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TomShoe's Player Profiles: San Antonio Spurs

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TomShoe's Player Profiles: San Antonio Spurs

So, it turns out "Mr. PER" John Hollinger is putting up his updated player profiles for this year. I know many people want to look at them, but ESPN can be a real B- when they're putting up paywalls and shoving the benefits of insider in your face every other article. So, for sh*ts and giggles, also because I'm pulling my hair out waiting for Oct. 5 (Celtics vs. Fenerbach Ulker), I might as well post them here, for nbadraft.net and the whole internet to enjoy.

Oops, forgot to post the Spurs yesterday. Here they are now, with the Pacers and Lakers to come later today. Enjoy.

- TomShoe

PROJECTED STARTERS

TONY PARKER, PG

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

20.5
3.5
8.9
20.1

(Stats are per 40 minutes)

Scouting report
+ Fleet Frenchman who excels at penetrating for short-range floaters and layups.
+ Subpar outside shooter. Shoot-first mindset, but a much-improved passer.
+ Solid defensive player. Quick and bigger than he looks, but not always engaged.

Analysis
Parker had without a doubt his best season as a distributor. Normally he's played more as a scorer, but last season he ranked fifth in the NBA in pure point rating and dished out 9.6 assists per 40 minutes. He's become much better at locating spot-up shooters in particular, and now uses his driving ability to set up those shots as much as his own floaters. In addition, Parker created a ton of offense (12th in the NBA in usage rate) with the 10th-lowest turnover ratio among point guards.

As a shooter, Parker has more or less given up on 3-pointers, but he had a very good season shooting midrange jumpers when defenders went behind the screen. Parker made 40.9 percent of his long 2s, although he had a lower shooting percentage overall because he "only" made 45.7 percent from 3 to 9 feet -- Parker normally ranks in the top five in the league from this distance. In addition he shot 65.7 percent in the basket area with a high free throw rate, which is impressive stuff from a small guard.

Defensively, the Spurs played dramatically better with Parker on the court, giving up 7.9 points per 100 possessions less. That said, I'm not sure that had a ton to do with Parker. Opposing point guards had a 15.1 player efficiency rating against him according to 82games.com, and Synergy rated him below the league average.

Parker also had the third-lowest foul rate among point guards and one of the lowest steal rates, which jibes with my general impression watching him: He was solid, but he picked his spots and saved his energy for all the racing around he did on offense. The Spurs almost never had him defend elite point guards, often assigning Danny Green the task.

DANNY GREEN, SG

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

15.8
6.1
2.3
15.3

(Stats are per 40 minutes)

Scouting report
+ Jack-of-all trades wing with good outside shot. Weak handle.
+ Good rebounder for size. High scoring rate for a jump shooter.
+ Active defender who gets hands on balls, but not a great athlete.

Analysis
Green's college and D-League stats gave every indication that he was an NBA player, and he finally got a chance to prove it in San Antonio. Plugged in as a sometime-floor spacer, sometime-defensive stopper, sometime-orchestrator, Green's variety of skills made him a perfect chameleon for whatever the Spurs needed.

The key was his 3-point shot; Green made 43.6 percent of his 3s while taking nearly half his tries from beyond the arc. That provided a base for his other skills, which were basically just good enough. He was mediocre in every other offensive category but not awful in any, and combined with all those 3-point bombs it made him valuable. Overall, Green finished ninth at his position in true shooting percentage while scoring at a solid 15.8 points per 40 minutes clip.

Green also proved tenacious on the glass, where he finished sixth among shooting guards in rebound rate, and surprisingly active on defense. He was fourth at his position in blocks per minute and 17th in steals, without an excessive foul rate. In particular, he's become adept at poking balls from behind players without getting burned, and often checked elite point guards to give Tony Parker a breather. He's still more "adequate" than excellent at this end -- and the data was all over the place on him, so it doesn't help us much -- but again, it's another piece of value to add to the 3-point weapon.

Green's 3-point shot abandoned him in the conference finals, making 4-of-23, and he played just eight minutes total in the final two games. He may not shoot 43 percent from downtown again, but he does enough other things reasonably well that he'll be a very solid rotation player.

KAWHI LEONARD, SF

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

14.7
8.1
2.1
18.1

(Stats are per 40 minutes)

Scouting report
+ Long-armed wing with huge hands. Excellent rebounder for size.
+ Athletic finisher but average jump shooter with a slow, low release.
+ Excellent hands and anticipation on defense, but still learning ropes.

