Pop on Bogans, Krolik on James

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One thought I can’t chase away, no matter how remote the possibility, is the thought of LeBron James coming west this summer. Imagine a conference featuring Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Brandon Roy and LeBron James.

Killer, right?

Hold that thought a moment.

A lingering curiosity for the current season is why Keith Bogans receives so many minutes in San Antonio’s rotation. Statistically-speaking, there is very little, if any, evidence that he deserves heavy minutes. He has a reputation as the Spurs’ best wing defender, which may be true. But he’s backed his way into the distinction. The Spurs, simply put, lack noteworthy wing defense. The notion of George Hill or Keith Bogans as game-changing perimeter stoppers is something of a myth. Each player has his moments, but neither consistently stifles the opponent.

San Antonio’s lack of a go to wing defender is a glaring personnel issue.

Still, Gregg Popovich rolls with Bogans out of an abiding philisophical conviction, not a statistical one.

“He’s really the centerpiece of the whole thing,” Popovich said.

Centerpiece?

“It sounds strange,” Popovich said. “You’ve got Timmy out there, and Tony and Manu — to say he’s the centerpiece. By that I mean … I like to have a starter who doesn’t need the ball, who gives us a defensive identity … somebody I can say, ‘Go play him. Go do your best to stop him.’ For us, that’s been our style for 12 years.”

More than any other wing, LeBron James demands defensive scrutiny. John Krolik frames James’ statistical dominance this way:

LeBron James currently leads the league with 26.3 wins added. Dwyane Wade is second, with 18.3 wins added. That is an 8-win gap. The size of the gap between James and Wade is the size of the gap between Wade and Marc Gasol, who is currently 18th in Wins added. If the Cavs had lost eight more games, they would be behind the Magic for the lead in the East, and right in the mix with Boston and Atlanta.

James, Wade, and Durant are the only players with more than 15 wins added. Only nine players have half as many wins added as James does so far this season. The gap between James and Dirk Nowitzki, who is currently #8 in wins added, is the size of the gap between Dirk and Dante Cunningham, who is tied for 198th in wins added.

According to EWA, if James was replaced with a replacement-level small forward like Mickael Pietrus, the Cavaliers would be 23-41. That would make them a slightly worse team than the Clippers this season.

Early last decade, the Spurs built their roster with an aim toward beating the Kobe-Shaq Lakers. But the game has changed, and the next decade requires a roster designed to slow the league’s best wings. It’s foolish to think one can stop Durant or James, but Popovich shows the right impulse by insisting on a rotation which features the best possible wing defense.  It’s the single most important defensive consideration facing would-be contenders. But it is, sadly, one question for which San Antonio’s answers are found wanting.

  • ITGuy

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • SpurredOn

    Might Hairston develop into such a defender? Remember, Bowen didn’t start out as a potential DPOY. He worked his way to it.

  • http://www.goodtimescomic.blogspot.com Jordan

    We should’ve tried to get Afflalo instead of Bogan imo.

  • matteddie

    We do need a great wing defender, but, one of our glaring issues is a 5 who can also block shots and get rebounds on a nightly basis. A lot of wing guys looked good in the past with the spurs with two 7-footers there to make sure no easy layups are given. Now, people go to the rim at will against us. Heck, I caught myself a few weeks back actually missing Rasho Nesterovic.

  • Blofeld

    Bogans is the centerpiece? Centerpiece of what, a pu-pu platter? I think Bogans slipped Pop a roofie. What a joke! Bogans couldn’t guard a chicken on the wing….

  • dmc465

    I don’t get why everyone is blaming Bogans for all the Spurs’ woes this season. Granted, he has huge shoes to fill- Bowen was even more valuable than most of us realized at the time- but Bogans is doing a really solid job this year.

    I think people just look at the box score and see a bunch of zeroes next to his name, so they assume he is worthless.

    But if you actually watch him play, and I mean really focus on watching Bogans playing man-to-man D, you will see what Pop sees.

    He’s lacking a bit in size, but he’s got the muscle and lateral quickness to limit guys like Rudy Gay, LeBron, and Carmelo.

    He may not be Bruce, or even Shane Battier, but he’s the best we’ve got this year. And he works hard. So cut him some slack.

  • DieHardSpur

    So, lemme know if i get this right…

    Spurs should mop the floors with a LeBron-less Cav’s?

  • SpurredOn

    @dmc465 – you are quite correct.

    It reminds me of the people who viewed Bowen as a weakness. Note that I’m not comparing Bogans to Bruce, but in team hoops there’s more than scoring points.

  • BALLHOG

    Fellas……..

    The Quote was…..

