More on the big man pairings


What the heck, it’s defend Matt Bonner day here at 48MoH. Earlier today I posted about the lack of time on the court that Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter see together, even in late in games after the rotations have concluded. Basically saying that the improvement on offense with Bonner in the game is greater than the takeaways on defense.

Well, has a fancy new stats tool for media folks to use. One of the things in there is the ability to look a lineup data, and narrow it down to all the five, four, three and two players were together on the court. For instance, we’re able to look at some of the numbers this season with different big men combination. At the risk of getting too deep and confusing myself and everybody reading, we’ll look at the offensive and defensive efficiency numbers for different combos of Spurs big men.

Offensive and defensive rating are points per 100 possessions. So a offensive rating of 104.8 would be 104.8 points scored per 100 possessions. Likewise, a defensive rating of 102.8 would be 102.8 points conceded in 100 possessions.

ComboMinutes per gameOffensive RatingDefensive Rating
DeJuan Blair / Tiago Splitter3.3104.8102.8
Blair / Tim Duncan15.7101.899.4
Duncan / Tiago Splitter5.498.897.6
Duncan / Matt Bonner7.4111.297.7
Bonner / Splitter11.9114.298.8

Mind you, these are the totals for all lineups featuring those combos of players.

Now I will admit that the Duncan-Bonner combo has seen almost three times as many minutes as the Duncan-Splitter combo (about 362 minutes over 49 games to about 118 minutes in 22 games). My point isn’t to discount the lineups featuring Tiago and Tim, it’s simply to let you know that the lineups featuring Duncan and Bonner are not nearly as bad defensively as people think. Quite the opposite in fact. Even the lineup with Bonner and Splitter is good defensively. The .1 point difference in 100 possessions between Duncan with Bonner and with Splitter is practically nothing. The Duncan-Splitter combo could be better defensively over another 150-200 minutes, but as of right now it’s pretty much the same as Duncan-Bonner and the lineups featuring Bonner are a whole lot better offensively.

  • andy

    look, i’ll defend the red rocket’s contributions to the spurs as much as the next guy, but the problem has and will always be what he brings to the postseason, which hasn’t been much. i maintain that what he gets us, he gets in the regular season.

    we can highlight what his spacing brings to our offense and how much he doesn’t suck at defense, but that spacing disappears in the playoffs, and he’s only had one even decent showing. maybe this is the year he breaks through (that little dribble floater off the 3pt line is still ugly, but if he learns how to hit the open man off the rotation, it could be dangerous), but forgive me if i still feel like more splitter-duncan minutes would still be valuable to see.

  • Andres

    I think that stats are missing the obvious. Although Matt is a decent defender most nights, the real issue is playing against LA or Memphis. Both front lines complete abuse bonner, and in the offensive end they won’t allow any open looks ( he didn’t have many in the memphis series). So yes, Matt is a decent defender, but against LA or Memphis, it’s a slaughter.

  • Spurhoic in Mumbai

    Hi Andy

    Maybe the solution is to give Matt’s game another dimension, right now he is known only for the three-point shot and come playoffs, the focus on him increases. Thus, the “split” additional second available in the regular season with teams not so focused on his three point, disappears in the playoffs.
    Just As TD has consciously focused on eschewing the 15 foot shot, which he was heaving last season. Currently, he makes a very conscious effort to go for the drive rather than just heave the 15 footer. This has kept the defense on him more honest, opening up more gaps for him to exploit, either as a passer or for the slam (when was it in the previous season you saw TD slam?) and has given him the boost to stack up his tally post the All Star break. Currently, MB’s drive is an object of ughly, uncontrolled and missing the target most of the time. If this aspect of his game is spruced, ironically it will help his three point play and convert him from a non factor to a factor in the playoffs.

  • Deeds130

    The results SA has (a) against weak competition, and (b) with regular season games/style of play, simply aren’t an issue. It’s almost guaranteed that we will face LAL in round 2, and should we survive that, MIA (who is very quick to rotate, more vulnerable inside, and must be be kept off the boards) or CHI in round 4. 

