It had been a struggle for Jeff Ayres to start the season. Ayres had appeared to be losing favor with the San Antonio Spurs, receiving inconsistent minutes throughout the start the of the season.
Recently, however, it appears Jeff Ayres is finally starting to show some promise in the Spurs system and as a result, head coach Gregg Popovich is giving his 6-foot-9 forward more playing time, to the tune of some good results.
Jeff Ayres’ minutes have become significantly more consistent over the Spurs last four games.
Jan 13, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Jeff Ayres (11) dunks the ball against the Washington Wizards during the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
After playing anywhere between seven seconds to nearly 23 minutes in San Antonio’s first 35 games, Ayres has played no less than 14 minutes and no more than 18 over the Spurs last four games.
To illustrate how consistent those minutes have been, Jeff Ayres received 10-plus minutes for three games in a row only one other time this season. However, each of those games were separated by two games that he did not play in.
Ayres has played in three of San Antonio’s last four games, averaging 10 points and 3.7 rebounds during that span.
During that time, Ayres has also shot the ball well, 10-of-16 (62.5%), and made it to the free throw line 12 times (4 per game), connecting on 10 of those tries. His true shooting percentage for those games also never dipped below 52.5%.
While Jeff Ayres’ most recent outings are the highlight of this piece, some of the improvements he has made over the course of the season are also notable.
Although Ayres will not match his career high 73 games played in a season last year, he’s already missed 15 games this season, his improvement in many categories shows that his NBA career is not over.
Jeff Ayres is posting career highs in player efficiency rating, 14.8, free throw rate, .375, and win shares per 48 minutes, .161. His true shooting percentage is also up this season while his turnover percentage has fallen by almost nine percentage points.
Those numbers aren’t great but it does show that Ayres finally seems to be finding his groove with the Spurs in his second season.
Another great trend is that Ayres has been able to maintain his solid defensive efficiency while improving as an offensive threat.
The two key numbers to pay attention to here are offensive rating and defensive rating. Jeff Ayres is playing well on both sides of the ball this season with an offensive rating of 117 and a defensive rating of 102.
To compare, Tiago Splitter is currently posting an offensive rating of 114 and a defensive rating of 102. Splitter also posted those same numbers last season during San Antonio’s championship year.
Jeff Ayres might not have been a worthy rotation option for the Spurs last season, but, he finally seems to be proving himself of such lately.
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Ayres’ recent outings show that he deserves consistent minutes and, why not give them to him, especially when the Spurs continue to be ravaged by injury and father time.
I for one, am for Pop giving Ayres those consistent minutes. The worst case scenario is that he falls flat in his next few games and returns to his role as a bench warmer while the best case scenario could be that he creates value for himself in the trade market.
With San Antonio playing four opponents with under .500 records in their next six games, now would provide the perfect opportunity to experiment with Ayres and hopefully, find a bright spot in what has been a struggling season for the Spurs up to this point.