As San Antonio seeks to successfully defend their NBA Championship, for the first time in history, the duo of R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich must improve the frontcourt. The Spurs lack depth in two-way frontcourt players, and that lack of depth, in an otherwise extremely deep team, will hurt them come playoff time.
The Spurs have to be rated on a two-year trend. Without a last second three-pointer from Miami’s Ray Allen in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals, the Spurs would be the two-time defending champions entering the 2014-2015 season. In 2013 the San Antonio Spurs defense ranked 3rd in the NBA, allowing 96.6 points per game. Of course, those numbers are overshadowed by the fact that the Spurs were scoring and average of 103 points a game in 2013.
The Spurs’ defensive statistics took a slide in 2014 in which the allowed 97.6 points per contest in the regular season.
If you were to consider two years a trend, and extended that trend line into this new-year, the Spurs will give up nearly 99 points per game in the 2015 campaign. That puts them in dangerous territory as 22 teams scored more than 98 points per game in 2014. The games would get more competitive for San Antonio.
That line considers last-year’s competition. The problem with this analysis is that the competition did not remain static. The teams have improved. And most notably, they have improved in the front court.
In the Western Conference, the primary competition has improved their teams through free agency. Both the Clippers and Thunder have added front court players to put depth in their roster. The Clippers will have a full season with Glen Davis, 8.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and the Thunder, already with Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, and Steven Adams added Mitch McGary from Michigan. We need not be reminded of Ibaka’s 219 blocks last year, or his influence on the Spurs/Thunder playoff series of a season ago.
The Clippers have Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan (who I’m convinced is the new David Thompson.) Those guys, plus Davis, will be a major factor as the West rounds into form.
In the East, look no further than the newly minted would-be Champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Anderson Varejao is more than a solid center. In his best year, Varejao put in 14 points per game. Kevin Love, as we have all be reminded this summer, is a perennial 20-point, 10-rebound player.
The Spurs have a stable of big men. With Aron Baynes resigning they now have six true centers and power forwards.
But do they have two-way players in those positions?
The answer unfortunately is, it depends. It depends on if Jeff Ayres can crack the rotation and put in the defensive performance we expect. It depends on Baynes giving them productive minutes on offense. Both of these players are big bodies who can administer big punishment on the opposition. The problem is, the Spurs are going to need more production than they need punishing fouls to be doled out.
How about Kyle Anderson?
Spurs fans don’t know this player. Can the Spurs count on Anderson to develop into a baller this season, or will he be a productive component of the Kawhi-Leonard led future-Spurs? We don’t know.
What we do know is Marcin Gortat is fantastic. The 6’11” Washington Wizards center’s stat line for last year reads like this: 13.2 PPG, 1.5 BPG, and 9.5 RPG. You should know that he only played 32 minutes a night. Gortat can step out for the short-distance jumper, but keeps it close to the rim hitting 55% from the field in his seven-year career.
The Spurs lack depth in two-way frontcourt players, and that lack of depth, in an otherwise extremely deep team, will hurt them come playoff time. Marcin Gortat could fix that problem.
Gortat is a beast. His two-way play allows Duncan and Splitter to sit significant stretches of the season, and challenge Splitter for playoff minutes in May and June.
Can you picture the Spurs going small with Gortat at the center position and Boris Diaw in at power forward?
This gives a variant lineup that San Antonio does not currently have.
The Wizards, despite signing Paul Pierce this off-season, are a future-team. They are not a realistic contender, and collecting potentials should be of high importance. After DeJuan Blair, the front court bench looks very spotty for Washington.
The Spurs, on the contrary, would have a championship pedigree to offer in a trade situation. Baynes and Austin Daye have learned directly from the master himself, the venerable Tim Duncan.
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Sending the pair and rookie Kyle Anderson could be enticing. Regardless of the combination, the Wizards have a demand and the Spurs have a supply.
I recognize that the Spurs cannot give away the future, but the obligation to Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Spurs-fans is to extend this dynasty and win now.
To do so, San Antonio must look at their roster, and make some tough decisions with regard to their front court. The insertion of a proven two-way performer should quickly rise to the top of the priority list.
What do you think of the San Antonio Spurs frontcourt? Could Marcin Gortat help extend the Spurs’ title window? Let us know in the comments!
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