Manu Ginobili to the bench
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.