Should the Spurs keep Curtis Jerrells?

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We expected this from Alonzo Gee. He was the D-League Rookie of the Year and Spurs summer league standout. He’s a wing player, a position where the Spurs are short on everything — shooting, defense, athleticism, and length. But so far this preseason, Gee can’t find the court.  Instead, his former Austin Toros teammate Curtis Jerrells is using training camp as a career stepping stone. Jerrells is one of the Spurs’ most productive players this preseason.

And last night, Jerrells sparked the Spurs to victory against the Clippers.

Jerrels entered the game with 2:34 remaining in the third. The score was 63-78, bad guys. Jerrells grabbed the reigns and led the Spurs offensively and defensively for the remainder of the contest. In 15 minutes, Jerrells had 11 points, three assists, a steal, and a variety of timely shots, whether from deep or near the hoop. And he continues to play surprisingly good on-the-ball defense. Jerrells finished the game +14.

I’m not sure what to make of Jerrells’ preseason, other than the obvious. He’s better than we expected. He played well in summer league, but not exceptionally well.  But other than DeJuan Blair and Tim Duncan, Jerrells has had the best preseason of any Spur. Curtis Jerrells, the kid from Baylor. The Austin Toros project.

What’s most surprising about Jerrells’ transformation into an NBA-quality player is that he wasn’t anything approaching a point guard in college. Last season, Toros head coach Quin Snyder “made” Jerrells into a point guard, but he mostly looked like a shooting guard barking sets. Credit Snyder and Jerrells for putting in the work, because Jerrells should be on an NBA roster. The question is, will he make the Spurs’ roster? The answer isn’t as obvious.

What Jerrells has going for him is a good preseason, especially as an unexpectedly competent defender and 3-point shooter. Those are things the Spurs like, right? But on the other side of the ledger is a longer list of complicating factors. The Spurs want to keep 13 or 14 players, but not 15. Gregg Popovich has previously expressed confidence in fellow camp hopeful Garrett Temple. The Spurs are weak at wing, not at point guard — Tony Parker, George Hill and Manu Ginobili provide enough depth at the point. If the Spurs cut Jerrells, there is a chance they can still monitor his progress in Austin because of the D-League’s arrangement between NBA teams and their affiliates.

As the title of this post indicates, I doubt the last of these is still an option. Jerrells will play for a high quality professional team this season. If not in the NBA, then elsewhere. There are rumors that Jerrells will play for Partizan Belgrade if the Spurs elect to cut him. Whatever the case, the Jerrells situation is unexpected and curious.

  • Jim Henderson

    rob
    October 16th, 2010 at 10:48 am

    “Leaving a leadership void with so many new faces off the bench? I don’t think Hill is capable at this time to lead new combers off the bench. But perhaps Pop thinks he does.”

    But Hill would come in for Parker OR Manu. The leadership would usually remain with either Parker or Ginobli when Hill would come off the bench. And Hill could spark the team with his stellar transition game and his team-leading 40% 3-point shooting.

    You have to remember Pop doesn’t sub whole second units at the same hardly ever. Hill would never be out there with the new-comer second unit as the lead point guard. NEVER.

    “Manu has the ability and pedigree to not only direct players…but make credited adjustments on the fly if things are not going as planned or discombobulated at the time. Better so than Hill in my opinion. And better than Parker when it comes to having to play with new players on the court.”

    There’s no reason with Hill coming off the bench that one of Manu or TP could be on the court when 3 or more second unit players are also in the game.

  • rob

    Jim Henderson

    “There’s no reason with Hill coming off the bench that one of Manu or TP could be on the court when 3 or more second unit players are also in the game.”

    Yeah…that is how it usually plays out. But still…Parker and Hill proved to be a really good combination last year.

    And if I had my druthers…I would prefer Manu off the bench to lead the new players rather than having either Parker or Hill having to take on that role.

    Parker is a self containment type of player that uses his help on the court only if he can’t do what he does effectively. Hill is too young and raw to help other teammates younger or less experienced than he to get productively involved. At least not yet.

    Manu has neither of those issues. Which would help more if ever having to direct on the court.

    That plus Hill is probably this team’s best perimeter defender. And having the best defender on the court against the opponents best offensive guards would probably contribute to a more solid contribution than when the other team’s less effective offensive players are on the court.

  • Jim Henderson

    rob
    October 16th, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    “Parker and Hill proved to be a really good combination last year.”

    Offensively yes, but they are challenged defensively, particularly against big back court opponents.

    “…I would prefer Manu off the bench to lead the new players rather than having either Parker or Hill having to take on that role.”

    Manu would still get the majority of time as a starter with the new-comers off the second unit. It’s all about substitution patterns. TP is also underrated as a facilitator because he’s such a dominant scorer off the dribble. For example, he’d be great with the pick & roll with Splitter, as well as with the penetrate and kick for a wide open Anderson three.

    “That plus Hill is probably this team’s best perimeter defender.”

    Actually in my view Manu is our best perimeter defender. Ideally Hill should split most of his time with Manu, and then with Temple, and perhaps Neal if he has sufficient play-making skills. Hill and Parker are a very good combo, but their lack of size can hurt defensively against big SG’s, so their minutes together should be more limited, except against undersized back courts like Golden State, Memphis, and the Clippers as just three examples. Generally speaking, if the opposing team has a offensively talented SG at 6’6″ or taller (e.g., Lakers, Blazers, Rockets, etc.), if at all possible, I would limit the TP/Hill combo, particularly if Anderson, Temple, & Neal can earn limited rotation minutes defensively at the SG.

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