    Its great that Bonner has improved. The system is built around his skill set, and this team has been coached to execute that way, and yes, the Spurs execute those schemes well.  What is deeply disturbing, is that the Spurs haven’t developed a well-honed alternative to stick it to the superior teams when things get ugly. I can’t get my head around Blair’s defense and rebounding, and this is largely the fault of the coaching. Box out, box out, box out, we need your physical mass and strength, we need rebounding, box out or go sit next to James Anderson. Tim and Tiago simply haven’t been given a chance, and the coaches haven’t attended to making the most of them, despite the obvious value of having (a) another interior scorer to capably share the burden with the big 3 (ntm, Bonner) should one them struggle to score (which WILL happen to Tony, Tim, et al) and (b) 2 smart, long defenders. Matt Bonner improved, but Splitter is what he is?!? Now, we are hoping Diaw, who was cut in CHA because he refused to shoot the ball, is gonna leapfrog somebody by virtue of his versatile skill set, when we never properly tapped the potential that was already there.  

    If Bonner vindicates himself in these playoffs, god bless him, he’ll certainly be given the opportunity. But tough luck for the hearts of Spurs nation, if he struggles again this year, because we have no plan B in our tool kit. The Spurs will be it figuring out on the fly (just like last year), or just as likely, sticking with plan A come hell or high-water, live or die, go down with the ship.  It simply isn’t necessary, or prudent, to have SO MUCH dependent on Matt Bonner.  It might actually be crazy (it certainly makes me FEEL crazy when I watch us get spanked by said teams, knowing it was going to happen… and that Pop isn’t gonna do anything about it.)

  • TD = BestEVER

    Isn’t every week Defend Bonner week…….. I remember back when he was signed you guys were defending him……. and even last year into the playoffs…… So lets just be real here……..

    Bonner’s numbers are a result of 2 things and 2 things ONLY!!!!!!!!!

    1. Intelligence(Spurs System-we play smarter than almost any other team)
    2. Weak Competition(Spurs bench unit is better than everyone else’s and has been for a while, mainly because of number 1)And now we can simply outscore most bench units.

    But come playoff time we all know that these things can change and will change quickly…..

  • lvmainman

    What I’d like to see is those combo’s rating vs. playoff caliber competition. In the playoffs, Bonner has been atrocious. I believe in the last 2 playoffs, as in individual, Bonner has had the WORST defensive rating on the team.

  • Bob
  • theghostofjh


    Wrong. Blair should be the 2nd/3rd big, and Bonner the 5th. Stats can be used for any purpose. In this case, they were used in a failed attempt to validate the blog author’s preconceived notion that Bonner is more valuable to the Spurs in the playoffs compared to Blair. This is clearly not the case, for a number of reasons, reasons I’ve pointed out repeatedly in the past, and will not spend the time rehashing here.

  • Ash

    So are you guys saying that you know more about who to play when than Pop? I hope you realize the error of your ways. Bonner is the man…accept it and move on

  • Krista

    When you argue that Bonner has sucked in the playoffs and that he didn’t get many open shots in last years playoffs, it is a bit misleading if you ignore the fact that if Manu and Tony aren’t penetrating, no one will be open and no one will shoot that well. Not just Bonner. While the bigs for Memphis and Lakers can slow down the Spurs penetration, I believe that a healthy Manu penetrating would have helped spread the floor last year, providing more open looks for the entire team. As good as Tony is, Manu is better at it. He can fit into smaller spaces and his passing is better.

    One of the reasons I trust the stats showing the Spurs are more effective with Bonner than with Blair is something I can see for myself. Bonner doesn’t make stupid mistakes (or rarely does). Blair tries to do too much sometimes which results in a bad shot or a stupid turnover and fast break for the opponent. And his rebounding is way down from his rookie year. I don’t know why that is, but it is. Bonner seems to provide his best all the time, and Blair doesn’t. Blair’s ceiling might be higher than Bonner’s, but if he isn’t reaching it, and Bonner is reaching his, then Bonner should get more minutes.

