spurs.

But Green is still a pounding headache, stringing San Antonio along from night to night and avoiding practically any shred of consistencysave for his steady inconsistency.

 

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all stats taken from Basketball-Reference.

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

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