    …”Bogans is the centerpiece”…

    Now I could post on that for 28 days or so without food or water…But, because it is such a powerful statement, I decided to just leave it alone and walk away…..

    Good Luck tonight Spurs….

    Talk with you fellas after the game….

    Should be interesting….

  • Tyler

    Finding an elite wing defender is akin to finding another All-Star. There are just very, very few of them out there in today’s league. With all the rule changes that favor the offensive player, there’s probabaly only 5-6 players that fit the bill (Battier, Artest, Batum, Sefelosha, Brewer….?).

    Matteddie – I would kill for a Rasho/Jeff Foster type right now.

    The Spurs defensive philosophy requires two major things – wings pressuring guys off the 3 point line, yet keeping guys out of the lane and bigs that contest shots (and not fouling) when guards are funnelled to them. Right now, we are lacking in both departments. Would an elite wing defender help us? Of course. Would a shot blocking big help? Yes. But, one without the other won’t solve the problems we’ve had on the defensive end the last two years.

    My point is this – Keith Bogans would look infinitely better if we had a Nesterovich/Jeff Foster type big behind him at all times. As it stands, Bogans might do a great job, yet you, I or anyone might not notice b/c his man ends up scoring over a Dejuan Blair or Matt Bonner.

  • OneWing

    Maybe I’m just drinking the Kool-Aid, but I can see what Pop is saying.

    First, he’s admitting that his options for a lock-down perimeter defender are lacking. Essentially, he is saying that Bogans’ defense is similar to other options that he has for that role.

    Second, he is saying that all things being equal, his gut tells him that his lock-down perimeter defender (or in this case, the closest thing he has to that) should be a player that does not require the ball on offense.

    In general, our offensive efficiency this season has backed up the idea that we do not need or even want four people on the floor that need the ball to create offense. (see also: Bonner, Matt; Blair, Dejuan; or opposing philosophy: Jefferson, Richard; Mason, Roger)

    As such, if our starting perimeter players were including Parker and Hill, Parker and Finley, Parker and Manu or Parker and Mason, our third perimeter player, the one that we will rely on for defense, needs to be a player that does not require the ball in their hands to be effective of offense.

    Again, this is according to Pop’s “gut” philosophy. Statistically, looking at previous posts where APM shows Bogans playing poorly with Parker but well with Manu, you could probably go either way with this.

    Alternatively, look at how poor the team plays with Jefferson playing the three in the starting rotation (ignoring the fact that we should know by now that we cannot consider Jefferson a decent four in any kind of situation).

    Essentially, the biggest disappointment that Pop probably feels in regards to Bogans has nothing to do with his defense. Pop probably feels relatively OK with his D, given the limitations that we are all aware he has. Pops biggest disappointment is almost certainly with Bogans being unable to hit the spot-up 3 with any consistency. This creates turnovers and fast-break opportunities, further limiting the defensive presence that Bogans is capable of bringing.

    Don’t read Pop’s quote above and concentrate on the Defense. It is the offense that Pop is working around when he plays Bogans, from what I’m reading from him.

  • Jim Henderson

    matteddie
    March 8th, 2010 at 10:03 am

    My sentiments exactly!

  • Spurred in SD

    I agree, Bogans is a defensive-minded player that can at times hit a shot.

    He plays tough and is not afraid to play hard, along with the hard foul. How many Spurs are willing to give a hard foul, actively take pride in defense. We do not have nor do most teams have, “lock-down” defenders. Make life tough for the opposing player is what we ask.

    Can Malik H. develop? sure Over time.

    While I wanted to see a trade happen, I still think if things fall right for us (health in playoffs for us) then we can hoist another banner. Pressure is a beautifull thing when you see teams fall under it (Dallas)

  • Jim Henderson

    Tyler
    March 8th, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    “With all the rule changes that favor the offensive player, there’s probabaly only 5-6 players that fit the bill (Battier, Artest, Batum, Sefelosha, Brewer….?).”

    And the Grizzlies somehow pick up Brewer at the trade deadline for a couple of draft picks?! (by the way, I suggested in a previous comment, that we try to make a deal for him prior to the trade deadline). That’s one deal I hope we went after, and just failed. But I’m not so sure. We certainly don’t hear about any such efforts from the team or media. So none of us really know.

    “My point is this – Keith Bogans would look infinitely better if we had a Nesterovich/Jeff Foster type big behind him at all times.”

    Your overall points in your post are well-taken, but Bogans INFINITELY better with another big to protect the rim? No, not “infinitely”, but it is true he might get less blame for our team defensive woes. Still, as I’m sure you’d agree, the Bogans’ role needs an upgrade whether we at some point pick up another solid shot-blocking presence in the paint or not.

