The San Antonio Spurs are 4-1 heading into Friday night’s game with the Utah Jazz (also the only team to beat the Spurs this season).
Looking at the early season schedule, most of us would have predicted the Spurs would have that exact record, but most of us would have predicted a loss at the Warriors on opening night.
Five games is a decently sized sample, so we can start to draw some conclusions. Here three different thoughts on the Spurs with three sentences about each.
The Spurs offense is more volatile but has a higher ceiling: As compared to 2015-16, the Spurs offense feels like it has more versatility in it from a night to night basis. The Spurs, particularly the starters, are a jump shooting unit, and the problem with a jump shooting quad is that you’re going to have cold stretches (as we saw against Utah in the fourth quarter).
So the Spurs have more game to game versatility. The upside from Pau Gasol finding his way and having five shooters in any lineup once Danny Green returns, along with the upgraded athleticism and the new destroyer of worlds version of Kawhi puts a higher ceiling on this team’s offensive game.
Pau needs to play 10-15 minutes/game with the second unit: Without having looked into the lineup-specific numbers on this, the Spurs look better with LaMarcus Aldridge and Dewayne Dedmon on the floor (e.g. for stretches in the Sacramento game) on both defense and offense.
Gasol and Aldridge are both elite in the pick and pop, but you don’t need 2x that in the starting lineup, and I’d love to see what Pau could do running the P-N-P with Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills.
Pau’s shooting would prevent defenders from playing ice or doubling Patty, and we want Patty to get clean off the dribble threes and pull-ups.
If Danny Green can shoot again, we’re in business: This is really about defense, because if you look at the offense, it has been very good (efficiency-wise), whereas the defense has been more middle of the pack (by the same metrics).
Now those numbers don’t mean much with Green out. He is the second best perimeter defender on the floor behind Leonard. They do though speak to the fact, the Spurs haven’t gotten close to their defensive peak.
The caveat is, you don’t want to trade off offense for defense, but given that Leonard can now initiate the offense. Once Green is back from injury and he can hit 3s at a 40% clip the Spurs crunch time combination should be some combination of the following six players (depending on if teams are playing big or small) Mills, Green, Jonathon Simmons, Leonard, Aldridge, and Dedmon.