The Front office needs to bring Tiago Splitter over from the Spanish league. That has to be the No. 1 priority. General Manager RC Buford has expressed this to be a priority but lets see if he can get it done.
Splitter was the Spurs top draft pick in 2007 and is regarded as the best center in Europe right now.
With that being said, I think everyone bashing Tim Duncan is not fair. He is aging but can still be very productive but he can't get all the rebounds by himself and can't play defense around the basket without help, which he has always had throughout his career.
He had the assistance of players such as David Robinson, Robert Horry, and Fabrico Oberto in the past. We need another true big man to play alongside Duncan and relieve him of some of the heavy lifting.
The big men currently are Tim Duncan, Antonio Mcdyess , Dejuan Blair, Matt Bonner, and Ian Mahinmi . If Splitter comes over then we should have a solid rotation and set: TD/Splitter and Dice/Blair.
I believe Bonner is a keeper and as much as everyone bashes him, he started to play well before he broke his hand, he spreads the floor, and he knows the system. Although he should not be in the playoff rotation, he should get minutes during the season. I also wouldn't be disappointed if we let him go, though. As for Ian Mahinmi , I just do not see him getting a chance if Splitter comes over.
If we do not get Splitter we need to find a way to pick up a free agent big man who can rebound and play defense. Another big body on this team is a must and if this does not happen then the next season will be lost.
Think about it. Even if we had gotten past the Suns this year, the Lakers front line would have dominated us. If they had Artest, Odom, Bynum, and Gasol in the game at the same time? Who was going to guard them? We have one seven-foot-player in Duncan, and Dice might have been able to guard one.
Another essential need is to draft an athletic SF and pick up at least one wing player in the free agency.
The SF position in the Spurs system doesn't need to be a scorer. Someone who can play defense and shoot the three is all they need. None of the SF's could do that this year, Richard Jefferson was the only some-what valuable SF on the roster.
In the past we had Bruce Bowen, Michael Finley (who could at least drain the three), Sean Elliot, Captain Jack, and others. I think Jefferson will be on the team next year mainly because we do not have a choice and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Unless Jefferson opts out (who would walk away from $15 million?) or we find a way to trade him (highly unlikely), he is going to be on this team at least until February 2011.
It is very true that players do way better their second year in the Spurs system. I think that Jefferson showed flashes and can be a valuable player next year. He needs to play with Manu and be able to run the floor. I think he figured out how he could help the team by rebounding at the end of the year.
A SF worth looking at is Damion James of Texas, who at 6'8'', averaged a double double most of college games and is very aggressive. He is not a great offensive player and does not have a great shot, but he works very hard.
George Hill, who was not a good shooter when the Spurs drafted him, became the Spurs best three point shooter this season.
SF should be a top draft pick considering there are not many good C/PF in this draft. With our position at No. 20 we could not get a top C/PF anyway.
Luckily I trust our scouts, they never let us down.
Lets look at the rotation for next year at SF. Malik Hairston should get his chance, it is time. He does not have to play big minutes or anything but Pop should at least give him some playing time during the season and see what he as got. He was one of the best players in D-league this year, and when he played for the Spurs he showed hustle, solid defense, and athleticism. He also showed he knows the system. He needs to play and if he is a bust then so be it, it is better then using Keith Bogans and Roger Mason as rotation players.
The Spurs also need to pick up a solid wing in this year's free agency and that should be the Spurs only pick up given money situation. Let Bogans and Roger Mason walk (they are worthless) and I doubt other teams will hardly look at them.
Also if this means we have to let Bonner walk, then so be it. Lets look at someone like Raja Bell or Matt Barnes. Not high profile, just some one that has proven defense and hits the three. The rotation should be Jefferson, FA pick up, Hairston , and a rookie from the draft.
As for the Tony Parker rumor, lets be realistic, the Spurs are not going to move Parker this summer. It is an option if he plays horrible next season that Spurs might consider a trade then but I do not see this happening.
Parker had an All-Star season 2008-2009 and I think he will retain that form. I do not think he is going to play in France this summer and he will come back fresh. He has said that he is going to work hard and come out with something to prove next season, he wants to be a Spur long term.
The same thing happened with Manu this last season. He was hurt in 2008-2009, then he didn't play for his national team, rested, and came back and played his way into a contract. Tony will do the same.
Tony never got into a groove with the team. When the team started to gel he was hurt and that is why Manu become the starter and centerpiece. Parker played well but never really found his way in the lineups. There is a lot of trade talk about Parker for Joe Johnson or Chris Bosh and I just do not see the Spurs making a move like that.
