Mar 12, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Richard Jefferson (24) dunks against the Washington Wizards during the first half at the AT

Week 11 Power Rankings: The No T.J. Ford Edition

John Hollinger, ESPN.com — 5th (2nd in West)

Mike Monroe, Spurs Nation — 5th (3rd in West)

A bad week for Spurs point guards as Tony Parker, T.J. Ford go on injured list. Bad week on court, too, losing two of three.”

Interesting statistical side note (in honor of John Hollinger himself): Since Feb. 21, the Spurs have posted an aggregate defensive efficiency of 107.1. That would be good for 28th in the NBA.

Now, I’d like to take the time to mention the unfortunate departure of T.J. Ford. Ford was a perfect fit for the Spurs second unit. His propensity to pass the ball appeased coach Gregg Popovich and ultimately would’ve helped to ease the stress on Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker’s shoulders. Ford was a capable ball handler that filled a role on the bench: distributor. While he struggled with turnovers this year; his assist rate, albeit in significantly less minutes, was higher than prodigious point guard Ricky Rubio. Ford brought a veteran presence for rookie Cory Joseph to learn from and that is invaluable considering there was no training camp. I loved having Ford on the Spurs because he knew his abilities and didn’t stray from his strengths. I had high hopes for Ford but unfortunately it didn’t work out. I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com — 4th (2nd in West)

The Spurs played just two games last week. They benefited from Tyson Chandler’s absence on Wednesday, and apparently suffered from Tony Parker’s absence on Friday. But offense wasn’t really the problem against the Clippers. Some assemblage of defense will be needed Friday in Oklahoma City.”

Agreed. Like I mentioned in my side note above, the Spurs are playing awful defense. They’ve gotten away with their defense against the Charlotte Bobcats and Washington Wizards. I don’t expect teams that actually run NBA-style offenses — none of that 1-on-1, no ball movement, contested 16-footer stuff — to struggle in any way against our defense. The Oklahoma City Thunder are No. 2 in offensive efficiency and the Orlando Magic are 12th. Those are the Spurs next two opponents. It would be really nice to witness some actual defensive improvement unless we want to get blown out of the building. Our defense doesn’t need to be elite, just acceptable. And, as of right now, we can’t even accomplish the latter.

Chris Sheridan, Sheridan Hoops — 4th (2nd in West)

Haven’t won two in a row since they ran their road winning streak to seven games back on Feb. 20. Pop sat Tony Parker in Saturday night’s loss to Clippers (Spurs allowed 120 for 3rd time) because he is a haunted man. ‘Last year was a huge disappointment to us. To win 60 games and then basically lose Manu (Ginobili to a sprained elbow) on the last game of the year, when should I have sat him? I don’t know. I’ll ask myself that forever probably,’ Popovich said.”

I definitely like the idea of resting Tim Duncan, Manu and Tony. Now, I’m going to steal the minutes per day stat, coined by Wayne Vore of The Big Fundamental (disclaimer: mathematically calculations subject to error). This year Parker is averaging 34.3 minutes per game, a near two minute increase from 2011 (32.4 MPG). Parker is on pace for 2162 minutes this year. That doesn’t seem like an astronomical difference but that mere two minutes per game, in this truncated NBA season, represents a 6.1 percent increase in his minutes per day. If Pop really wants Parker to be fully healthy when the playoffs arrive — and that will be incredibly important given his increased role on the team — he should be giving him 21.9 minutes per game. Of course, that number is extremely low. To allow Parker to sufficiently help the Spurs in the regular season without putting too much pressure on him, Pop would need to allocate rest days for Parker. If Pop rests Parker for six more days — a somewhat reasonable proposition because of the dense April schedule — that would allow TP to get 28.5 minutes per game and still have him ready for the playoffs.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com — 4th (2nd in West)

The momentum San Antonio carried into the All-Star break didn’t make it to the other side, but something tells me you won’t hear any outward concern from Gregg Popovich. Just to be sure: Pop will get a visit this weekend from the committee (of one) to confirm those premonitions before the next batch of rankings.”

Interesting note: The Spurs will play seven games against teams with above .500 records. The Rubio-less Minnesota Timberwolves are included on this list so keep that in mind. I’m not too worried about momentum because momentum in March won’t mean much in the playoffs. Instead, I put my focus on the Spurs getting their rotation solidified (without Ford) and develop continuity together. We can worry about momentum in April. Now is not the time.

Tom Ziller, SB Nation — 5th (3rd in West)

The Spurs had a light week to make up for the Rodeo Trip, but have a nice Dallas-Oklahoma City back-to-back this weekend as penance. After a visit from the Wizards on Monday, things do generally get tougher for San Antonio.”

Crap. Don’t remind me about the double header. I wanted to sleep well at night.

Composite ranking: 5th (2nd in West)

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Tags: Charlotte Bobcats Cory Joseph Dallas Mavericks Manu Ginobili Minnesota Timberwolves Oklahoma City Thunder Orlando Magic Power Rankings Ricky Rubio San Antonio Spurs T.J. Ford Tim Duncan Tony Parker Washington Wizards

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