When last we visited this topic, the New Three were well represented in David Thorpe’s review of the top 50 rookies of the nascent season, and that’s still the case even with the relatively erratic playing time that Tiago has logged and Anderson’s injury.
The big story is Tiago’s jump from # 22 on November 10th to 6th this week (yeah, I know that a lot has happened with the Spurs between those two dates, and the same can be said for you, me, and everyone we know). Thorpe mentions the one area where we all have noticed he could use some improvement, and that is rebounding. A guy that tall really should be pulling down more than 2.6 boards per game, but I’m thinking this has to do with his newness to the NBA, lack of extended playing time, and fear of fouls. His Euroleague average was just under 5 ballboards a game, so I expect him to make some improvements in this area, Coach Thorpe thinks so too:
As long as Splitter does a little better in this area than he’s doing now, his rotation spot will be secure …but he has to rebound on both ends of the floor. His role is well-defined…so he can channel his energy into this one area.
That said, I don’t expect him to ever be Rodman-esque in this area.
I wonder if pairing him with Blair would be a beneficial use of their talents? Blair would be free to go after every rebound and guard the lesser post player. Meanwhile, Tiago could cover and run the pick-n-roll while giving Blair free agency on the offensive end to gather hustle points. With only 13.52 shared floor time this season so far, there’s just no way of saying at this point.
As good as the Big Brasilian has been this year, the guy I am most surprised by is Gary Neal. Thorpe has had him pegged in his top ten rookies for quite some time now, and really other than Landry Fields in New York he’s gotta be the biggest steal of the off-season…at least as far as rookies go, I think Miami might have done some pretty big thieving of their own and with the all the bad karma to show for it. Of course Neal has a certain amount of native talent, but the coaching staff deserves a big helping of propers on his success as well:
Neal is fortunate to be in a role he can handle and one that is expertly defined. He’s asked to make 3s, be clean with the ball, and give effort when defending. He’s doing all three of those things
My only concern at this point is that Gary Neal forgets why he is in the NBA. If it weren’t for the expert scouting needed to get in the door during the summer, no one in SA would have any clue that dude is a dead-eye shooter from deep. That, and that alone, is why he’s lacing them up Stateside instead of across the pond. Here’s how Thorpe puts it:
The challenge for Neal is to accept his role…All players think they can do more than what they are showing, …in Neal’s case…his terrific team needs him to do only what he’s already doing. Trying to do more would be a mistake.
As for James Anderson, the stress fracture to his foot has diminished the spot light on him for now, but I expect that by season’s end we will all be singing his praises once again. I eagerly await his return in January, and hope that the Rodeo Road Trip provides him a chance to re-acclimate to his Spurs brethren.
I’ll keep you posted as news on the New Three develops.