This could be the final year of the Spurs as we’ve come to know and enjoy them lukewarmly. Tim Duncan is 34 years old. Tony Parker is in the final year of his contract. And it’s possible that Manu Ginobili’s body falls apart at any time given his style of play.
Enter the young guns. George Hill, DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter and possibly even James Anderson are all about to become bigger parts of this team. Hill and Blair showed last season that they can step up when called upon, while Splitter and Anderson have the skills to do so. These young guys are giving Gregg Popovich a lot to think about in terms of the starting lineup and his rotation .
Da Spurs Depth Chart
PG Tony Parker, George Hill, Garrett Temple
SG Manu Ginobili, Gary Neal
SF Richard Jefferson, James Anderson, Alonzo Gee
PF Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner
C Tiago Splitter, Antonio McDyess
The Spurs have three positions more or less set in stone: point guard, small forward and power forward. Despite George Hill’s more than capable work last season, the Spurs’ PG spot belongs to Tony Parker (at least for now). Everyone’s favorite French PG was limited to 56 games last season due to injuries. He also had his worst statistical output since the 2003-04 season – with averages of 16 points, 5.7 assists, 0.2 threes and a pathetic 0.5 steals per game.
Parker has always been the type of player whose fantasy value relies heavily on his ability to put the ball in the hoop with great efficiency. That works ok when he is averaging 22 points per game (like he did in 2008-09) but not so great at 16 points per game. The good news is that Parker skipped the World Championships this summer to ensure that he enters the season healthy. Given that it’s a contract year, he’s a good bet to have a bounce back season and put up numbers in line or better than his career averages of 19 points and 6 assists. Just remember that fantasy scoring systems tend to look unkindly upon point guards who don’t shoot threes, get steals, or rack up mad assist numbers.
The Spurs could go three different ways with their starting SG position: George Hill, Manu Ginobili or yet-to-be-signed veteran X (aka, the Keith Bogans/Michael Finley/Bruce Bowen/Brent Barry/Robert Horry experience). The 24-year old George Hill is certainly the most exciting of those options. Hill stepped up big time in Parker’s absence last year, averaging 15.3 points, 3.6 assists and 1.1 threes a game in 43 starts. People who know things seem to think that the 6-2 Hill can be a passable defender against the league’s shooting guards. Given Popovich’s proclivity for bringing Ginobili off the bench, it’s not crazy to think that Hill could begin the year as the team’s starting SG (and end it as their starting PG after they trade away Parker. Kidding. Not really). Whether he starts or not, expect the Parker, Hill, and Ginobili backcourt to log a lot of minutes and for Hill to put up some nice scoring numbers this season.
Manu Ginobili has averaged 69 games a season over his 9-year career. That’s a lot of missed games for fantasy owners to deal with every year. However, it is impossible to not to love Manu, because when he’s on the court he’s dreamy – as last season’s 16.5 point, 4.9 assist, 1.8 three, 1.4 steal averages can attest (in only 28 minutes a game). As usual expect Ginobili to be injured for some of the year, and to either start or come off the bench for about 30 minutes a game with very good all-around numbers.
Interestingly, Richard Jefferson decided to opt-out of the final year of his contract (and $15 million) after a disasterous first season with the Spurs. Even crazier was that the Spurs then resigned Jefferson for nearly $40 million. That’s a lot of dough for 12 point a game. Jefferson turned 30 this summer and the fact that he’s lost a step or two from his prime has really hurt his ability to get to the rim and score. Still, NBAPlaybook.com thinks that Jefferson has enough in the tank for a bounce back season, primarily based off the fact that he had an unusually bad three point shooting year that won’t be repeated again. Considering people aren’t going to be lining up to draft Jefferson this season, pick him up at the end of a draft if your fantasy team is in desperate need of some veteran leadership with low upside.
Tim Duncan. The Big Fundamental. Old Reliable. Mr. Gray Bush. Here are Duncan’s final per game fantasy ranks each of the past five seasons.
It doesn’t get much more consistent than that. People tend to fear that the Spurs are going to rest Duncan at the end of every season, but he did play in 78 games last year (as the Spurs were fighting for playoff position). The thing that really worries me about Duncan is the fact that he saw the lowest scoring (17.9), rebounding (10.1), block (1.5) and minute (31) output of his entire career. He basically maintained his fantasy value last season by significantly improving his free throw shooting. Duncan still has a couple of solid fantasy years left in him, but I see the age-based erosion in his stats continuing this season. When the stories start being written about what great shape you’re in, it’s usually the beginning of the end. Have we learned nothing from Elton Brand?
The Spurs could also go a few ways with the starting center position. Antonio McDyess manned that spot for them much of last season, but he’s 36 years old and has bad knees, so forget about him for fantasy purposes. Much more exciting is the Spurs’ 2007 draft pick Tiago Splitter. Rather than come directly into the NBA, Splitter has been in playing in Spain for the past few years. In 2010, Splitter was named MVP of the Spanish League, with averages of 15.7 points and 6.7 rebounds a game. He’s 6-11, has a solid game on both sides of the floor and can even run a little (courtesy of Pounding the Rock).
In the end, Splitter is probably the best fit alongside Duncan and is the Spurs’ center you should draft.
DeJuan Blair plays the game of basketball like a pit bull who has just been served up a 36-ounce steak. Basically, he uses every ounce of his 6-7, 280 lb frame to physically inhale rebounds. In games that Duncan sat last season, Blair was a certified man beast. For example, he had a 27 point, 23 rebound game in a start against Dallas on April 14th and a 28 point, 21 rebound performance against the Thunder on January 13th. The dude is a rebound machine.
In fact, the only reason why Blair is not a fantasy sleeper this season is Tim Duncan. Blair is undersized for the center position, so a starting combo of Duncan and Blair is probably not going to happen. Second, Blair does not have the type of offensive game that complements someone like Duncan. He doesn’t have a mid-range jumper, instead relying on put backs off rebounds and open looks off the pick and roll. And when Tim Duncan is on the floor, I doubt the Spurs want to be running pick and rolls for DeJuan Blair. So Blair has to be content to fill in off the bench in a Paul Millsap like role for as long as Tim Duncan is still on the team. Blair will bust out for fantasy purposes eventually, but it won’t be this year unless Timmy D gets hurt.
The Rest of the Bench
The rest of the Spurs are going to have minimal fantasy value. Gary Neal could turn into a deadly three-point specialist for the team; Matt Bonner was a nice guy to have when the Spurs lacked depth in their frontcourt, now he’s way down on the depth chart; and James Anderson projects to be a sharp shooting wingman down the road.
So, for the guys we want to draft… Here’s your official GMTR Guidance (for a 12 team league):
Tim Duncan – 3rd
Manu Ginobili – 4th/although I’d like him much better in the 5th
Tony Parker – 8th/9th
George Hill – 9th/10th
Richard Jefferson – 13+
Tiago Splitter – 13+
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