San Antonio Spurs History

What if Manu Ginobili spent his career as the first option?

Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages
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The early years of first-option Manu

In 2003, Manu was named to the All-Rookie 2nd team, averaging seven points in 69 games. Nice. That being said, his rookie year in this situation would have been the 1999-00 season, and since he was expected to save a lost franchise, he would have surely started several, if not every, game. 

In his final three years of European play, Ginobili was a better player than Victor Wembanyama and Luka Doncic. He scored more, shot better, and played better defense. Suffice it to say, as a starter, he would have had instant success in the league.

The issue with being great with no supporting cast is that your team goes nowhere, so despite being the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, his team would not win many games. The 2000 NBA Draft had barely any talent, but just for laughs, we’ll say Manu’s team picked 8th overall and managed to select Jamal Crawford, the second-best sixth man ever. 

Based on Manu’s early per 36-minute stats, we can deduce that he would easily score 20 points a night. I mean, he was putting up 19 per 36 playing alongside Parker, Duncan, and Robinson, so as the first option, he would be approaching 25 a night and hitting shots from anywhere. At this point, his wily style of play would catch up to him, and he would become rather turnover prone, but he would still be an elite scorer.

Then, we'd get a look at peak Manu.

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