As you saw this year, when they add new major pieces, it takes a while for this team to gel. I think they need get the glue pieces and strengthen their bench. The Spurs bench was no where to be found in the playoffs. Against the Suns, there were essentially five players contributing: Parker, Hill, Manu , Dice, and Duncan. Blair tried but he is just a rookie, Jefferson did nothing, Bonner had a flash, and the rest is history.
On a more positive note, the guard rotation is fine for next year with Parker, Hill, Manu , and a FA pick up getting some minutes at SG /SF. A player worth looking at is Garret Temple. He played well and we should see what he does this summer and early in the season.
The Spurs do not have the money to pick up some major FA this summer so we have to work with what we have.
I believe if the Spurs had a big C/PF to play defense and rebound to give Duncan rest and a couple of players that can spot up and shoot, they will be able to content at least for another year or two until the Duncan window closes.
Here are some FA that the Spurs should look at:
Grant Hill (we should have got him last year)
Here is what our roster and lineups should and most realistically will look next year:
Jefferson/Hairston /Free agent (Bell/Barnes/Evans)/Draft pick (James)
These are potential rotations that I like and just for the sake of example lets say we get Mo Evans in the FA because he is a proven defender and hits the three:
Duncan - Who else?
Dice - Defense/Rebound/Mid range jumper all solid, knows the system now
Evans - Can a guard teams best player or second scorer, hits three
Hill - Solid defense and his performance this season shows he can play with the best
Parker - I think Parker needs to start and Manu off the bench, Manu plays better with the second team players and is more of a creator.
This starting lineup is like the lineups that brought SA championships. Duncan playing with a solid big that does his job and hits shots when needed. Mo Evans like Bowen can play defense and hits the three. The Spurs don’t need their three to be a scorer with the first unit. Hill will become a little more of a scorer and serve better then the Finley's of the past, his defense is solid. Parker will be the primary scorer and fire power to start games, that's what we need from him.
Splitter: We need to get him minutes and prime him to become solid along side TD, he has the potential to start along side Duncan.
Blair: I think he will play well with a bigger player in Splitter. He played most of his minutes with guys like Bonner/Dice and RJ at the PF. This will allow him to not have to guard the biggest guy on the other team and dominate the boards with another big on the floor. Also this means no more small ball.
Jefferson: This lineup will run the floor and RJ feeds off of players like Manu, this will get him more involved.
Hairston (or rookie): This will get him a chance to show what he can do playing with go-to guys on the second unit, he can hit shots and play D.
Manu : No t a PG but he handles the ball and creates for this team when he is in the game, so technically he kinda is for the second unit.
This second unit is young and athletic and will bring energy and change of pace. They will run the floor more and change the game. Manu and Jefferson are not young but Jefferson is athletic and Manu is the motor that makes this team go.
Those 10 guys will be the Spurs major players, hopefully, and the roster will round out with Temple, maybe Bonner, and it would be great if we could add another FA with Evans or whoever we get but it is likely it will be a scrub from D-league or Ian Manihmi .
In my opinion, this is the best possible team we could have next year and I think it is ideal. It does not involve a lot of new pieces. A couple of the new players from this last season will have had a year in the system by then.
We are not adding a ton of players and remember Splitter is not a rookie, he is 25, and a two time MVP of the Spanish league. He is going to come over and know how to play. With this team set in place, I think the Spurs would have a shot.
They were not that far off this year, we just needed Tony Parker to be completely healthy and playing like an All Star (which he will), a big that can play around the basket, and a wing defender or some players that can hit the three. I know that sounds like a lot but it really isn't.
Ideally it would be great to bring an all star type big man like Bosh, but there is no way we can do that with the Spurs money situation unless we make drastic moves like trading Parker, which I don't think they will.
Doing something that drastic like breaking up the big three pretty much means rebuilding and closing the window on the Duncan era. If they are going to break it up then you might as well trade Duncan as he does not have another four to five years to build with a new point guard and TP is not that old at 28.
Even if we don't contend next year, we still have another year or two with Duncan if we get a new big player, who will then be ready take over his role when he retires. I know if Duncan thinks they are contending he will stay until he is 38 or 39, much like Shaq . So the Spurs need to prove to Duncan that they will get a guy in there that he can pass the torch too.
I do not know just how good Splitter is or will be, but he is the best chance the Spurs have with their current financial situation and they have to get him over here even if that means promising him a starting role. If that happens then it will likely be the only big move that the Spurs can afford this off-season, but one that is crucial for this team's chances of contending over the next couple of years.