Manu Ginobili to the bench

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It’s a popular thing to do this time of year, write a season preview. We’re getting close to the start of the season and soon the content will create itself. No better way to pass the time than to take stock of where teams are at and what you can expect this season.

I usually try to avoid most season previews. Much like giving Super Bowl picks in July, nobody really knows, it’s a lot of looking at last season and providing guess work. That said, I look forward to John Hollinger’s season previews each year. Over at ESPN.com, Hollinger breaks down each team by player and goes into a level of statistical detail few writers do. They’re usually pretty accurate.

This week he detailed the Spurs (Insider), and in his report we find plenty of evidence that the Spurs should start the year with Manu Ginobili on the bench.

When healthy, Manu is arguably the Spurs’ most dynamic offensive player. He may not score like Tony Parker, but Ginobili might still be a bigger threat. Though, as Hollinger noted, “Ginobili is basically a point guard at this point, leading all shooting guards in both assist ratio and pure point guard rating.”

While having two point guards on the floor at the same time is nice and all — Parker and Manu play great together — it’s not ideal for the rest of the Spurs’ rotations. After TJ Ford’s retirement last season, the Spurs were left without a legit backup point guard for a stretch (no offense Cory Joseph). Patty Mills was signed late in the season, but his addition was too late for him to break into the rotation. The Spurs often employed Gary Neal as the man tasked with initiating the offense for the second unit as a result. It did not always go well.

With Mills re-signing with the Spurs, he’ll have a full training camp, preseason and regular season to solidify a spot in the rotation, most likely as Tony Parker’s backup. The problem is, Patty Mills isn’t all that much of a point guard, in the traditional sense that is. “[Mills] shot extremely well in his limited time [last season], making 24 of 56 3s and all 15 free throw attempts,” Hollinger wrote. “He shot a lot, too: His usage rate nearly matched Tony Parker’s, and it wasn’t because of the assists.”

Mills will stretch the floor tremendously this season as a 3-point shooter as has the speed and quickness to get the Spurs into their offense quickly and harass opposing 1s on defense. I just don’t expect him to set the table for his teammates like TJ Ford did last year. And if Danny Green is playing alongside Mills in the second unit? I can’t imagine the confusion on Tiago Splitter’s face when he’s frantically trying to find someone to set a pick for and it’s not happening.

The Spurs don’t have the top-heavy talent of Oklahoma City or the Lakers, but they’ve got one of the deepest rosters in the entire league. Starting Danny Green alongside Parker and bringing Manu Ginobili off the bench gives the Spurs two solid five-man units that can build, hold and extend leads. You know, in the regular season.

  • SargeSmash

    I think the only thing that’s going to allow the Spurs to win it all this year is improvement by the new guys in the system, and marked improvements from Kawhi. It’s the only hope that the Spurs have of keeping pace with the Thunder and Lakers.

    That being said, the Spurs picked a bad time to go cold. Every team has these stretches, and OKC took advantage. As for the newly-constituted Lakers… well, we can hope Bryant’s production falls off a cliff, and that Howard really isn’t that much of an upgrade from Bynum. The Spurs handled the Lakers pretty darn well last year, despite the presence of those two seven-footers.

  • DorieStreet

    Thanks for reminding me—time to head to the store and skim all the basketball magazines. I look to see what the party line will be on various things for the upcoming season (90% of the pundits will pick a Heat-Lakers Final, Lebron James MVP, Anthony Davis ROY), plus some off the wall choices (I guarantee someone will opine a Knicks-Clippers championship series). And it’s interesting to read the team capsules, from what teams will suprise and those that will be the dregs of the season. I’ll peruse as many as I can and come back with a ‘report’.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    That’s so meta, previewing the season previews.

  • zainn

    I completely agree that Howard isn’t really that much better than Bynum. Howard is better in defense and Bynum has a good offensive game. Since Gasol was soft last season, they needed the offense from bynum, and now that’s all gone. All they have is Nash for about 15 minutes, then he gets tired. Nash is a defensive liability, and now Kobe has even more weight on his shoulders to shoot EVEN MORE! That’s why i’m honestly not worried too much about the lakers vs the spurs this season. Only worried that MWP might knock off someone’s head. That’s about it.

  • yomarianob

    With this five on the floor, the Spurs would be Champions: Parker – MANU – Kawhi Leonard- Captain Jack – TIM DUNCAN….

  • Graham

    Well everone forgets they won’t have Howard for a couple months to start, and he’ll have to integrate into the offense too. That should be enough as long as we keep a good semblance of the efficiency we had in the 2nd half to get us a nice lead I think. What we do with it is hard to guess.

    On the original point, Manu is absolutely essential off the bench, and keeps us a true 48 minutes of offensive hell, as it were. With the expected second line, manu at the helm of that will make that unit nearly as deadly as the first.