Analysis
Leonard was a revelation as a rookie, ranking among the league's top small forwards in several different categories while finishing ninth overall in PER and looking every bit like a young Shawn Marion along the way. His rebounding is his most notable skill, as he finished fifth at his position in rebound rate and second on the offensive glass, but he's also a great finisher who had the third-best 2-point shooting percentage at his position (53.6 percent) and converted 68.8 percent in the basket area.

Leonard didn't draw fouls a high rate, but made very few mistakes for a rookie as well, finishing 11th out of 67 small forwards in turnover ratio. He also proved farther along as a jump shooter, hitting 37.6 percent of his 3s. He mostly shot just wide-open corner shots, however, and he broke down on the move -- Leonard made just 29.4 percent of his long 2s.

Defensively, Leonard had the second-best steals rate at his position and one of the lowest foul rates, an enviable combination. His steals rarely came off bad gambles, but he still has to do a better job in other defensive situations. San Antonio gave up 2.8 points per 100 possessions more with him on the court and opposing small forwards had a 15.0 PER against him, according to 82games.com. The Spurs tried to use him as a defensive stopper early in games, but he's not up for this gig yet. In time, maybe.

BORIS DIAW, PF

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

10.4
7.5
5.0
11.0

(Stats are per 40 minutes)

Scouting report
+ Ballhandling combo forward held back by his increasingly poor conditioning.
+ Sees floor well but often eschews easy shots to make the pass. Midrange shooter.
+ Good defensive player. Strong and moves his feet well. Subpar rebounder.

Analysis
Stranger than fiction: In a matter of days, Diaw went from one of the worst players on the worst teams in history to starting for one of the league's best teams. Diaw also played dramatically better as a Spur, much to the consternation of Bobcats fans who watched him loaf through two-thirds of a season in Charlotte. One key, however, was that he was badly out of shape at the start of the year but had improved considerably in this area by the time he reached San Antonio.

Combining everything, it still wasn't a great season, and Diaw's level of play reverted to somewhere closer to normal in the postseason. He remains an outstanding passer who ranked second among power forwards in pure point rating, and as a Spur he was more aggressive and less prone to passing up easy shots -- in particular, he's shown a tremendous knack for reverse layups.

For the season Diaw shot solidly on 2s (49.6 percent) and wasn't terrible on 3s (31.3 percent), but what really killed him was he never drew fouls. He had only 35 free throw attempts the entire season, producing the fifth-lowest free throw rate at his position, and for that reason he was 54th out of 70 power forwards in TS%.

Defensively, Diaw wasn't particularly good in Charlotte but played much better in San Antonio. Given his solid rep and career numbers in this area, one suspects he'll remain a quality defender as long as he lays off the pastries. It's questionable whether he should be starting given his offensive limitations, but if he's in shape he's a decent stopgap and an outstanding third big to bring off the bench.

TIM DUNCAN, C

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

18.6
11.9
3.1
19.2

(Stats are per 40 minutes)

Scouting report
+ Low-post technician with a midrange bank shot and a variety of short hooks.
+ Has defensive value due to his smarts and very long arms, but has lost quickness.
+ Good rebounder. Smart, team-oriented player. Improved midrange shooter.

Analysis
A lighter, fresher Duncan put up the same offensive numbers, but he was able to move better defensively and showed considerably more impact at that end. Every metric indicates that Duncan was a huge factor, with Synergy stats grading Duncan well above the mean for centers. The Spurs gave up 6.2 points per 100 possessions less with him on the court, and regularized adjusted plus-minus shows him to be the league's single most impactful defensive player last season.

Offensively, Duncan moved out of the low post and into the elbow, and found it agreed with him. Not known as a shooter, he made a stellar 47.1 percent of his shots from 10-23 feet; in fact it was the post-ups that gave him more trouble, as he hit only 35.3 percent from 3-to-9 feet. Duncan somehow drew more fouls anyway, and provided the usual ancillary benefits we've come to expect: fourth in defensive rebound rate among centers, 10th in pure point rating, and sporting the third-lowest foul rate.

Duncan signed a three-year deal in the offseason and appears to be in good shape physically. On the flip side, he's 36 and his long-range shooting marks from last season seem like strong candidates to regress to their historic mean. His PER may slip a couple points as a result, but if he can provide similar impact at the defensive end, the Spurs will stay in the hunt.

