\With as great of a start the Spurs got off to, the turn of events we’ve experienced is something out of left field. While this team was never perfect, They showed signs of improvement in many factors of the game. To cut right to the chase, the Spurs need to pick up some wins during this homestretch. While they are only six games out of first place, around the 30 game mark, teams begin to
Athleticism & Defense:
San Antonio has a major issue on their hands. Falling to 29th in defensive rating, 24th in opponent PPG, Coach Pop has to really have these guys hit their defensive stride. To begin the year, they lost 2nd team All-NBA defender Dejounte Murray. This off-season, the Spurs let go or traded three very highly skilled and play-making defenders. Danny, Kyle, Kawhi all were All-NBA caliber defenders in both
Whether it came in Slo-Mo (yes, he is slow in speed but could cover ground quick enough defensively with good footwork, awareness etc) an aging Tony, Manu, Simmons, Dedmon, even with age, they still picked up defensive concepts and knew where and what to do.
They did their job as the football saying goes, and when you do your job, that can off-set a lot of athletic advantages. Murray, although would’ve been in only his 3rd year, has been proven to be an ELITE defender. All four of these can make plays defensively, they also have phenomenal length and footwork. An attribute that’s overlooked is they can cover and make up ground very quickly, even while not being the most athletic players on the court. The awareness and attention to detail defensively was something the Spurs and myself didn’t expect would be as big of a deal
Not disrespecting their abilities, but Coach Popovich has shown that he can make very mediocre defenders into ones that become beneficial to the system and play excellent team defense. The Spurs have been very slow when it comes to defensive rotations and have had multiple lapses and miscommunications on the court. While the big men on the roster are solid defenders, their skills are primarily shown while in the paint. If you are asking them to cover a little ground outside of that, you are Bad News Bears in trouble. That leads me to my next point.
The athleticism is something this Spurs team really needs. I know the saying of San Antonio is basically they are old and slow. In recent years they may have gotten away with that at times, but in this day and age in the NBA, it’s needed more than ever. The Spurs tend to give up a lot in the paint offensively. Teams really go at them night in and night out, which isn’t something you’d see often from this group.
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While Jakob is good at rim protection, he doesn’t provide much else defensively or offensively YET, thus making him a 15 min a night guy for now. LMA has never been a premier defender, neither has Pau. They can do their job in the paint but when asked to guard anything outside of that, or to cover some ground, you are asking for issues. This isn’t a shot at them, it’s just the way the game turned these days. Big men now are focused in on, in a different light than ever. This squad could use an athletic big, one who can provide athleticism and rebounding.
I know bringing in DeMar DeRozan wouldn’t help out much with three-point shooting. His play-style doesn’t really bring attention to 3 point shooting, but the amount of open looks he creates for others from 3 is mind-boggling. Mentioning this first, because the common phrase is “DeMar is the reason they aren’t good at 3’s”. The Spurs get a ton of open looks and don’t deliver. Ranking 26th in 3’s made a game, 24th in 3’s attempted, their percentage is high, but the volume isn’t there. They really should be shooting close to 50% on a nightly basis considering the number of open looks they get
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I know it sounds crazy, but after watching game-in game-out, it makes you want to pull your hair out seeing them miss so many open looks. Marco Belinelli has really struggled so far this year, someone the Spurs looked at as a sixth man and a spark plug to replace Manu, so far he hasn’t hit like we’re accustomed to seeing. Derrick White & DeMar DeRozan both need to improve 3 point shooting, it’s getting to the point where teams leave BOTH of them open, daring them to hit and unfortunately can’t get it to go. While bright spots in Davis & Bryn, the others need to follow THEIR lead from deep, or this season can really be a tale from the 3 point line, quickly.
12 game MVP:
Your 12 game MVP is none other than, Rudy Gay! The numbers aren’t the most impressive as what he does for the Spurs is deeper than the stat sheet. Over the last 12 games putting up a little over 16 PPG, 6.5 RPG and a pinch over 2 APG. He’s shooting over 50% from the field, but a whopping 50% from THREE as well. He’s been more efficient than he’s ever been, the analytics folks hated him for years, but after these first 25 games, they gotta open up to him.
What Rudy does for this Spurs squad is sensational. Rudy Gay guards the other teams best player, he has turned into a pretty good defender, with great length and awareness on both sides of the court. He has turned into a really good passer, and at times when the offense goes stale, he has a strong ability to finish at the rim. He can make some baskets and alleviate pressure off the shoulders of DeMar and LMA. Gay has really turned into a Spurs type of player, and seeing the transition from the player he was in Toronto, to the player he is now, is one that gives you a ton of optimism for him not only this
Hopefully, they can lock him up after this year long-term. A strong veteran presence who goes to work with no questions
Predictions for 12/7-12/13: (16-9)
12/7, Lakers (W. 113-103): Off the devastating defeat that happened Wednesday night, Dropping 5 straight, I feel the Spurs take one home, back home. Los Angeles needed the King to do what the King does in spectacular fashion for them to pull off the 16-point come back. I don’t see that happening very often, as a loss like that could make or break for the season. While it is early, that can be devastating to a team, and be the beginning of the end for this season. I think LeBron has a 26-13-7 stat-line, without BI, I feel DeMar, Rudy & Marco all hit big in a potential 8-10 point victory. Spurs finally get one back.
12/9, Jazz (W. 97-90): I’m rolling with momentum for this game. While the Jazz just smacked San Antonio, I feel at home this team operates completely different, the momentum and team plays better as a unit, and they bring home another victory. I think Gobert, Favors, Korver have big games, but Mitchell, Ingles, (Hopefully future Spur) Rubio all struggle as the Spurs win in a strong defensive contest.
12/11, Suns (W. 111-80): Phoenix. Devin Booker has been battling a couple of injuries. Ayton, Jackson struggling a little bit. Very bad team. 4-20 team. Smacked SA earlier this year, in Phoenix. The Spurs will handle them. Not much more to add. Oh, San Antonio should look to add Trevor Ariza by the way. He could benefit this team mightily. (TUNE IN NEXT WEEK *Wink*)
12/13, Clippers (W. 117-114): I haven’t
While it was a nailbiter, I feel like at home the Spurs flip the switch like Drake and put on a show and come back to earth. Los Angeles has a very good balance of front and back-court play. They aren’t a team full of household names but their players do their job and play their hearts out every night they are called on.
Tobias, Pat Bev, Trez, Lou, among others play with that dog in them. I think this game for the Spurs is big, against a crazy hot LA team, this can spark some much-needed momentum. Pop gets the guys right, as this game will be more technical than someone struggling or doing well. I feel the Spurs out-coach the Clips in a close one.