  • ThatBigGuy

    Hollinger on Splitter: “If he plays anywhere near this well again [in reference to last season's extremely efficient offensive production], he’s going to get paid with a capital P.”

    Will the Spurs have the resources or the inclination to overpay a #2 big next season?

  • STIJL

    And as pointed out by Andrew, Splitter will need a Manu to allow him to be most effective off PnR’s. Heck…several times last year I saw Splitter wide open to finish with Tony playing point only to see Parker passing up the easier of shots to attempt by trying a more difficult circus shot than passing it to Splitter.

    What good is PnR if the more open player isn’t afforded the shot over a more difficult attempt?

  • Graham

    I think no, though I think he’ll get a good offer from the FO. The problem is teams have a tendency to dramatically overpay bigs and the Spurs as a rule try not to do that.

  • Graham

    In stretches, absolutely, though StackJack would have problems with Strong 4s in the post. Keeping Manu on the bench is what makes our 2nd unit click though and I’m loathe to suggest keeping him out of it save for desperation situations. Green or even Neal at the 2 is going to be more fitting when Tony is available as a facilitator and isn’t being bottled up.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Expect DorieStreet’s preview of the season previews to be informative and interesting. On the downside, it will likely include only the briefest of sketches of each publication and is likely to focus almost exclusively on Spurs content.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Regarding the Lakers, Hollinger made an interesting point about their backcourt: Neither Nash nor Bryant will be able to rely on their teammates to take on tougher defensive guards. He basically described Bryant as good but vastly overrated on defense and pointed out that he virtually never guarded tough wing players. The same, of course, was true of Nash, who is extremely vulnerable on defense. Kobe has the ability to check better players, but the Lakers are going to struggle desperately against teams that can field three tough wing players. Metta and Bryant can only account for two and Nash will be badly exposed. Certainly Gasol and Howard can help in such situations, but what if a team has three tough perimeter scorers (e.g. Parker, Leonard, and Ginobili), a tough interior scorer (Duncan), another interior player who can stretch the defense (Diaw or Bonner), and enough passing to find the open man? Something’s gotta give and I can foresee either a layup, a three pointer, or a foul by a Lakers big man as the most likely outcomes.

  • Titletown99030507d

    So what? DH will be there for the playoffs. Then what?

  • Titletown99030507d

    Good point. That’s what most people here are missing. This happened a lot with Danny Green as well. Throwing up bricks and ignoring the sure score. I saw this all season long. The best PNR man on the team and one of the best in the league and still crickets. “This man will get paid with a capital P!”

  • DorieStreet

    With 2-3 months to get up to speed and for the Lakers to experiment will lineup combos and tempo variations. The big question is will the weight of expectations be too much for Dwight Howard to (a) expand and improve his offensive skills, and (b) match the toughness and will of the future HOFs he will suit up with.

  • DorieStreet

    Howard on the court will free up Gasol to play more like he does with his national team—more movement offensively, able to gamble more on defense. It will take them a while to work it out, but they will cause matchup problems for many teams.

  • easy b

    Hey Andrew,
    Haven’t responded to any of your writing to date. Really enjoy the site, it’s great therapy for an Aussie spurs tragic since the John Lucas days ( remember drobs buzzer tip in over h-town that shouldn’t have been allowed, but Lucas’s fist pumps were so good I think he sold the refs), and I’ve come to appreciate the great lessons the spurs org have given me since my late teens.
    We all talk about the bigs we don’t have and the star power we need. I did feel that despite the spurs depth last year, it came down to a core 5 that played most of the minutes, and OKC have a better 5 than our best 5. The difference is only a few years of athleticism, but it was clear. Still, we may have got through if we played a better game 5.
    I don’t think we beat Miami last year though.
    I see why everyone wants a PF defender and shot changer – who doesn’t need that?
    Josh smith for Tony got thrown around, but i doubt that would happen. It could work for both teams because Patty, Manu and Someone else could run the point. I’m not a fan of moving TP; I am more a fan of trying to trade 4 bench pieces to try and improve the starting 5. But maybe Jax and TP and Neal or Blair or Bonner for Teague and smith. Ferry might want more for a big trade. It could make both teams lethal. Horford, Parker, Jax, Devin and zaza or Eric damp or other filler. Plenty of scoring, size and attitude. Might beat jersey. Spurs could start Teague with the crew and have Manu buffeting mills with plenty of good subs to be had.
    If we roll with Jak and Tony, I’ll be happy. I just hope we get another 7fter with 6 fouls to hammer Howard and annoy perk and mr Congo. If Green and Kawhi become Demi-stars for the spurs, we might really scare OKC and LA and Dallas and Memphis – sheesh, the conference is packed this year.
    Thanks for the site.

  • km1141

    Of course Manu’s going to come off the bench. With Manu getting older and our team having more guys that can step up and produce I see Manu being used with very limited time until the playoffs. Sad to know that after this season Manu could possibly retire.