  • Joe

    @Jim Henderson:

    Minor point, but I think Tyler probably meant Corey Brewer, not Ronnie Brewer.

  • Bushka

    Don’t take the quote out of context guys.

    “It sounds strange,” Popovich said. “You’ve got Timmy out there, and Tony and Manu — to say he’s the centerpiece. By that I mean … I like to have a starter who doesn’t need the ball, who gives us a defensive identity”

    He is merely pointing out that you get stars with the other three, high usage, efficient stars all the same.

    You get a guy who doesn’t need the basketball with Bogans and who is only there to be about the defense.

    Sadly that defense ..it’s not enough lol. I think thats something that must kill Pop.

    Just how valuable Bruce was for us and just how much RJ is not who we thought he would be.

    As much as you may not like Bogans, he plays aggressively and with a lot of effort, he plays D the right way he just isn’t Bruce.

  • Tyler

    Jim Henderson –

    The Jazz didn’t want to take back any salary in the Brewer deal, so as to cut their luxury tax bill this season. That can only be done by trading with a team that has cap space, which we obviously don’t. We couldn’t give them what they wanted, Memphis could. Same idea behind the Eric Maynor deal to OKC.

    Maybe “infinitely” was the wrong choice of words, but my point is the same. If we had Rasho or Jeff Foster behind Bogans, I suspect Bogans would show much better in the metrics than he does now.

  • Tyler

    Joe –

    I did mean Ronnie Brewer. However, the more I think about it, I don’t think I could put him on the list w/ Battier and co. Corey Brewer might eventually make the list, but he’s definitely not there yet, not even to Ronnie Brewer’s level.

  • Robert

    I don’t buy it. Keith Bogans isn’t the starter this team needs. He’s just a roleplayer. Saying he is a “defense-first” kind of player is just a nice way of saying he can’t play a lick of offense.

    You cannot replace Bruce Bowen. At this moment no one in the NBA, and I mean no one, is currently as good of a perimeter lockdown defender as Bowen was for this team. Not Shane Battier, not Ron Artest, nobody.

    Doesn’t mean Spurs can’t get a good defense again. I think guys like George Hill are a good start in getting that ball rolling. There are players in the league that can be molded into lockdown defenders. Bogans isn’t one of them however.

  • Bushka

    Yeah Robert I guess that’s the issue isn’t it.

    When Pop says that Bogans is the focal point, he means that we are only as strong as that player.

    We know what we get from the big 3. Thats the solid facts. We can only be lifted over the top teams with the strength of that defensive specialist.

    I wonder if Hairston has it in him to become that player next season?

  • Jim Henderson

    OneWing
    March 8th, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Good points. I understand very well what Pop’s talking about. And I can’t argue with his philosophy (it’s brought us 4 titles). The problem I have is that after the Houston game Pop never gave Hairston the opportunity to absorb Bogans role as the wing defender, as a player that “doesn’t need the ball” (a case for which I’ve presented in some detail in previous comments since the all-star break).

    Hairston appears to be comparable to Bogans defensively (with the potential of being better than Bogans with additional playing time), and via his athleticism, clearly looks more productive & opportunistic in other areas (e.g., rebounding, scoring by getting the ball to the rack, etc.). Bogans does not have a good 3-pt. shot, & howc about Hairston? Well,…we really don’t know (other than he shoots it at a not too shabby 41% clip in the D-league – what is the % of the leading 3-pt. shooters in D-league?) because we don’t give him a shot with regular minutes (& I don’t mean 50 seconds) during non-junk time, and show confidence in him, etc.

    I’m sure Pop has his reasons, but I’m struggling to even come up with a “legitimate” or convincing line of speculation about “why” no chance for Hairston.

    And by the way, we don’t HAVE to have an established 3-pt. guy at SF, if he does most of the “other” things well. Just put Bonner and/or Mason in the line up to help spread the floor when Hairston is in if we’re worried about his 3-pt. accuracy at first.

    Any thoughts, anyone?

    Spurred in SD
    March 8th, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    “Can Malik H. develop? sure Over time.”

    How much time? How long has this guy been playing BBALL? How long in the D-League? 23 years old is not that young, is it? (Blair is 20!). How is his performance (D-league, NBA) NOT worthy of a chance for some playing time at a spot where we clearly have a significant weakness? Hairston hasn’t worked hard enough or “paid his dues” yet? Really? WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR? Please, someone just tell me, without just making up your own story about it. Present some sound logic, and DATA where available. Okay?

  • Jim Henderson

    Tyler
    March 8th, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    “The Jazz didn’t want to take back any salary in the Brewer deal, so as to cut their luxury tax bill this season. That can only be done by trading with a team that has cap space, which we obviously don’t. We couldn’t give them what they wanted, Memphis could. Same idea behind the Eric Maynor deal to OKC.”

