San Antonio Spurs: 3 questions arise from Manu Ginobili’s return

By Rob Wolkenbrod
SAN ANTONIO, TX - MAY 22: Manu Ginobili
SAN ANTONIO, TX - MAY 22: Manu Ginobili
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San Antonio Spurs, SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 22: Manu Ginobili
San Antonio Spurs, SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 22: Manu Ginobili

Manu Ginobili will return for another season, so how will the San Antonio Spurs be affected?

Manu Ginobili closed his 2016-17 season with an ovation from the San Antonio Spurs fans. He walked off the court for, potentially, the final time in the Black and Silver in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs were about to lose to the Golden State Warriors, which meant their season was over.

Given Ginobili’s age of 39, fans applauded him for all he did in the Alamo City, in case it was the final time he would play for them. It was for the 15 seasons of work he did, along with the four NBA championship he contributed to.

On Tuesday, fans received clarity on what Ginobili’s status is for the 2017-18 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Spurs and Ginobili were “finalizing details” for a return, for his 16th NBA season.

Manu Ginobili and the Spurs are finalizing details of his imminent return for a 16th NBA season, league sources tell ESPN.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 18, 2017

Ginobili’s return puts him back on a team that finished in second place in the Western Conference. The Spurs missed out on the NBA Finals for the third consecutive year, but with a new look for next season, they will look to break this streak, usurp the Warriors, and become the 2018 NBA champions.

Before that becomes a thought, Ginobili’s return leaves the Spurs with a handful of offseason questions. It’s still only two-and-a-half weeks into the newest NBA calendar, which means most, if not all, rosters aren’t set. That may apply to the Spurs, as this player’s return leaves them with things to address.

Next: Ginobili's role

SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 22: (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission with alternate crop.) Manu Ginobili
SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 22: (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission with alternate crop.) Manu Ginobili

3. Will Ginobili be asked to take an even smaller role?

In the 2016-17 season, Manu Ginobili played the fewest minutes of his 15-year career, at just 18.7 per game. It led to his 39 percent shooting and 7.5 points per game, both of which were lows for his time in the NBA.

However, Ginobili mostly became a 3-point shooter for the Spurs, exclusively coming off the bench. It’s a depth, veteran role that contenders like the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers use to stretch their respective rosters.

Seeing Ginobili take an identical role seems possible, if not all but guaranteed. His skill won’t improve at age 40, given his reduced athleticism and players that surpassed him on the roster. So that may lead to this seventh or eighth man role again, unless it’s even smaller for next season.

Ginobili won’t contend for minutes with Jonathon Simmons, who left for the Orlando Magic. There’s young and new faces around though, like Kyle Anderson, Brandon Paul, Bryn Forbes, and Derrick White. All four can play the shooting guard spot, and if they make the Opening Night roster, should further bite into the 18.7 minutes the Argentinian star played last year.

Is that a negative for Ginobili? Maybe so, but not if he’s prepared to take a smaller role on the team. That could mean more DNP’s and around 15 minutes per game, as a potential projection.

Next: The big man spot

NEW ORLEANS, LA – JANUARY 27: David Lee
NEW ORLEANS, LA – JANUARY 27: David Lee

2. Can the Spurs still fit another big man?

Manu Ginobili’s return strengthens the guard position for the San Antonio Spurs. The power forward and center spot remains a question, though, as the 2017 offseason continues.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Joffrey Lauvergne are the team’s only true big men that have contracts. Pau Gasol is still expected to re-sign, but that still leaves a hole.

More from San Antonio Spurs News

Ginobili’s return takes up a potential roster spot for flexibility, which could force the Spurs into making a decision on one of their younger guards. Depth is needed behind Aldridge, Gasol, and Lauvergne, even with the league getting smaller and the potential use of Rudy Gay at power forward.

With 14 rostered players for the 2017-18 season (counting Gasol re-signing and Derrick White’s contract), that leaves one spot open at the very end of the bench, if the Spurs don’t release or trade anyone from the roster. Could that open the door for someone like David Lee to return? He opted out of his contract as free agency began, but remains available.

If the Spurs bring Lee back on another one-year deal, he’d provide the necessary under-the-basket presence the team needs. It’s someone that can battle under the basket for rebounds, taking up the space that won’t be occupied in the small lineups San Antonio may run.

Next: Bryn Forbes' future

SAN ANTONIO,TX – OCTOBER 29: Bryn Forbes
SAN ANTONIO,TX – OCTOBER 29: Bryn Forbes

1. Is Bryn Forbes the odd man out?

Bryn Forbes dominated the Vegas Summer League, averaging 26 points per game and making the Summer League Second Team. His spot on the San Antonio Spurs wasn’t guaranteed, though, even with this impressive performance.

Forbes’ deal isn’t guaranteed for the 2017-18 season, as the Spurs have until August 1, 2017, before they owe him money. It’s a predicament that’s approaching soon, which won’t be helped by Manu Ginobili’s return.

Should Ginobili take a bench role behind Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, that will eat up minutes for others on the roster. That goes for Forbes, who will have to battle for minutes against players like Brandon Paul and Derrick White.

If anything, Forbes may be behind Paul, given how the latter received a guaranteed deal from San Antonio. As ESPN’s roster for the Spurs listed, it’s only for $800,000, but will the team eat that money after rostering the Illinois product for just a handful of months?

Next: Free agency grades for the Spurs

There’s the chance Forbes, Paul, and Ginobili all make the team. However, if the Spurs feel there are too many players that can fill in at shooting guard, then the 23-year-old could be the odd man out.

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