Manu Ginobili: The New/Old Jason Kidd
When Manu Ginobili signed his contract this summer, a lot of Spurs fans thought it was a steep price for a Ginobili with declining skills. The last memories we had of Ginobili was a really bad Game 6 of the NBA Finals and then a bad fourth quarter of Game 7. A lot fans were hoping Ginobili would sign for half of his two year, $14.5 million deal.
So the expectations for Ginobili weren’t high coming in to the season. However, he’s been quietly brilliant. His raw averages don’t jump off the chart. 10.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists don’t scream All-Star by any means, but All-Star Ginobili is gone and isn’t coming back. What we have now is the floor general of the second team, a guy who is helping Boris Diaw, Patty Mills and especially Marco Belinelli have some of best years of their careers. For example, Belinelli’s suddenly shooting career highs in both field goal and 3-point percentage. A large part of that has to do with his chemistry with Ginobili, who has assisted on 20 of Belinelli’s 66 baskets.
While Ginobili’s scoring is at its lowest since his rookie, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The main culprit is his free throw shooting, or lack thereof. Right now, Ginobili’s averaging one free throw a game. Normally this would be cause for concern, but he’s hyper efficient in the paint, Right now, Ginobili’s shooting 71 percent in the restricted area. His assist and rebound numbers are also consistent with his career averages. This is where current Manu reminds me of Jason Kidd during his second run the Dallas Mavericks. Kidd’s first full year in Dallas he averaged a double-double, but after that the numbers dropped off. Around the same time, Mark Cuban decided to sign Kidd to a three year, $27 million deal. People scoffed at it, but Kidd was able to take on a smaller role and become a key part of Dallas’ title team.
Ginobili can do the same thing. He does different things than Kidd did, but they’re two of the smartest players in league history whose games are well rounded enough that their careers extended past their primes. Staying healthy is key, we’ve never seen new/old Manu in this reduced role while healthy for an extended period of time. He’s surrounded by weapons no matter what line up he’s playing with, which means he has to force the issue a lot less, which brings the turnovers down and brilliant Manu up. This is what aging Ginobili looks like, and while it’s not all great (his outside shooting isn’t great), but it’s been pretty damn fun through the first month of the season. Let’s just hope any future Ginobili coaching career goes smoother than Kidd’s first month.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com