The Scouting Report: San Antonio Spurs
Projected starting line-up: Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan
New arrivals: Aldridge, David West, Ray McCallum, Boban Marjanovic
The night you’ve all been waiting for, LaMarcus Aldridge’s return to the Moda Center, is here. Aldridge and his new team the San Antonio Spurs come into Wednesday’s nationally televised game having won five out of their last six games.
The internet had its doubts about the potential fit between Aldridge and the Spurs, but those fears are already being washed away. Aldridge is one of the team leaders in usage-rate but is using possessions at a lower rate than he did in each of his previous four seasons in Portland. He’s still playing his game, but he’s assimilated to the Spurs system rather quickly.
Aldridge is already turning down midrange shots to set up teammates for wide-open corner-3’s or swinging the ball in transition only to get it right back for a dunk. The trust in the Spurs system is rewarding Aldridge with easy opportunities and wins.
The biggest reason the Spurs have been so dominant, other than the obvious that they are the Spurs, has been the emergence of Kawhi Leonard. Leonard has long-been thought of as the corner stone for the future of the Spurs. But after a monster Game 3 against the Clippers last season in the playoffs, Leonard struggled to carry the team to a win and they eventually lost the series in seven games.
Less than a year after being Finals MVP, Leonard was under the microscope for wilting under the pressure in the playoffs. Leonard has become the team’s closer in the first seven games of the season. His pick and pop with LaMarcus Aldridge is emerging as a go-to play and he’s up there with the best of them when it comes to scoring in the post. Leonard has one of the more efficient post-up games in the league for a perimeter player.
One story to watch throughout the season for the Spurs is the play of Tony Parker. Parker was a shell of himself at this summer’s Eurobasket tournament and his struggles have continued into the regular season. The Spurs are clearly title contenders but if this is all they can get out of Parker, those title hopes are definitely in trouble.
So far, San Antonio’s starting line-up is boasting a net-rating of -6.5 points per 100 possessions. But when they’ve swapped Parker for Patty Mills, they’ve outscored their opponents by 16.5 points per 100 possessions.
They acquired Ray McCallum, a former first round pick from the Sacramento Kings over the summer, to fill in for Cory Joseph who went home to Toronto in free-agency. He could be a candidate to fill in for Parker but he’s only seen 15 minutes so far this season.
They still have the same cast of characters that will hurt you with Diaw, Mills, Danny Green and Ginobili. Losing Marco Bellinelli was a blow to their second unit, but they can still close out games with their starters on the bench.
The Spurs solved major problems in the summer by adding a bonafide star to follow their aging ones. The Spurs have high expectations and were the odds-on favorite to win the west according to Las Vegas. But with Parker–their offensive catalyst for their last two NBA finals teams–the most important issue for the Spurs is one that has yet to be settled.