Team Preview: San Antonio Spurs
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The Spurs won in 2006 like they always do: on defense. The Spurs led the league in fewest points allowed (90.1 ppg), were fourth in field goal percentage defense (44.3 percent), and second in three-point field goal defense (33.4 percent). The Spurs were 14th in the league in scoring offense (98.5 ppg) but were first in point differential (8.42 ppg) because of their defensive prowess.
With these numbers, the Spurs decided that the best way to address their deficiencies was to essentially stand pat. The Spurs lost no major contributors from their championship team, as they re-signed center Fabricio Oberto, forward Matt Bonner and point guard Jacque Vaughn. The Spurs did add guard/forward Ime Udoka from Portland. The Spurs hope that Udoka will be the eventual replacement for defensive specialist Bruce Bowen. The Spurs also brought over 2005 first-round pick Ian Mahinmi over from France. At just 20, don’t expect Mahinmi to pay immediate dividends for the Spurs. The Spurs first two picks of the 2007 Draft, Tiago Splitter and Marcus Williams, are not expected to be on the roster at the start of the season. Splitter is expected to play one more year in Europe while Williams is expected to play in the NBA Developmental League. As in previous years, the key for the Spurs is to avoid a major injury to Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker. The Spurs have never repeated as NBA Champions, and this year will be a major challenge, given the strength and depth of the Western Conference.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Not much will change for the Spurs in 2007. The duo of Francisco Elson and Fabricio Oberto will once again split time at the center position. Each should see about 15-20 minutes per game. Robert Horry could also be in the mix to log minutes at the center position.
Duncan will start at power forward and get about 35 minutes a night, as coach Gregg Popovich will continue his tradition to limit Duncan’s minutes in order to keep him fresh for the Playoffs. The rest of the time will be split between Horry and at times Matt Bonner, who can also play small forward. Horry will probably not play in back-to-back games, as this is another Popovich tradition. Bowen will start at small forward and log about 30 minutes a night. Udoka is expected to backup Bowen and get 15-20 total minutes. Minutes could also be logged at the small forward position by Michael Finley and Manu Ginobili, depending on the matchup.
If Popovich starts the 2007 season like he finished the 2006 season, Finley will start at shooting guard. He should get about 20 minutes a night. Ginobili, who can play multiple positions, will come off the bench and play about 30 minutes a night. Brent Barry provided depth at both the small forward and shooting guard and could get up to 20 minutes a night. Tony Parker will start at point guard and should see 30-35 minutes a night. Jacque Vaughn should see the majority of minutes as the backup with an occasional appearance from Beno Udrih.
Francisco Elson – SAS [C]: Elson recently broke an orbital bone while playing in Europe and is expected to be back with the Spurs in early October. Elson is limited offensively, as he averaged just five ppg. However, he did contribute 4.8 rpg in just 19 minutes per game. Expect Elson to again share time with Fabricio Oberto. Elson will get more playing time when the Spurs play against more athletic centers. With this time share, don’t expect Elson to make much of a contribution to a fantasy roster.
* Fabricio Oberto – SAS [C]: Oberto was more comfortable in his second season with the Spurs. His minutes jumped to over 17 per game, and he led the Spurs in field goal percentage (56.2 percent). Oberto is more comfortable at the offensive end than Elson, but he is still not expected to contribute a great deal on that front. As with Elson, the time share limits the value that Oberto can have on a fantasy roster.
* Tim Duncan – SAS [PF]: Duncan continues to see limited minutes in the regular season for a superstar (34 per game last season), but he had one of his more efficient seasons as a Spur. Duncan got back to averaging 20.0 ppg but averaged a career-low 10.6 rpg. Much of this was due to the surprising 9.5 rpg that the Spurs got from Francisco Elson and Fabricio Oberto. Duncan had his highest field goal percentage (54.6 percent) since his rookie year and averaged almost 2.5 bpg. Essentially, Duncan finally appeared to be healthy, as he battled plantar fasciiitis for much of the 2005 season. Duncan was able to get lift on his jumper and use his patented bank shot. Duncan also had his timing back, which allowed him to finish fifth in the league in blocks. Duncan has still not mastered the free throw line (63.7 percent), but if you can take the hit, Duncan is still an excellent fantasy player, especially if he qualifies at center in your league.
* Bruce Bowen – SAS [SF]: Bowen had a typical Bowen year. He played great defense but did nothing to make himself a relevant fantasy player. He shot just 40.5 percent from the floor and 58.9 percent from the line while averaging a little more than six points per game. Bowen’s only quality as a fantasy player is that he shot 38.4 percent from the three-point line and made 1.1 three-pointers per game.
Robert Horry – SAS [PF]: Horry’s numbers continue to decline, but he continues to win championships. Horry averaged just 3.9 ppg and struggled all of last season with his shot, shooting a career-low 35.9 percent in the regular season. Horry no longer gets the minutes to help a fantasy roster.
Matt Bonner – SAS [PF,C]: Bonner did not get a great deal of playing time in his first year with the Spurs. He proved to be a defensive liability at times and shot just 38.3 percent from the three-point line, down from his nearly 42 percent career average. Bonner has limited fantasy value, as he does not rebound, block shots or get assists.
Ime Udoka – SAS [SF]: Udoka was brought over by the Spurs to eventually replace defensive specialist Bruce Bowen. Udoka is a more accomplished offensive player than Bowen. He averaged 8.4 ppg on 46.1 percent shooting and shot 74.2 percent from the line. However, with Udoka’s expected role on the Spurs, don’t expect him to contribute those numbers this season.
Ian Mahinmi – SAS [SF,PF]: Mahinmi was brought over from France after he spent a couple of years in the French League. At just 20, Mahinmi is still several years away from making a contribution for the Spurs.
Manu Ginobili – SAS [SG]: After nagging injuries robbed him of some of his quickness in 2005, Ginobili had a solid all-around season in 2006-07. Ginobili improved in most every category (16.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.5 apg, 46.4 percent FG, 86.0 percent FT) while also contributing defensively (1.5 spg). Ginobili also improved his three-point shooting by making 1.7 threes per game. From a fantasy perspective, Ginobili has very few weaknesses in his game. The biggest limitation on Ginobili becoming a fantasy superstar is minutes. Ginobili averaged just 27.5 mpg in 2006. If Ginobili got 35-plus minutes per game like most stars at his position, Ginobili would be one of the top all-around fantasy players. Don’t look for a drastic increase in Ginobili’s minutes as coach Popovich likes Ginobili fresh, especially during the final six minutes.
Brent Barry – SAS [SG]: Just when it seemed that Barry was finished, he produced a solid 2006. Barry shot 47.5 percent from the floor, but most importantly, shot 44.6 percent from the three-point line and made 1.7 three-pointers per game. Barry will continue to be a valuable member to the Spurs roster as long as he can hit from beyond the arc. Barry could be a useful waiver wire pickup for teams needing three-point shooting in deeper leagues.
Jacque Vaughn – SAS [PG]: Vaughn got a lot more playing time near the end of the season, as he became the backup point guard. While he did hit some open shots down the stretch and in the Playoffs, Vaughn is not an offensive player. His value is that he makes good decisions with the basketball as evidenced by his over 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Beno Udrih – SAS [PG]: Udrih took another step back last season. He continues to be plagued by costly turnovers and poor shot selection. Udrih shot just 36.9 percent from the floor and 28.7 percent from the three-point line. Udrih is not expected to get a great deal of playing time unless Tony Parker or Jacque Vaughn get hurt.