With barely a month before the playoffs begins, and a few bumps along the road recently, the San Antonio Spurs still hold the league’s best record at 54-13 and will likely lock up the number one seed by winning 10 of their last 15 games.
But a quick glance at their schedule shows they still play eight games against playoff-bound teams — including Dallas, Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers — four games versus teams fighting for a playoff spot and only three against below .500 teams.
This means securing homecourt advantage throughout the post-season will be no cake walk for the Spurs.
Coach Gregg Popovich has managed the minutes of his starters very well this season. Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess are averaging career lows in minutes per-game at 28.7 and 18.1 respectively. Also, Richard Jefferson (30.7 mpg) is having a career low in minutes per game since his rookie campaign. Among the starters, only Tony Parker (32.2 mpg) and Manu Ginobili (30.9) have averaged more minutes than the previous season but not by much.
The Spurs are known to always look at the bigger picture and for them, resting their starters more and staying healthy will be key for a great playoff run. This begs the question, is it time to give more minutes to their bench as they get ready for the playoffs?
Tiago Splitter and James Anderson, two rookie expected earlier in the season to contribute to the Spurs, haven’t panned out yet. Partly because both players had trouble staying healthy throughout the season and partly because they haven’t received any consistent and significant playing time to show the team what they can really bring to the table. Not to mention how Anderson’s injury paved the way for Gary Neal to shine thus pushing Anderson further back in the depth chart.
This could also be good time to give more minutes to George Hill, Matt Bonner and sharp-shooting rookie Gary Neal. By doing this, they will have a long look at the players who could give them a lift in the playoffs.
Nonetheless, with the number one seed still not secured, the Spurs might think twice about resting their starters this early.
Not only that, one major concern for the Spurs up to this point is improving their defense. They are currently second in offensive efficiency (108.9), third in effective field goal percentage (52.4%), but only eighth in defensive efficiency (101.7). In their previous five games, the Spurs went 3-2 and have allowed their opponents to shoot by an average 47.7% from the field while converting only 46.5% of their own shots.
Another thing is they must consider giving more time to McDyess — who was just inserted into the starting lineup at center — as they try to set the tone on defense early in games and at the same time, giving enough time to DeJuan Blair to adjust to his role off the bench.
Giving rest to starters and staying healthy are definitely keys for the their championship hopes. It will be up for the Spurs to decide on how to manage their rotation heading into the playoffs.
They could have the luxury of using their final games to give their bench more time and integrating more players into the mix and the same time secure homecourt throughout the playoffs but is it the right time? Maybe we have to wait a few more games to decide.
What do you think Spurs fans? Send us your thoughts.