RESERVES

MANU GINOBILI, SG

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

21.0
5.8
7.0
21.8

(Stats are per 40 minutes)

Scouting report
+ Left-handed pick-and-roll maestro. Excels at slashing to the basket for fouls.
+ Daring passer with great court vision. Good finisher. Likes step-back set shot.
+ Very good rebounder. Vastly underrated defender with quick hands.

Analysis
He played only half a season, but what a half-season it was. Ginobili ranked second in PER among shooting guards, ahead of some guy named Bryant from Los Angeles, and was third in the NBA in TS% (see chart), with the two players ahead of him playing much more secondary offensive roles.

It gets better -- Ginobili is basically a point guard at this point, leading all shooting guards in both assist ratio and pure point rating. He led all shooting guards in 2-point field goal percentage at an absurd 61.6 percent, and finished in the top dozen players at his spot in free throw rate, rebound rate and blocked shots.
True Shooting % Leaders, 2011-12

Player
Team
TS%

Tyson Chandler
NY
70.8

Steve Novak
NY
68.4

Manu Ginobili
SA
66.8

James Harden
OKC
66.0

Tiago Splitter
SA
64.9

Min. 500 minutes

Min. 500 minutes

Calling it a career year isn't quite right, but a career half-year? Given that he shot 52.6 percent to blow away his career high, tied his career best in PER, and set or threatened his bests in several other categories, I'd say so. Or consider this: The Spurs scored an unfathomable 121.0 points per 100 possessions with Ginobili on the floor last season, putting them nearly 20 points better than the league average.

Unfortunately, he couldn't sustain it in the playoffs -- his shooting percentages were going to crash back to earth at some point, and the postseason was that point. He shot only 33.8 percent on 3s and 44.9 percent overall, with lower rates of scoring and assists; more alarmingly, he finished the playoffs with more turnovers than assists.

All of which should temper our expectations for Ginobili this season: He's good, but he's not as crazy good as he looked in that 34-game sample in the regular season. It wasn't quite a Fluke Rule season, but a lot of the same caveats apply.

STEPHEN JACKSON, SG

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

14.5
5.2
3.6
10.1

(Stats are per 40 minutes)

Scouting report
+ Big, high-strung guard who plays over the top of most wings. Likes pull-up 3s.
+ Lacks great burst and has a high dribble. Will lose ball on drives. Very durable.
+ Good size but has lost a step defensively. Runs oddly, barely bends knees.

Analysis
Jackson looked finished in Milwaukee and performed only marginally better in San Antonio before exploding in the playoffs, shooting 60.5 percent on 3s (!) and missing one free throw in 14 postseason games.

Big-picture data, however, says it was still a rough year. Jackson hit only 28.8 percent of his regular-season 3-pointers; even if you add in his torrid playoff shooting that gets you to only 35.2 percent, which is right at his career average.

Otherwise, his game is slipping. Jackson keeps trying to penetrate but can't get past defenders cleanly and doesn't have a great handle. In a related story, he had the third-worst turnover ratio at his position and, despite his passing skill, was 57th out of 67 small forwards in pure point rating. Inside the arc, he was 50th in 2-point percentage at his position and hit just 27.7 percent of his long 2s.

Defensively he's lost a step as well, although he has good hands for steals (11th among small forwards); Synergy graded him below average in both Milwaukee and San Antonio, although he clearly put more energy into it as a Spur. In the big picture he'll likely shoot better than he did in the 2011-12 regular season, but still is no more than an end-of-the-rotation player.

GARY NEAL, PG

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

17.5
4.0
3.6
13.5

(Stats are per 40 minutes)

Scouting report
+ Sweet-shooting guard who can score off the catch or dribble. Rarely draws fouls.
+ Has some ball skills and can run the pick-and-roll. Can play point but is better as a 2.
+ Not a great athlete. Undersized for the 2 but torched by fast point guards.

Analysis
Neal played a lot of backup point guard last season, but at both ends he's a much better fit playing off the ball and only occasionally orchestrating offense. He finished second-to-last among point guards in assist ratio and 60th out of 70 in pure point rating, and defensively was shredded by fast guards.

It's his jump shot that keeps him in the league, and on that score he didn't disappoint. Neal shot 41.9 percent on 3s and threw in a respectable 44.6 percent mark inside the arc, plus he's as comfortable shooting off the dribble as he is off the catch, so he was able to score at a high rate (18.5 points per 40 minutes). Neal also can create off the dribble a bit running pick-and-roll, but nearly always for his own offense.

