Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas believes the San Antonio Spurs will finish behind the Los Angeles Clippers this season.
Think about that. He believes the Clippers, despite still lacking the depth and defensive continuity necessary to beat the Spurs last year, will indeed win more games than San Antonio.
It’s not completely outlandish, and I’m not slamming Caplan’s opinion, but it seems improbable to put more faith in the Clippers’ below-average defense especially one that allowed 105.7 points per 100 possessions last season.
Aside from that belief, Caplan still maintained his sanity and ranked the Dallas Mavericks behind the Spurs. While the Mavericks were spurned by Deron Williams, their team is much more versatile and potent from the perimeter.
This, and the fact that Chris Kaman is an actual offensive threat, give Caplan reason to believe that the Mavs have a shot against San Antonio.
“The first thing that comes to mind is that Duncan will have to expend energy on defense like never before against the Mavs. San Antonio typically has gotten away with Duncan defending the Mavs’ center, who, from Erick Dampier to DeSagana Diop to Brendan Haywood to Tyson Chandler and back to Haywood, has not been an offensive threat. So someone other than Duncan has mostly had the privilege of guarding Dirk Nowitzki.
“This season if, say, Diaw, draws Dirk, Duncan won’t have the luxury of only casually defending the Mavs’ center. He will now face Chris Kaman, a legitimate back-to-the-basket threat and the most offensively skilled of the Mavs’ long list of 7-foot centers. From a Mavs defensive standpoint, new point guard Darren Collison brings needed speed to combat Parker’s penetrations and shooting guard O.J. Mayo and Dahntay Jones will be better equipped to help defend Ginobili than the options — mainly Shawn Marion — the Mavs had last season.”
Caplan may have overstated Kaman’s offensive prowess. He’s a much more effective option than Haywood, yes, but that doesn’t make him a legitimate option.
Per MySynergySports, he graded as below-average option in the post, in the pick-and-roll and away from the ball. His mid-range shooting from the perimeter, however, is an asset. He converted on 45% of his attempts from 16-23 feet, a mark only bested by Zaza Pachulia, Marreese Speights and Tim Duncan. It’s undeniable that his addition will be a positive one offensively.
Anything more than that may be too much to ask.