Aged to Perfection: San Antonio Spurs Season Preview
Record: 54-28; first in Southwest Division, third in Western Conference
Scored 97 points per game.
Allowed 93 points per game.
Richard Jefferson (via trade), Antonio McDyess (via free agency), DeJuan Blair (via draft), Theo Ratliff (via free agency), Jack McClinton (via draft)*, Nando De Colo (via draft)*
*Won’t be with the team in 2009/2010.*
Bruce Bowen (via trade), Kurt Thomas (via trade), Fabricio Oberto (via trade), Drew Gooden (via free agency) Ime Udoka (still a free agent)
PG: Tony Parker/George Hill
SG: Roger Mason Jr/Manu Ginobili/Marcus Williams
SF: Richard Jefferson/Michael Finley/Malik Hairston
PF: Antonio McDyess/DeJuan Blair/Marcus Haislip
C: Tim Duncan/Theo Ratliff/Matt Bonner/Ian Mahinmi
The San Antonio Spurs finished last season with yet another division title and 50-win season, looking poised to go on another championship run.
However, they hobbled into the playoffs with injuries to franchise power forward Tim Duncan (knee) as well as star sixth man Manu Ginobili (ankle).
As a result of injuries to two of their "Big Three," the Spurs were upset in five games by the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs. This loss marked the earliest exit for the Spurs since the 2000 season.
Knowing that their health was of the utmost importance for the success of the Spurs franchise, both Duncan and Ginobili decided to take an extended break from basketball this summer in order to ensure their health heading into the 2009-10 season.
Duncan has just started to begin his normal preseason workouts—workouts that he usually begins in early August. Ginobili has limited his summer activities to a treadmill and some walks.
After the Spurs were eliminated from the playoffs last season, they realized that they lacked the necessary secondary scoring and relied too heavily upon their "Big Three" of Duncan, Ginobili, and point guard Tony Parker.
To help shoulder the load offensively, the Spurs went out and completed one of the biggest trades of the offseason when they acquired small forward Richard Jefferson from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Fabricio Oberto, Kurt Thomas, and Bruce Bowen.
Jefferson is a versatile small forward that can fit in a variety of offensive roles. He can be used as a spot-up shooter out on the perimeter with his ability to knock down three-point shots at a consistent rate (39.7 percent last season). He is also a very good slashing small forward and is capable of creating his own shot off of the dribble. He isn’t great at creating for his teammates, but at times he is capable of it.
Jefferson has fallen off defensively since his days with the Nets, but with a decreased role offensively we may see Jefferson get back to his excellent two-way play that we saw from him during his time with the in New Jersey.
Jefferson is an ideal fourth option for the Spurs. He gives them a viable scoring option and a player that is capable of taking some of the offensive pressure off of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili.
Another area of concern for the Spurs was that they didn’t have a reliable big man to relieve Tim Duncan. Spurs management addressed this need by signing veteran big man Antonio McDyess with their mid-level exception, drafting All-American power forward DeJuan Blair from Pittsburgh, and signing veteran center Theo Ratliff.
McDyess, a 14-year NBA veteran, gives the Spurs another fundamentally sound veteran big man. He is a good mid-range shooter that doesn’t force anything offensively. He plays within himself and doesn’t force the issue. He gets after it on the offensive boards and gives his team plenty of second chances whether it is off of an offensive rebound or just by keeping the ball alive.
McDyess does all of the little things that you ask of a player and doesn’t complain about it one bit. He is the kind of player that all championship-calibre teams want on their roster.
Ratliff is another 14-year NBA veteran. He has made his living on the defensive end of the floor by being an intimidator down low. He led the NBA in blocked shots three times during his career. He will give the Spurs a good defensive backup center for 15 minutes a night.
DeJuan Blair is a rebounding machine. He was the best rebounder in all of college basketball last season and he just never gives up on a play. He goes after every loose ball and is a prototypical hustle player.
He isn’t the most skilled player on the offensive end of the floor and he doesn’t have great size defensively, but he makes up for all of that with his tenacious, never-say-die style of play.
McDyess, Ratliff, and Blair will be able to contribute to the team and, in doing so, will enable to the Spurs to limit Duncan’s minutes during the course of the season and keep him fresh for the playoffs.
The new additions to the team are certainly going to be vital pieces to the Spurs puzzle, but how far they go will ultimately fall on their "Big Three" of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili.
Despite getting up there in age, Duncan is still one of the game’s elite players.
Offensively, Duncan is one of the most skilled post players in the entire NBA. He has an extensive arsenal of moves in the post, but he is not just a post player. He is capable of stepping outside and hitting mid-range jumpers and makes use of his patented bank shot from the wings. He is one of the best passing big men in the entire NBA and can hurt you without needing to score the basketball.
On the defensive end of the floor, Duncan is still elite. He is perhaps the best post defender in the entire NBA. He has excellent rotations and is rarely out of position. He doesn’t always make the highlight-reel plays, but he always makes the smart play defensively.
Duncan’s game has started to show signs of regression, but, when healthy, he is still one of the best players in the league.
With Duncan and Ginobili battling injuries all season long last season, Parker showed the entire NBA just how good of a player that he is.
Parker is one of the best scoring point guards in the entire NBA. He has improved his jump shot tremendously since he entered the NBA, and that opened up his entire game.
Before teams were able to sag off of him and just force him to shoot jumpers, but now that he has developed a consistent and reliable jumper from 18-20 feet, Parker is able to make full use of his blazing speed. There is not a point guard in the entire NBA that is better at slicing through defenses and finishing in the paint.
Parker is not your prototypical pass-first point guard, but that does not stop him from being one of the top five point guards in the entire NBA.
Ginobili struggled with injuries last season and only played in 44 games, but, when he's healthy, he is perhaps the best sixth man in the league.
When healthy, he gives the Spurs an offensive punch off the bunch and is capable of taking over games with his scoring. He is a crafty scorer that uses his unorthodox style of play to his complete advantage. He is not the quickest or strongest player on the floor, but he always finds a way to get his shot off and put himself in a position to score.
Last season we saw just how important Ginobili is to the Spurs, and a healthy Ginobili could quite possibly be the difference between another Spurs championship or another early playoff exit.
Rounding out the Spurs rotation is veteran shooting guard Michael Finley, sophomore point guard George Hill, sharpshooting combo guard Roger Mason Jr., and stretch power forward Matt Bonner.
Finley gives the Spurs a good shooter that stretches the floor on offense. He no longer has the athleticism that he had in his younger days and his best days are behind him, but he is still capable of hitting big shots when called upon.
Hill showed that he is a very good prospect last season and looks to take the next step in his NBA career. The Spurs will look to him to give them valuable minutes backing up Parker.
Mason was one of the league's best three-point shooters last season, and, paired up with the slashing ability of Parker and the post presence of Duncan, he looks to build upon his excellent shooting season.
Bonner gives the Spurs a power forward that is capable of spreading the floor and drawing his man out of the paint. This enables Duncan to get single coverage down low. With the Spurs adding big men depth in the offseason, Bonner is going to have to fight for every minute that he gets this year.
San Antonio has been the master at retooling its roster in order to stay among the NBA’s elite teams. Whenever you think that Father Time has finally caught up to the Spurs, they will make a move or two to stay relevant.
This offseason is no different as they brought out the check books and spend a little more money than normal in order to keep up with the rest of the league’s elite.
Will San Antonio’s moves prove to be enough to get them another championship, or has age finally caught up to this team?
Find out on Wednesday, Oct. 28, when the Spurs open the season against the New Orleans Hornets.
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