Advanced Scouting: San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets – Reaction to Duncan’s injury
San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets 9:30 CST March 23, 2011
If nothing else, Tim Duncan’s injury puts the Spurs final push before the playoffs in a different light. Sure, it would be irrational to sit all the Spurs key players for the remainder of the season; but the prospect of losing home court advantage pales in comparison to the thought of losing someone as vital to the team as Tim Duncan. Even many lesser pieces are more valuable than an easier potential 7th game.
Think about it like this:Â If we assume that around 25% of all series go to a game 7 (according to whowins.com) and home court is worth 4 points per game, then home court advantage will be worth about 0.14 PPG in the playoffs (0.14=4 points/7 games * 25% frequency). According to John Hollinger’s “Value Added”, McDyess is the 10th most valuable Spur at nearly 0.3 points added per game (Hollinger would be the first to admit that McDyess’ defensive contributions are not adequately measured by PER). The math does shift moderately when we translate points added to wins added, series added and championships added; but the conclusion is the same. Contributing players are more important than the prospect of having home court advantage for a game 7.
Obviously, thatâ€™s not the end of the story. Conventional wisdom suggests that players will become rusty with too much rest and if you sit them now, they will “lose their rhythm” and may never be able to regain it. Much of this seems reasonable to me, but I have no idea if this is a crucial factor or a negligible one. There isn’t enough data to properly analyze this situation, especially considering that injury probability is practically immeasurable from player to player. It’s something that, for now, must be evaluated largely upon intuition. Thankfully, the Spurs have a coach who is as qualified as any to make this evaluation. Additionally, Coach Pop has managed the big 3 for several years and should know their limits better than anyone.
How will the Spurs handle Duncan’s absence
Based on Saturday’s starting lineup against Charlotte, I suspect that the Spurs will simply start Splitter in Duncan’s place. This could also be an opportunity for the Spurs to play more small ball. On the season, George Hill has spent nearly half his time at shooting guard and Manu Ginobili has played a similar amount of minutes at small forward (according to 82games.com). Richard Jefferson’s time at power forward has been reduced from 16% last season to 7% this year. However, James Anderson is back in the fold and Steve Novak’s contributions have recently increased, meaning Jefferson could have more availability to shift to the 4 spot.
The Spurs are very deep at guard and Jefferson is still well suited to run the break. DeJuan Blair is decent in the transition game for a big man and Bonner and Splitter are utilized on the fast break nearly twice as frequently per minute as Duncan. The ability to run the break is not only something nice for the Spurs to have in their back pocket, it could become essential if Duncan’s injury turns out to be a larger hindrance than suspected. The Spurs have a ton of offensive weapons at guard and would present serious matchup problems for many teams.
How dangerous are the post-Melo Nuggets
Denver is 10-4 since sending Carmelo Anthony to New York (along with the under-appreciated Chauncey Billups). An article by Justin Kubatko just under a week ago spelling out some of the reasons for Denver’s success. To highlight, the Nuggets offensive rating remains at around 110 while their defensive rating has improved from 108 before the trade to 97 after the deal.
Although the Nuggets are a formidable opponent as constructed, the defensive improvement of 11 points is clearly not maintainable, in my opinion. Carmelo Anthony appears to cost his team a couple points a game defensively and Wilson Chandler has a solid defensive reputation, but no one is getting Kevin Garnett here. It is interesting, however, that Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen have played significantly better without Anthony this season and these are arguably the Nuggets two best defenders.
Ty Lawson has assumed a much greater role in the offense with Billups out of the equation. Lawson’s MPG have increased from 24 before the all-star break to 33 after the break. His assists per game have more than doubled over that span. Much of Lawson’s value lies in his efficiency and his ability to get to the rim. More often than not, he opts for the safe play. Lawson averages nearly as many isolations as pick and rolls and is very effective in these plays, averaging nearly 1 point per possession (PPP). He is not a threat to score off the dribble from beyond the arc as 96% of his threes are assisted, a very high rate for a point guard (league average is 73%). Raymond Felton takes more chances and favors the pick and roll. Felton is questionable for tonight’s game. (Raymond Felton and Lawson have been very successful when paired together thus far.)
JR Smith is Denver’s top isolation option without Anthony. He is credited with isolations on 29% of his possessions and averages 0.89 PPP on these plays. Danilo Gallinari is also much more effective getting to the rim than one might expect. He averages a team high 6.6 FTA per 36 minutes (11.1 with Denver) and scores an outstanding 1.09 PPP when isolated.
Additionally, Nene is arguably Denver’s most valuable player and could have a big game without Duncan there to keep him in check. The Nuggets also have a lot of options on the fast break.
Of course, the improved Nuggets defense could also present their fair share of problems for the Spurs.
It will be interesting to see how Coach Popovich will manage tonight’s game. Will he be more conservative now that Duncan is out? Will he work favorable matchups to improve his chances to win? Tonight’s game could be an omen for the remainder of the regular season.
Denver: 4.45 (7th)
San Antonio: 6.31 (3rd)
Denver Nuggets Player Ratings 3-22
|Player||G||MPG||USG%||Ortg||DRtg||WS/48||2 Yr APM|
San Antonio Spurs Player Ratings 3-22
|Player||G||MPG||USG%||Ortg||DRtg||WS/48||2 Yr APM|
Denver Nuggets Player Trends 3-22
San Antonio Spurs Player Trends 3-22
As players get more playing time, they usually experience improvement in their per minute production. Splitter seems to be following suit. He should get more chances in the coming weeks.
Billups, Afflalo, Anthony, Martin, Hilario +47 in 310 minutes (+7.2 per 100 possessions)
Lawson, Afflalo, Chandler, Martin, Hilario +9 in 98 minutes (+6.5 per 100)
Lawson, Felton, Chandler, Martin, Hilario +39 in 50 minutes (+33.4 per 100)
No lineup with Gallinari has played more than 21 minutes.
Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, Blair, Duncan +147 in 669 minutes (+10.4 per 100)
Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, McDyess, Duncan +29 in 147 minutes (+10.2 per 100)
Hill, Neal, Ginobili, Bonner, McDyess +67 in 105 minutes (+35.3 per 100)
At this point, there are too many question marks for the Spurs and Duncan’s injury highlights the importance of being healthy for the playoffs. The Spurs still have enough firepower to win tonight, even without Duncan and even if some other players rest, but the Nuggets have proven themselves to be too good to take for granted, especially in Denver.