Defensively, he's a liability at either guard spot, but playing him at point guard is especially dicey. Synergy rated him well below average and the Spurs gave up 6.7 points per 100 possessions more with him on the court. Meanwhile, 82games.com reports opposing point guards ripped him for a 21.3 PER but shooting guards mustered just a 10.8. The data was similar a year earlier, when he played the 2 almost exclusively and surrendered just an 11.4 mark. Neal also ranked among the bottom 10 point guards in both blocks and steals per minute.

TIAGO SPLITTER, C

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

19.4
11.2
2.5
20.1

(Stats are per 40 minutes)

Scouting report
+ Big low-post center who likes to play physical. Good finisher who draws fouls.
+ Solid rebounder. Limited perimeter game. Makes awkward-looking hook shot.
+ Tough but not mobile. Struggles on defense, especially against pick-and-roll.

Analysis
So … how much of this was real? Splitter played less than 20 minutes a game, but when he did he put up All-Star caliber numbers: 19.6 points and 10.9 boards per 40 minutes, a 61.8 percent shooting mark, and better than a free throw for every two field goal attempts. He made only four jumpers all season, but he shot 72.5 percent at the rim and a solid 43.8 percent on his awkward little half-hooks from 3-to-9 feet.

I'm asking because Splitter makes only $3.9 million this season, and then becomes a free agent. If he plays anywhere near this well again, he's going to get paid with a capital P. He finished 10th among centers in PER after posting strong numbers in his rookie season, although at 27 he's likely peaked. One suspects his field goal percentage is due for some regression, but if he keeps shooting in the 60s he's a star.

Splitter went through a brutal free throw slump that saw teams intentionally fouling him in the playoffs -- he was only 16-of-43 in the postseason -- but wasn't a bad foul shooter overall; his 69.1 percent was above the league average for centers. One oddity is that he stands slightly left of center on free throw attempts and shoots a push shot off his right shoulder; straightening him out might help.

Splitter still struggles at the defensive end, however, where his lack of mobility gives him problems in pick-and-roll defense. He's not a shot-blocker and just average as a rebounder. Overall, opposing centers posted a 17.2 PER against him according to 82games.com, and opponents scored 3.1 points more per 100 possessions with him on the floor. His numbers from the year before were nearly identical. But if he can master NBA defense, he's going to be a very wealthy man next summer.

MATT BONNER, PF

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

12.2
6.8
2.0
12.1

(Stats are per 40 minutes)

Scouting report
+ Ruggedly built 3-point marksman with a high-arcing launch off the shoulder.
+ Not a creator, but can shoot runners off the dribble. No post game. Rarely rebounds.
+ Good size but unathletic. Won't block shots. Struggles in pick-and-roll defense.

Analysis
Bonner refined his high-efficiency game even further last season, posting the lowest turnover ratio in basketball at a miniscule 3.2 while passing well enough to lead all power forwards in pure point rating -- a seemingly impossible combo that he nonetheless pulled off (see chart). Bonner led the league by a wide margin, while ranking fourth among power forwards in true shooting percentage.
Lowest Turnover Ratio, 2011-12

Player
Team
TO Ratio

Matt Bonner
SA
3.2

Al Jefferson
Uta
4.7

Daequan Cook
OKC
4.8

Jodie Meeks
Phi
4.9

James Jones
Mia
5.2

Min. 500 minutes

Bonner took more than two-thirds of his shots from beyond the arc and hit a stellar 42.0 percent of them, but he again showed a knack for taking a dribble or two in and converting on the move. Bonner made 16 of his 31 attempts from 3 to 9 feet, a range where most players struggle.

Unfortunately, he didn't create nearly enough of those opportunities, with the sixth-lowest usage rate among power forwards, and his shooting threat proved fairly easy for prepared teams to extinguish during the playoffs. He also never drew fouls -- only two players had a lower free throw rate.

Defensively, Bonner is again an extreme low-mistake player -- he had the lowest rate of fouls and the lowest rate of steals among power forwards. He's useless on the boards, ranking 68th out of 70 power forwards, and he's not an elite individual defender, but he's become quite adept in the team concept. Synergy gave Bonner sparkling ratings, and opposing power forwards had just an 8.9 PER against him. While those numbers overstate things, he's become very solid at this end.

