Jun 11, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard is introduced prior to the start against the Miami Heat ingame three of the 2013 NBA Finals at the AT
With slight changes to the roster and players getting older, there is always one question when one season ends and the next is on the horizon. Who will be the player or players that will step up the most for the team in the next season?
The San Antonio Spurs this offseason did not make any big moves to their roster as they deal with what was on top of their to-do list, resigning Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter. Done. Marco Belinelli and Jeff Pendergraph later followed as the only free agents that the Spurs have signed. Though there are many waiting on to see where Greg Oden will decide on playing next season, San Antonio is one of the teams in the mix for the free agent big man, they have all their pieces in place to look toward the coming season.
Not trying to take away from the two players that certainly makes this team whom they are, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, there are others that I look forward to seeing step up. Some of which have flashed that star potential already and others could do more and will need to.
Lets just right into the players that I feel needs to step up the most for the San Antonio Spurs to remain successful and make that return trip back to the Finals.
Jun 16, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts after scoring against the Miami Heat during the fourth quarter of game five in the 2013 NBA Finals at the AT
Kawhi Leonard | A player that shows little emotion but that does not account for the talent that he has now and what he could become in the future for the San Antonio Spurs. Kawhi Leonard shined on both sides of the court throughout the finals, and big things are expected from the 22-year-old in 2013-14. Leonard averaged a solid line of 13.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game during the 2012-13 regular season, and while guarding some of the best scorers in the league throughout the playoffs, Leonard still tallied 13.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals per contest.
He could be that go-to player that the Spurs will go to during the season. A lot of the attention will be on Parker and Duncan as it has always been so this is the prime time for Leonard to take advantage of the double teams that are forced on both players. He has a quick step and has shown that he can finish on the break and at the rim. What I feel Leonard needs to work on more is his outside shooting. Not a great shooter, he is still young and Chip English will surely be working hard with him during the offseason, I can see Leonard coming back with more confidence in his jumper. Another facet to his game that has really stuck out during the Spurs run through the playoffs is his ability to rebound the basketball and score inside off of put-backs. His aggression and will to get to the ball when a shot is put up is what Spurs fans all around love seeing. Defensively, he has it. Leonard with his wing span can cover a lot of ground quickly. He has proven time and time again that if he is down on the block and sees a ball swung around to the outside, he will be in your face in an instance. He is the energy player for the Spurs and will need to continue to do so.
May 16, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter (22) shoots the ball against Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson (11) and point guard Jarrett Jack (2) during the fourth quarter in game six of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Spurs defeated the Warriors 94-82. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Tiago Splitter | Tiago Splitter recently signed a massive new contract, and many basketball fans raised a questioning eyebrow at the four-year, $36 million deal. Once this signing was official, there were a lot of fans wondering if Splitter is really worth the $9 million he will be getting a year.
I am not going to sit here and say I wasn’t thinking this because I was. I know most are looking back on his performance in the playoffs where he was not much of a factor. But you can’t deny he plays with undeniable hustle and constantly gives maximum effort, but—more importantly—is effective, too. Splitter’s career-per-36-minute line is a surprising-to-some 15.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks.
Yeah, surprised about that his career per game stat line? Makes you wonder and think back on when he performed at such a level for him to have those statistics. When free agency hit, Splitter was getting attention from many teams from around the league. A young seven-footer whom has time to build his strengths can be attracting to others and I feel that is why San Antonio had no other options but to resign him.
Splitter I feel can contribute in such a way that he could possibly be a player that can cause troubles for opponents. He will not be a Tim Duncan nor a David Robinson but he could possibly make his own name here in San Antonio.
What I do want to see from Splitter that I have voiced through-out this season is the lack of aggression at the rim from the big man. I just hope he looks at tape from this past season and see that he needs go hard at the rim, no reverse layups (which seems to be his go-to) just throw-it-down!
Defensively he does a remarkable job. In the playoffs, he did a great job keeping his body up right and not try to always block a shot but to make the opponent think twice about coming into the lane. Play big. That is what he did and needs to continue to do.
Okay I am off of that. But yeah, Splitter will be another player that will need to step up more for San Antonio.
Feb 28, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls shooting guard Marco Belinelli (8) dribbles against the Philadelphia 76ers during the second half at the United Center. The Bulls beat the 76ers 93-82. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
Marco Belinelli | When I watched Chicago Bulls game this past season I would always find myself watching Marco Belinelli and his every move. I loved his style of play. He leaves it all out on the floor and for a player that can create his own shot and can shoot from downtown, I knew he would be a good fit for San Antonio. And when we got him, I was excited.
With Gary Neal leaving, Belinelli’s importance to the team has become pretty high. A career 39% shooter from beyond the arc, that surely fills the void of Neal. With the style that the San Antonio Spurs have come into on the offensive end, running when teams let them and slowing it down, Parker who loved to penetrate to find his shooters, Matt Bonner, Danny Green and then Gary Neal, Belinelli can really benefit from this.
What he also brings into the Spurs system is another guard that can handle the ball better than what was shown in the Finals against the Miami Heat. What Miami did so well against the Spurs was exposing them for not having a good substitute once Parker left the game.
Neal averaged just under 22 minutes a game and 9.5 points per. The San Antonio Spurs will need Belinelli to contribute as much as Neal did. I feel that he will do so and then some. Between the two, I am going to come out and say this is a good move for the San Antonio Spurs and Belinelli will make fans feel at ease with a favorite like Neal leaving the team.