Jonathon Simmons is needed this year. He was part of the “juice” unit as he put it last year. His minutes could improve dramatically and if they do, he needs to grab the opportunity and run with it.
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That unit was the 2nd team squad which had the job of coming in and bringing energy to the Spurs. The “juice” unit did just that all season long until the Thunder series. The second team, bench unit, or “juice” squad looked out of juice in that series.
The great ball movement that had taken place all year, bogged down against the Thunder’s aggressive defense, and superior athleticism.
In years prior, Manu Ginobili who won the NBA 6th Man award in 2008, was the undisputed leader of the Spurs bench unit, and quite frankly for a few years, the Spurs didn’t look like the Spurs until Manu came in off the bench to spark the Spurs.
Last season, Ginobili still was the main cog in the second team’s success, and along with Boris Diaw, and Patty Mills really made the bench team roll smoothly helping the Spurs to keep starters minutes down, and the Spurs to win a franchise record 67 games.
The Thunder played aggressively and forced the Spurs to put the ball on the floor at times in order to make something happen. Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge did their thing when they were manned up mano y mano, but a glaring weakness in the Spurs was revealed throughout the rest of the roster.
Feb 19, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Jonathon Simmons (17) shoots against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Tony Parker and Ginobili who drove past the opposition with ease for years and years, scoring points, setting up teammates with pinpoint assists, and breaking down the defense at every turn had each lost a step or three.
Father time is undefeated.
As we saw this season with Tim Duncan for the first time ever in his career, he was not the same player anymore. The knees were not able to give him the support to do what made him the greatest power forward of all time.
Now both Parker and Ginobili cannot get to the basket on a regular basis anymore. the Spurs are without a driving slasher for the first time since Parker laced them up as a Spur in the fall of 2001.
Enter Simmons. He is the one player on the roster who can get to the rim off the dribble, not named Leonard. Simmons gives the Spurs a slasher they need desperately to get where they want to be come May and June.
He proved he can get to the rim last year time and again as he supplied a spark off the bench as a part of that “juice” unit. Gregg Popovich played him sparingly in the 2016 playoffs. Simmons only appeared in three games for a total of 26 minutes.
Popovich is known not to give rookies much of a chance come playoff time. (George Hill in 2009 was pinned to the bench, the next year Hill was incredible in the 1st round upset of the No. 2 Mavericks by the No. 7 Spurs). Now Simmons is in his second year, gives the Spurs athleticism and an ability to drive to the basket regularly that only Leonard now possesses.
It is an ability that can make things happen at the end of a possession when ball movement and player movement are thwarted. Finally, he can finish and often emphatically with a dunk, in the way Leonard does, and Ginobili used to do.
As a Spurs fan, I hope Simmons is in the regular rotation all year long, and especially in the playoffs. He gives us something we are lacking, let him bring the “juice” every night.