Breaking news extraordinaire Paul Garcia of Project Spurs received word of Erazem Lorbek’s decision on Monday night. Lorbek was named the MVP of the Liga Title for his team RCB Barcelona last week. This acquisition shouldn’t be trivialized; it could spell the difference between advancing to the Finals and exiting early.
Lorbek’s addition will add another dimension to the Spurs yet, conversely, will also muddle the entire free agency situation. How do they proceed with Bonner, Blair, Diaw and Splitter? Does Lorbek’s addition make it more appealing for Nando De Colo to join the team? How will the Spurs utilize Lorbek? How big will Lorbek’s learning curve be?
Considering I’m naturally lazy and my ability to write coherently passed a long time ago, I’m just going to address these questions specifically, ignoring any semblance of organization in the process.
Does Lorbek’s addition make it more appealing for Nando De Colo to join the team?
Possibly. San Antonio is notorious for developing international players successfully. With a roster stocked with international gems (and Lorbek), the prospect of learning under Popovich should be more appealing to De Colo and Adam Hanga as well. My only concern is how the front office manages to make the ends meet, appease their fans and limit their fiscal expenditures. There isn’t an unlimited number of spots on a NBA roster. If they are successful in bringing De Colo over, it could signal the end of Gary Neal.
How will San Antonio utilize Lorbek?
It appears that Lorbek’s role will be vaguely similar to Matt Bonner’s role. Hence, the notion that San Antonio may amnesty or trade Bonner (I prefer a trade because Bonner still has a lot of trade value). He shot 38.3% from behind the arc which, while not Bonner territory, is pretty acceptable. Lorbek’s burgeoning post game and deft touch around the rim give him two facets that Bonner simply doesn’t have in his repertoire. Spurs fans may even be treated to some post possessions including Lorbek, should he impress Popovich enough.
How does Lorbek’s addition affect the other Spurs bigs?
As I mentioned before, Lorbek’s addition will impact Matt Bonner directly. But adding a talented interior prescence like Lorbek isn’t going to make the Spurs’ rotation any more lucid. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily.
Tiago Splitter will still be the Spurs’ most effective pick-and-roll option. DeJuan Blair will remain the teams most proficient offensive rebounder. Boris Diaw (assuming he stays) will continue to find his teammates for wide open looks. Lorbek will simply complement them with his combination of shooting, length and acuity. Everyone’s minutes will drop slightly to give Lorbek sufficient time on the court to make an impact. Whether San Antonio decides to forgo their pursuit of Diaw or trade Bonner/Blair/Splitter is their decision. Ideally, I’m hoping for a frountcourt that consists of Tim Duncan, Diaw, Lorbek and Splitter.
How big will Lorbek’s learning curve be?
At 28-years-old, Lorbek isn’t your typical international acquisition. He will likely undergo little actual development as that period occurred during his tenure in Europe. The key thing for Lorbek is adjusting to the NBA’s athleticism and integrating himself into the rotation from the onset. You won’t like it when Gregg Popovich gets angry, Lorbek. Trust me.
A plausible comparison for Lorbek would be to the Spurs’ very own Tiago Splitter. Their games aren’t similar but their career arcs, both entered the NBA at a relatively old age — I say relatively because 26-28 years old isn’t exactly the epitome of advanced age — and were/are expected to make an immediate impact in San Antonio.
In Splitter’s case, his first season didn’t pan out. He struggled to get on the floor, averaging 12.3 minutes per game, thus the proficiency of Splitter’s pick-and-roll game was kept largely hidden to the majority of the league. After Antonio McDyess’ retirement, Splitter garnered more trust and didn’t let the opportunity slip. He was one of the most efficient scorers in the league, scoring 1.32 points per possession as the roll man, alone.
I don’t expect Lorbek to suddenly jump into the NBA and dominate. There will be an inevitable learning curve albeit one that, since Lorbek is entering the league at an advanced age and already has the benefit of seasoning internationally, will probably be less pronounced than rookies. Jumping from college to the NBA (especially after one year) is a daunting preposition. Advancing to the NBA from Europe is still daunting but not as much. His shooting should translate pretty quickly, though I am worried about his lateral quickness against athletic NBA power forwards.