2016-17 NBA Season Early Look: San Antonio Spurs
First things first, a moment of silence for the first season in two decades without the great Tim Duncan. His presence (on the court) will be missed.
Now that we’ve got that out the way, let’s take a look at some of the noteworthy things from the early season action for the Spurs.
The Ascension of Kawhi Leonard
Coming off a season where he repeated as DPOY, started an All-Star game, and even cracking the First Team All-NBA, Kawhi Leonard made a conscious decision to improve.
And oh how he has.
Having the keys to the offense effectively given to him, some improvements to his handle (with some help from strobelights if ESPN reports are accurate), and his phasers set to ‘kill’ have created a near perfect storm for Kawhi to have one of the most explosive starts to a season that we have seen. Opening up with a career high in scoring against the presumptive best team in the league, Kawhi has been on an offensive tear in addition to living up to his rep as the best defender in the league.
If this continues (and it does not look likely to stop) Kawhi will finally put that “superstar” stamp on his name that has been denied in spite of his achievements, stats, and track record. And my thoughts are with you if expose your dribble against him.
The Aging Towers
Adding Pau Gasol this past offseason earned nearly universal praise for the Spurs, simply put because Pau is one of the most skilled big men to pick up a ball and the Spurs put a premium on skill. He and LaMarcus Aldridge form a frontline of high IQ post players who can also step out for a jumper if the lanes get clogged.
Problem is, they can’t stop a nosebleed. A cursory glance over lineup data suggests that the combo has been dismal on the court together. The eye test tells you why: teams see the nearly 40 year old Gasol in pick-and-roll plays like a wolf sees a baby deer lost without its mother. His feet are just too slow to contain, and it means a huge hole in the defense if anyone tries to compensate.
As for possible replacements, we’re looking at David Lee (known turnstile), Dwayne Dedmon (promising greenhorn), or David Bertans (possible stopgap). Either way, the frontcourt is going to be something to watch to see how it unfolds as other trends pan out.
The Spurs have a mostly uncertain backcourt, but most of the problems are “good” problems that are easy to hope pan out.
Making an explosive opening statement along with Kawhi on opening night was second year Jonathan Simmons, who is every part the type of wing player Spurs fans love to be diehard fans of. He’s explosive, doesn’t play much yet, capable at everything we need if not consistent, and has a tear jerking backstory that seems straight out of a Disney Channel Original Movie. He still has a way before becoming a sure thing, but he looks to be well on that way.
On the flip side, we have a couple of things to sort out. Danny Green’s return is a welcome addition, but means splitting some of the spare minutes between Kyle Anderson & Simmons. Tony Parker has finally hit the Father Time Wall, and it may be a better option to let him come off the bench with his fellow ancient legend Manu Ginobili. Patty Mills is capable as a starter with his explosive shooting, but the bench might need his skills more than the starters.
Way in the back are Bryn Forbes and our newest rookie hopeful Dejounte Murray, but they will likely be looking at more D-League time than anything this year.
All in all, the Spurs look to be very, very good, especially in the regular season. But the first year without Duncan is going to have some growing pains and we may not be as imposing as we usually are.
Still, don’t count us out. The Spurs have been supposed to fall off and rebuild years ago and we just keep on chugging.