Oct 14, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) looks to pass out of the defense of Atlanta Hawks guard Kent Bazemore (24) in the third quarter of their game at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 100-86. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
The first week of the 2015-16 preseason has concluded for the San Antonio Spurs, and the team offered a handful of notable takeaways during the three-game stretch.
San Antonio dropped each outing—losing to the Sacramento Kings 95-92, Miami Heat 97-94 and Atlanta Hawks 100-86—but the 0-3 record is about as concerning as a spider crossing the interstate.
While fans and analysts alike must be careful to glean meaningful conclusions from exhibition matchups, the Spurs did provide shreds of valuable insight for what to expect during the upcoming year.
Next: Why's He Out? He's French.
Boris Diaw Needed Some Rest
Mar 24, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Boris Diaw (33) warms up prior to the game against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Boris Diaw was a critical piece of San Antonio’s run to the 2014 championship, but the power forward struggled in 2014-15 after receiving a well-deserved but hefty contract. Diaw’s field-goal percentage dropped from 52.1 percent to 46.0 while his three-point clip plummeted 8.2 percent.
Although the Spurs are certainly looking for a bounce-back season from Diaw, head coach Gregg Popovich isn’t rushing the 33-year-old into action. Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News notes Pop said Diaw didn’t play against Miami because “he’s French.”
Whenever Diaw is back on the court, he’ll be an important part of the second unit. For now, though, Diaw’s absence has provided a little extra opportunity for Rasual Butler, Deshaun Thomas and Youssou Ndoye in the frontcourt.
Next: Improvement does not equate to superstar
Kyle Anderson Has Improved, but Temper Expectations
Oct 12, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kyle Anderson (1) drives to the basket as Miami Heat forward Greg Whittington (22) defends during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Unless Popovich is preparing to expand roles and create a nine-man rotation—and that seems highly unlikely—someone has to fill Marco Belinelli’s minutes.
Through three games, converted swingman Kyle Anderson has noticeably improved since last season and is the leading candidate to replace Belinelli. The UCLA product is playing better defense, which was a glaring weakness in 2014-15.
But it appears Anderson is merely the best of a bad situation. While he can become a regular piece of the rotation, Anderson isn’t going to take a massive jump during his second NBA season.
Anderson must keep developing the offensive side of his game. Anderson has recorded consecutive 1-of-5 outings from the floor and isn’t a long-range threat. The consistency will come and experience will help, but don’t expect miracles from Anderson—even if he’s clearly better.
Next: Anyone Want to Keep the Spurs Uniform?
Battle for the Final Roster Spots Remains Wide Open
Oct 8, 2015; Sacramento, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Jonathon Simmons (17) passes the ball in front of Sacramento Kings guard Seth Curry (30) during the fourth quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Kings won 95-92. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Reggie Williams has connected on one triple in each outing, so at least the returning reserve has that going for him. Nevertheless, if San Antonio could replace Williams, it would probably would.
But right now, no one is staking a claim to a final roster spot.
Rasual Butler impressed during his Spurs debut, tallying 12 points and five rebounds. Since then, the veteran has missed all seven shots, including four triples.
One-time sharpshooter Jimmer Fredette misfired on four shots against Sacramento, received a DNP Coach’s Decision vs. Miami and managed a 2-of-6 clip opposite Atlanta. Jonathon Simmons has flashed decent passing ability, but he’s 1-of-8 from the floor and has committed seven turnovers in 42 minutes of action.
Though the battle will continue through the remainder of the preseason, it probably won’t be pretty.
Next: More Kawhi in a Different Way
Popovich Experiments with Kawhi Leonard’s Offense
Oct 14, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich greets forward Kawhi Leonard (2) as he walk to the bench in the third quarter of their game against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 100-86. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Manu Ginobili’s career is winding down, and Tony Parker won’t be the primary ball-handler forever. With that in mind, Popovich decided to see how Kawhi Leonard would perform when initiating the offense.
Per McDonald, Pop said he’s eager for Kawhi to become a “pick-and-roll maestro.”
"“He’s got to get out there and see what it feels like to have all those hands all over him, negotiate the blitzes and the pick-and-rolls and the pushes and all that stuff.”"
In the past, Leonard has orchestrated the San Antonio offense on limited occasions. But if he adds a Chandler Parsons-like skill as a shot creator—particularly off pick-and-rolls—Leonard’s ceiling will rise even more.
Next: $84 Million Well Spent
This LaMarcus Aldridge Guy Will Work
Oct 8, 2015; Sacramento, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) dribbles the ball as Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein (00) defends during the first quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Believe it or not, despite the potential issues San Antonio could’ve encountered by signing LaMarcus Aldridge, it appears the newly signed power forward is all right.
After a reasonably successful debut with a shorthanded team, Aldridge immediately thrived when playing alongside Leonard, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.
14 points at the half for LA ? https://t.co/iCcBecejsg
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 13, 2015
Aldridge netted a game-best 17 points and eight rebounds against Miami.
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Aldridge scored after jumping out near the perimeter, receiving entry passes and rolling to the rim. He buried shots from the left side, in the middle and on the right. Leonard, Duncan, Parker and Ginobili each gave Aldridge an assist.
Mistakes will happen. Slumps are a near-certainty. Rough shooting nights are bound to occur. After all, Aldridge isn’t fully acclimated into the system.
But this signing is going to work out, and San Antonio’s offense will be scary when the starting lineup is clicking.