The 52-15 San Antonio Spurs control their own destiny in terms of securing the first overall seed, sitting just a game back of the Golden State Warriors with the tiebreaker and one head-to-head matchup remaining. Here are the most important Spurs ranked and analyzed, and what to expect from them for the last 15 games.
David Lee has been a pleasant surprise for San Antonio. His well-rounded offensive skill-set fits well with the ‘Juice Unit,’ and he’s shooting 61.8% from the floor while averaging 7.6 points per game.
Davis Bertans has impressed in limited minutes, hitting threes and showcasing surprising athleticism on both ends of the floor.
Dejounte Murray is the wildcard of the group. He has the highest upside and is the future of the point guard position in San Antonio, and he’d been playing more lately before being sidelined by a groin injury. He probably won’t see the floor much in the playoffs, but we’ll see.
- Manu Ginobili
Per Game Averages: 7.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals
Ginobili is averaging his fewest points, field goal attempts, and assists since he was a rookie in the 2002-03 season. This is mostly because at 39, he’s playing a career-low 18.9 minutes per game.
Even as the self-described ninth man, Ginobili still plays a vital role. In practice, he’s the point guard of one of the NBA’s best second units. He’s shooting a healthy 39.1% from beyond the arc, but strangely just 38.8% from the floor. The Argentinian has never finished a year with a shooting percentage below 41%.
Ginobili shoots better in home games, and in losses he has shot just 31.9% from the floor and 33.3% from three. Since the All-Star Break, his assists and steals are up, but his 3-point percentage is down to just 31.3%.
Keep an eye on that shooting percentage, but expect Manu to average 8 points, 4 assists, and 2 steals in the last 15 games of what could be the last regular season of his storied career.
- Dewayne Dedmon
Per Game Averages: 5.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 0.8 blocks
Dedmon filled in as the starting center after Pau Gasol broke a bone in his hand, and Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich liked what the athletic rim protector brought to the starting lineup. He protects the rim at an elite level, sets crushing screens and rolls to the basket very effectively.
In the starting lineup, Dedmon averages more points, rebounds, and blocks per game. He gets fewer shot attempts while playing alongside Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, but he has finished 74.2% of those shots since the All-Star Break. He has converted 32 alley-oop dunks on the season, bringing explosiveness and verticality to a San Antonio team that usually lacks in those departments.
Dedmon’s ability to defend pick-and-rolls, switch onto guards, and protect the rim has taken pressure off the wing defenders. That is the main reason he’s starting, and you can expect him to continue to anchor the defense while averaging 6 points, 7 rebounds and a block.
- Danny Green
Per Game Averages: 7.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1 steal, 0.8 blocks
Green shot an abysmal 33.2% from three last season, but he has improved to 39.2% on more attempts per game this year. This coupled with his lockdown defensive ability makes him one of the league’s best 3-and-D players, a bargain at $10 million a year with the current cap situation.
Paul Garcia extolled the virtues of Danny Green last week, and came to the conclusion that Green is an underrated and important part of this Spurs team. So why is the former Tar Heel always in the crosshairs of angry fans on Twitter?
He’s struggled a bit since the All-Star Break, as he’s shooting just 32.1% from the floor and 33.3% from beyond the arc. In losses, Green shoots just 30% from three, compared to 42.9% in wins. Green’s role is to play solid defense and knock down 3-point shots, and when he fails at his only job on one end of the floor 70% of the time he draws criticism, especially in a loss. He’s a home run hitter who strikes out a lot, and that is difficult for some to accept.
Green will continue to play his role, and average 7 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists per game while increasing his impact on the defensive end. He will bust up odd-man breaks by himself and then miss open threes on the other end. He will make you scream at the TV when he dribbles, and he will also make you scream at the TV when he bangs home the tough shot that he gets paid to hit. This is the Danny Green Experience.
- Patty Mills
Per Game Averages: 9.9 points, 3.5 assists
Mills is shooting his highest percentage from three since the Spurs’ 2013-14 championship season, as he’s converting 42.2% of his career-high 4.5 attempts per game. He hasn’t been shooting the ball quite as effectively since the All-Star Break, but his point and assist averages have increased. In his seven games as a starter this year, he has averaged 13.6 points and 6 assists.
When Mills doesn’t hit from outside, it hurts his team. Patty shoots 45.8% in wins, but just 25.9% in losses. He’s the second most effective long range sniper on the team behind Gasol, and only Green and Leonard attempt more threes per game.
Expect Mills to average 11 points and 4 assists in the last 15 games while shooting around 40% from distance. He’s one of the best shooters on the team, and that will be important come playoff time.
- Tony Parker
Per Game Averages: 10.4 points, 4.7 assists
Parker’s role has diminished as he gets older and Leonard continues to develop into a ball-dominant superstar. His points and assists per game are lower than they’ve been since he was a 19-year-old rookie, and he’s never played fewer minutes. His attempts per game have declined steadily since December, along with his shooting percentage.
