Other than the center position — centers totaled an impressive 22.8 PER according to 82games.com, due in large part to Tim Duncan — San Antonio Spurs point guards were the most effective positional unit last season.
As was the case for centers, the numbers are heavily influenced by the presence of Tony Parker, who averaged 27.3 points and 11.6 assists per 48 minutes.
Even so, Patty Mills, T.J. Ford and Gary Neal were all effective stop gaps. (Ford actually was a below-average performer contrary to popular belief. But he nearly assisted on a third of San Antonio’s possessions, offsetting his inept offensive game.)
With the addition of Nando De Colo, and the likely usage of Mills, Neal won’t be a large part of the point guard rotation. It would not be a bad thing but the Spurs would rather utilize Neal away from the ball.
So how will the position eventually shake out? Here are my (potentially educated) guesses:
At the very least, Parker has head coach Gregg Popovich’s endorsement. Apparently, as Popovich explained, Parker will likely make the roster as will Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. This makes sense; Parker led the team in usage rate, points, assists, attempts from 16-23 feet and at the rim. He is the central focus of the Spurs No. 1 ranked offense and he will be in line for the same workload this season. As Parker enters his 12th season, and even though it doesn’t seem like he necessarily needs rest, resting would offset the 32,036 minutes (including playoffs) on his odometer. This would be a good long-term preposition even though his speed hasn’t depreciated significantly.
If Mills is to succeed at the professional level, he will need to supplant his competitors in training camp and preseason. He should do so, given his experience in the system, and become the incumbent backup, a role that requires 15-20 minutes a night. With Manu Ginobili in the fold, creating for teammates isn’t as important; Mills would enjoy the freedom to brandish his elite speed against lesser opponents.
Nando De Colo
De Colo won’t be relegated to one position because of his 6-foot-5 frame. With size that matches other opposing 2-guards, De Colo seems like a natural fit. Defending shooting guards wouldn’t be as difficult; De Colo’s lateral quickness, considered deficient by those who have watched him play overseas, is not as damaging against lankier and generally slower players. (Though these 2-guards are much more adept at scoring than most overseas players.) But, logistically, De Colo will provide San Antonio with more passing than shooting. His passing is above-average for his size and he routinely exhibited outstanding vision with France. Ginobili is still a better, more reliable passer but De Colo could potentially be trusted with shot creating duties if Popovich decides to rest Ginobili and Parker later in the season.
I do not expect Joseph to earn a roster spot this season. He performed well in Vegas but the structure of the Spurs roster doesn’t allow for a fourth point guard.