San Antonio Spurs Role Player Bracket Challenge Round One: Centers
By Dylan Carter
Wrapping up the first round of the San Antonio Spurs Role Player Bracket Challenge, the Centers portion of the bracket ended with a few surprises.
Nothing in this competition is cut-and-dried, but the Centers portion of the San Antonio Spurs Role Player Bracket Challenge was particularly interesting. We had a round-high three upsets including one specific close matchup as well as a few close-knit matchups.
Coming in at the No. 1 seed, championship center Tiago Splitter took care of business against short-time Spur Ian Mahinmi, who took home just 4.3 percent of votes. Splitter played more than 90 percent of his career-minutes in San Antonio across five seasons and two championship runs. The Brazillian sensation’s best season was in the 2012-13 season when he averaged career-highs in points (10.3), rebounds (6.4) and minutes per game (24.7).
The second-highest margin of victory was set by floor spacer and Spurs analyst Matt Bonner, who defeated Aron Baynes 88.5 percent to just 11.5 percent. Bonner began his career with two seasons in Toronto before spending the next 10 coming off the bench in San Antonio. He played a part in the Spurs’ last two championships and played his best season in 2008-09, when he scored 8.2 points per game and hit 44 percent of his threes.
Baynes has become somewhat of a hot commodity around the NBA—especially since his breakout campaign this year with the Phoenix Suns. The Aussie big man has seemed to get better with each passing year, adding to his repertoire slowly but surely while maintaining his status as a defensive agitator and helpful rim presence.
However, Spurs fans will remember him most for getting eviscerated in the team’s first-round exit to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2015. For that, he’s been bounced early.
The same won’t be said for a one-and-done Spur Dewayne Dedmon, who pulled off a major upset over shot-blocking extraordinaire George Johnson, who is the Spurs’ all-time leader in block percentage, blocks per game and defensive box plus/minus. Dedmon won by 13 percent of votes after spending one year off the bench in San Antonio during the 2016-17 season.
Dedmon wasn’t the only major upset as No. 13 seed Jakob Pöltl pulled off a 73.1-to-26.9 percent vote upset over Rasho Nesterović, who started in all 70 of his games in the 2004-05 championship season. Nesterović spent three seasons in the silver and black as a complimentary big to fill the gap once David Robinson retired.
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Poeltl is an up-and-comer for these Spurs now in his second year with the ballclub. He’s coming up on restricted free agency, which may effectively end his run in the Alamo City, but he’s left quite an impression on the fanbase as a superb shot blocker and pick-and-roll player. He currently holds the highest average offensive rating in Spurs history, for what it counts.
Spaniard Pau Gasol took a resounding 58.4 percent lead in his win over Frank Brickowski, furthering the absolute pummeling that old school players took in the first round. Along with Brickowski, Billy Paultz and John Beasley took losses to Nazr Mohammed and Coby Dietrick. Paultz is fourth all-time on the Spurs’ blocks per game list while Beasley ranked fourth in rebounds per game, but that went largely unrecognized in the round.
The battle between Boban Marjanovic and Will Perdue was close, but Boban’s 67.7 percent total was enough to take the No. 8 seed to a win over the backup center for the Spurs’ first championship. Perdue is better known for his days with the champion Chicago Bulls but helped take some of the pressure off of Tim Duncan in the Twin Towers days early on in San Antonio.
However, Boban is Boban, and that in and of itself is pretty darn hard to top.
Now that the first round is officially finished, we’ll touch up the official bracket and return for the Elite Eight of the Spurs RPBC!