DEJUAN BLAIR, F

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

17.6
11.3
2.4
18.1

(Stats are per 40 minutes)

Scouting report
+ Short, heavy frontcourt player with surprising athleticism. Great rebounder.
+ Conditioning and knee injuries are concerns. Poor outside shooter.
+ Lack of size a major impediment on defense. Decent mobility and strong.

Analysis
"DeJuan, we're tired of you being out of shape. We're replacing you with Boris Diaw."

Actually, this made more sense than at first glance. Blair has been awfully productive for a guy the Spurs banish to the end of the bench every spring, but his particular weaknesses have made him better as a stopgap than long-term solution. Blair is short, struggles to defend and can't space the floor, and those problems have offset his otherwise commendable productivity.

Defense is the main thing that cost Blair his gig. He rated well below the league average for power forwards via Synergy, and opposing power forwards strutted to a 16.4 PER according to 82games.com. San Antonio also gave up 2.5 points per 100 possessions more with him on the court. Subjectively, Blair also struggled to stay in shape, and unlike Diaw it does appear to affect him on the court.

Offensively, Blair showed a bit of a midrange game last season (42.5 percent from 10 feet and beyond) but as usual was incredibly effective in the paint, shooting 64.8 percent in the basket area while taking three quarters of his shots from there. He also ranked third among power forwards in offensive rebound rate, and those second shots helped him average 17.9 points per 40 minutes without having any plays called for him.

He's a poor ballhandler, however, ranking 56th out of 70 power forwards in pure point rating, and his defensive rebounding (54th) was a major disappointment. Blair has great hands and ranked fifth among power forwards in steals per minute, but gambled too much and ranked eighth in fouls.

But the biggest problem is that he can't space the floor, and with two other bigs sharing the same weakness but playing better (Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter), it got too hard to justify playing him. Blair is trade bait now, but likely will produce wherever he goes.

PATTY MILLS, PG

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

Did not play 500 NBA minutes last season

Scouting report
+ Fast, undersized point guard with a scorer's mentality. Good outside shooter.
+ Very poor dribbler. Struggles to advance ball against pressure.
+ Lack of size a problem on defense. Poor rebounder. Must improve strength.

Analysis
Mills returned from overseas late in the year and played very well in limited minutes for the Spurs, playing 261 minutes largely in garbage-time situations. He shot extremely well in his limited time, making 24 of 56 3s and all 15 free throw attempts. He shot a lot, too: His usage rate nearly matched Tony Parker's, and it wasn't because of the assists.

Though a limited sample, that performance has Mills on the list of candidates to play backup point guard this season. However, his most likely scenario is a situational player used to space the floor when the defensive matchups are in his favor. He really struggles handling the ball and needs somebody like Manu Ginobili on the floor with him to serve as a de facto point guard, and his size makes him a defensive liability.

CORY JOSEPH, G

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

Did not play 500 NBA minutes last season

Scouting report
+ Combo guard with secure handle. Can get to the basket and score. Average shooter.
+ Drives more to score and not pass. Solid build but short for a 2.
+ Offers good defensive potential. Not a great athlete but good lateral quickness.

Analysis
Joseph played in just 29 games and mostly struggled, shooting 31.4 percent and averaging just 8.7 points per 40 minutes. The one silver lining was that he averaged three assists for every turnover, a positive sign that he might be more point guard-inclined than many thought on draft day.

His 14 games in the D-League largely supported that notion, although his assist and turnover ratios weren't quite as strong and he looked more to score. Joseph will need to develop his 3-point shot further and likely will spend most of next year in Austin as well, as there don't appear to be clear avenues to a rotation spot with the parent club.

NANDO DE COLO, G

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections

PTS
REB
AST
PER

N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

Did not play 500 NBA minutes last season

Scouting report
+ Combo guard with outstanding passing skill. Solid outside shooter.
+ Gets to the line and is a great foul shooter. B athlete. May struggle to create and defend.

Analysis
Let's hope he can play, because I'd hate to see such a good name wasted on a scrub. That said, I'm not totally sure what to make of De Colo. Statistically he comes across as a poor man's Manu Ginobili, except for the part about shots from the field going in the basket. The signifying event would be De Colo's 2010-11 Euroleague season, in which he shot a stellar 67-of-70 from the foul line -- and 54-of-171 from the field. Ugh. He's 25 years old and he may struggle to defend whatever position he plays, but if he shoots a decent percentage from the floor he could help fill out the Spurs' backcourt.


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