    As for playing Tim and Tiago together more, I’d like to see it against Memphis and Lakers, but when they’re in together, the lanes aren’t quite as open. While Tim can shoot from outside, Tiago can’t and Tim has been left open this year. If his shot isn’t falling, his and Tiago’s man will pack the lane, shutting down penetration, and reducing open looks. I personally want either Tim or Tiago on the floor at all times, which makes it difficult to play them together.

  • MSteele_in_Éire

    Matt Bonner/Manu Ginobili combo has an offensive efficiency rating of 126.5 in 305 mins. And Bonner is third in the league behind Manu and Harden with 112.6 offensive efficiency rating, now obviously that has a lot to do with the players he’s playing with but at the end of the day with Matt Bonner on the floor (even though he appears an absolutely horrible defender) we’ve outscored opponents by 312 points this season.

  • Bob

    What pretty much got Blair out of the rotation in the playoffs was making too many mistakes.

  • spurzztop

    Bonner does play decent defense vs most players and i even applaud his effort,
    hell he plays better D than RJ did when he was still here and Matty hits the 3 alot more.

  • Aaron

    I really do believe we need to stick with the group that got us here. Blair has made some pretty stupid mistakes over the last couple of games and I’ve seen an overall lack of effort in boxing out from him. However, I think he has to get the opportunity to be a starter throughout the first round. DeJuan’s level of play matches his confidence, if we bench him for the first round I feel we’ve lost him for the playoffs.

  • TheRealDirtyP1

    Ah, it doesn’t matter. The Bonner haters will continue to hate. Eventually they’ll be right, right? If he goes off, they’re quiet or they’ll say “oh just wait”. Bonner has his place, he’ll never be a starter. Blair wouldn’t start in many other places, so let’s not overinflate what he really is. They both have their moments but apparently Blair has a much shorter leash than Bonner does.
    The only answer here if you want to differentiate the two in numbers is to flip flop them, but Pop is not going to ever start Bonner unless both Tim and Tiago are out. It would be cool to see DJB come off the bench, but he’s better suited to starting.
    Players have roles on this team, and these guys fill their roles.

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  • Hobson13

    Bonner’s last 3 playoff appearances:

    2008-09 He shot 23% from 3
    2009-10 He shot 37% from 3
    2010-11 He shot 33% from 3

    His career 3pt % in the playoffs is 32%
    His career 3pt % in the regular season is almost 42%

    Let’s say this one more time: Matt Bonner is a decent regular season player who does not play well defensively in the playoffs against good front lines (of which there are many in the West). In the playoffs, teams also have the ability to game plan and simply run him off the 3pt line or crowd him thus negating his ability to space the floor by shooting the 3.

    We’ve gone over this ad naseum for over 2 years, but some of you still don’t get it. He’s played substantial minutes in each of our last 3 playoff runs. How many more times do we need to trot him out in a playoff situation before some of you will begin to realize his great limitations in the postseason?

  • Kev


    First and foremost, there are absolutely no differences in the player from the last regular season game, to the start of the playoffs. Now I do agree, playing the same team for a slated 7-game series allows the opposition to game plan, but that doesn’t change the player. Those numbers are a bit misleading because you’re taking a fairly small sample (playoffs) and comparing them to 82-game seasons. For instance, I can snag a 4-game sample in the middle of 82-games and portray Bonner as a TERRIBLE 3-point shooter, or I can find another set of 4 games, and portray Bonner as the greatest 3-point shooter in the league. By all accounts, Bonner is not responsible for winning games, and he plays substantial minutes because of his ability to knock down open shots and creating SPACE for interior play (both by Duncan, and drives by both Ginobili and Parker). Blair and Splitter do not do this.

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  • The Life of Ghost

    Sorry, can’t let this stand:

    Ghost, you’re a know-nothing who does exactly what he accuses others of doing.

    “AND the TEAM sports a 91-26 record in the last 117 games with TD & Blair starting at the 4/5 position, and getting about 28 & 21 mpg., respectively. WHY would we want to mess with that?”

    Yeah, that looks like real solid statistical analysis. The same analysis that would lead one to conclude that Robert Horry is, without any doubt, the greatest player of the last 40 years.


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