    Okay. That could be correct. Makes sense.

    “I did mean Ronnie Brewer. However, the more I think about it, I don’t think I could put him on the list w/ Battier and co.”

    Sure, he’s not Battier. But he’s not making 7 mil. per year either (2.7 mil.). Point is, R. Brewer is a definite upgrade over Bogans. Maybe he’s affordable in the off-season (who knows), although I think the Griz will try to resign him.

  • BALLHOG

    @ Jim Henderson

    In reference Hairston…It is a strange situation indeed. Clearly, this young man can play and has versatility. Seems to be a low key, smart player that couldnt possibly hurt this team. He even has size.

    Same goes for Mahinmi…It’s leterally been months of agony and I still cant figure it out. Pop keeps this kid around for 2 years…Toys with him a little in the D League, then finally brings him upduring his 3rd year, just to decline his option and bury him on the bench.

    Add those unsolved mysteries to Finley and Haislip asking for thier walking papers, Mason requesting a trade, and the trade of Theo Ratliff (Who could have easily contributed).

    and finally,

    Coach’s recent comments in which he crowned Bogans as the centerpiece of the team….regardless of the hidden meaning…It is alarming…

    Nevertheless,

    The mere fact that Pop intends to send Bogans out to guard Lebron James (with a straight face) tonight, clearly indicates his awsome sense of humor…

    So I figure, He cant be all bad…..

  • junierizzle

    Bogs has looked good lately. The whole team has.

    Even if LEBRON plays, I think the SPURS should win. They have more talent and they have the advantage of playing small all year.

  • Bushka

    I don’t think we have anyone who can guard Lebron regardless.

    If we want another Bruce we’re going to have to grow him.

    As far as Hairston is concerned he is 23, thats very young for a defensive minded player to come of age, generally D gets better with age.

  • Jim Henderson

    Bushka
    March 8th, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    “As far as Hairston is concerned he is 23, thats very young for a defensive minded player to come of age, generally D gets better with age.”

    That’s true, but from what I can see he deserves more of a shot. Bogans is not a high hurdle for Hairston defensively, even at 23. And, Hairston adds additional athleticism to the mix, which in my limited view, appears to translate into other things that ARE important as well for this team (getting the ball to the rack, rebounding, etc.).

    I’m just saying, why not give him more of a shot? Maybe he’s not really “ready”, but often times that can be difficult to determine without seeing some significant, regular burn time in non-junk minutes.

    And look at Blair. Nobody thought he would make this immediate/significant of a contribution in NBA games by looking at film, practice, scouting reports, etc. It was giving him a shot (because we’re a bit thin on the front line) IN THE GAMES that showed the coaches that Blair deserved more time than they had initially expected.

    I know for Blair it was more for rebounding and offense, but Hairston also looks like an upgrade to Bogans in rebounding & in taking the rock to the rack (these are important to for any forward – even SG). His primary “role” would still be defense, but it seems to make sense that he should continue to work at not just in practice, but “IN GAMES” as well.

    As you know, there’s a limit to how much you can learn through coaching and practice alone (by the way, I like Ronnie Brewer’s defense, and he’s only 24, & got regular minutes with a good team last year at 23). Does Hairston have Brewer’s potential?. I’m not sure anyone knows until he gets some real game time.

  • rj

    @ BALLHOG.

    i’m in agreenment about hairston getting some minutes, but watching mahinmi in garbage time in person was eye opening. we was late on some defensive rotations and his offensive rotations were even worse. maybe he is one of those guys who just doesn’t get it….but i would still like to see him play.

    bogans is an excellent defender and has wise shot collection.

    watching those two guys play against new orleans in person really opened my eyes to exellence hin their role-fulfillment

  • rj

    *selection

  • BayAreaSpursFan

    Im sure the Spurs could have gone out and gotten a better centerpiece this offseason. I think Bogans just filled a spot. It looks liked the Spurs just settled instead of getting the guy they needed.

  • Bushka

    Don’t get me wrong hendo, i’m all aboard the Hairston train and have been for a while.

    I’m not sold on Ian at all. I have even seen him online in international play and he looked ordinary.

    That said so did some other NBA guys who clearly thrive in this league.

  • Jim Henderson

    I agree, Ian has some issues I’m not very comfortable with. I’d like to see him get a little non-junk burn in some games, but that’s about it. There’s a good chance he might not be re-signed, although with the Spurs cap issues, who knows.

  • Cory Clay

    If we are talking about this season, the better option over Bogans would have been Matt Barnes, who also signed for the Vet Minimum.