At 34, he still shows bursts of what makes him a special player on drives to the basket, and his spin move is a good indication of how fresh his legs are. His 3-point attempts are up since the All-Star Break, and he’s hitting at a solid 45.5% in that stretch. He shoots 40% from distance in wins this year, but just 27.3% in losses.
Parker seems to enjoy having Dedmon as a pick-and-roll partner in the starting lineup, often setting up the big man for a dunk on a bounce pass or lob. As he slows down, his main function in the Spurs’ offense is to set up his teammates. Parker has missed the past four games with back stiffness, and the team is 2-2 in those games. Even though he isn’t the main guy anymore, he’s still vitally important to the team as a facilitator.
When he returns to the court, expect him to average 9 points and 5 assists while quietly helping the Spurs win games. He doesn’t need to put up high point totals, but he does need to be a reliable scoring option to spread the floor effectively, so keep an eye on his shooting percentage.
- Pau Gasol
Per Game Averages: 12.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 blocks
When Gasol returned to the court after breaking a bone in his hand, he did so coming off the bench. He wound up fitting so well that he didn’t mind staying there, as he gets more opportunities on offense and gets exposed less on defense.
One major change in Gasol’s game since moving to the bench is his 3-point shooting. Pau has more than doubled his attempts from long range in his new role, and at a clip of 58.6%, which is astounding for a seven-footer. His reliable shooting forces rim-protecting centers to choose between giving up the open shot or leaving the paint, which opens up opportunities for Kawhi and others to attack the basket.
Gasol is the offensive specialist at the center position, and still plays with the starters frequently when Coach Pop feels more firepower is needed. Pau has also developed chemistry with the bench unit, particularly in pick-and-pop sets with Ginobili and Mills.
Since moving to the bench, Gasol is scoring more points in fewer minutes. He’s been scorching hot from three, and even in a reserve role he remains one of the team’s best scoring options. Expect him to average 14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and a block for the remainder of the season. His efficiency from beyond the arc will likely come down to earth a bit, though.
- LaMarcus Aldridge
Per Game Averages: 17.3 points, 7.4 reb, 2.1 assists, 1.1 blocks
Aldridge is averaging his fewest points, made shots, and rebounds per game in any year since his rookie season. The in-season trend isn’t great for Aldridge either, as he’s averaging just 15.9 points per game on 42.6% shooting since the All-Star break. His percentages are down from the 3-point and free throw lines as well.
Aldridge’s jump shot is a key part of what makes him a dynamic big man, and it hasn’t been consistent for him this year. He’s shot 38.1% on jump shots (31.6% since February 1), and just 35.5% on his signature fadeaway. Aldridge shoots 50% from beyond the arc at home, but just 36% on the road.
Aldridge contributes to the Spurs outside of the stat sheet with improved defense and solid screens, but his jump shot is a major key to San Antonio’s success. If he continues to struggle with it, that could hinder the Spurs’ pursuit of the first seed and a championship.
Expect Aldridge to contribute 16 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and a block per game down the stretch. He will have games where he hits eleven shots and looks great, and he will have games where he misses eleven shots and looks terrible. The good news for the Spurs is that Aldridge’s inconsistency hasn’t had much of an impact on wins and losses, mostly because of the brilliance of the final player on this list.
- Kawhi Leonard
Per Game Averages: 26.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.9 steals
Leonard’s development into a scoring machine has been the driving force behind San Antonio’s success this year. He’s flirting with a 50/40/90 season, shooting 48.6% from the floor, 38.7% from beyond the arc, and 89.5% from the free throw line. On the year, his player efficiency rating of 28.4 is bested only by fellow MVP candidate Russell Westbrook.
He scores an average of 7.8 points in the fourth quarter, which puts him behind only Isaiah Thomas and Russ. His usage rate of 38.3% in the fourth is the fifth highest in the league, which shows that when a Spurs game is on the line, he is the one who decides the outcome more often than not. He’s far and away the most valuable player on the Spurs, and he has a legitimate case for league MVP.
Leonard is averaging 29.4 points per game after the All-Star break, and he has also elevated his rebound, assist, and steal numbers. He’s done this while using the ball more at a slightly lower efficiency.The main dip in efficiency comes from beyond the arc, as his three point shooting has fallen off a bit to 34.6% after the All-Star break.
One of the few things Leonard has struggled with this year has been consistency from 3-point range, as he’s been hot and cold from game to game and month to month. He shoots nearly 47% from three in the friendly confines of the AT&T Center, but just 31.5% on the road.
Expect Leonard to continue to play at an extremely high level for the remainder of the regular season. He should average around 31 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals per game, and will likely shift into a higher gear for the playoffs.
All stats from http://stats.nba.com, current as of 3/16/17