Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Analyzing the off season moves by the San Antonio Spurs

(Photo from everyjoe)
The San Antonio Spurs did not win the Championship last year, breaking the cycle of winning one every other year (2003, 05, and 07) and the 33-year-old "Big Fundamental," who hasn't missed significant amounts of games since 2005, by the way, but needs one last thrust to win another ring before age, economy, and free agency kicks in to break apart a very good team. Therefore, the Spurs traded Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas, and Fabricio Oberto for Richard Jefferson and signed big men Theo Ratliff and Antonio McDyess. Spurs' motto this year is "Go big or go home" (and of course the mainstay, "Go Spurs! Go!").

  • Richard Jefferson is a 29-year-old SF and averaged 19.6/4.6/2.4, shooting 43.9% and hitting 1.4 3pters for the Milwaukee Bucks last year. He is owed $14.2 million due in 09/10 and $15 mil due in 10/11. Free Agent summer of 2011.
  • Antonio McDyess is a 35-year-old PF and averaged 9.6/9.8/1.3, shooting 51.1% last year for the Detroit Pistons. He is owed $5.8 million due in 09/10, $6.3 mil in 10/11 and $6.7 mil in 11/12. Free agent summer of 2012.
  • Theo Ratliff is a 36-year-old C and averaged 1.9/2.8/.2 shooting 53.1% and blocking 1 shot per game last year in 12 minutes per game for 46 games for the Philadelphia 76ers. He was signed to the veteran minimum, owed $1.3 million in 09/10. Free agent summer of 2010.
Read between the baselines:

There's really not much to read between the baselines for the reasons the Bucks made this trade. They have a hefty payroll as of right now with Michael Redd's contract of $17 mil and Andrew Bogut's $10 mil (along with 4 years after that, increasing to $14 mil in 2014). They also have a bad contractin Dan Gadzuric ($14 mil next 2 years). Overall, right now after the trade, there is $67.5 million on the payroll, a lot for a small market team. With Kurt Thomas and Bruce Bowen's expiring contracts combined with the expiring contracts they already have, that number drops to $50 million in 2010/11. (Edit: The Bucks have waived Bruce Bowen) and may also waive Kurt Thomas. They have already traded Oberto to Detroit for Amir Johnson, and then traded Amir Johnson for Roko Ukic and Carlos Delfino but ANYWAY.

There's really not much to read between the baselines for the reasons the Spurs made this trade either. With the strong teams getting stronger (Cavs-Shaq, Magic-Carter, Lakers-Artest, Celtics-Sheed), the Spurs had to keep up and added an athletic scorer who can play above average defense.

What did the Spurs gain by getting Jefferson?

Richard Jefferson is 29 years old going into his 9th NBA season after spending his first 7 season in New Jersey with Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin. He helped them reach the finals twice, losing to the Lakers and Spurs in 2002 (his rookie year) and 2003 respectively. His best years were in the middle of his Nets years where he averaged around 20 points a game, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal. Richard Jefferson can score, although he probably can't spread the floor that much given his 35% career 3pt shooting. However, last year on the Bucks, he averaged 1.4 3 pters made on 39% 3pt shooting...

What did the Spurs give up to get Jefferson?
  • One of their veterans and better defenders in 38-year-old Bruce Bowen, who had a significant drop in playing time last year (from 30 minutes in 08 to 18 minutes in 09), perhaps indicative that he had lost a step in his defensive step, although he's been solid throughout his whole career. After likely being waived by the Bucks, it would be more than likely that he'd re-sign with the Spurs.
  • Back up center Fabricio Oberto who only averaged 12 minutes a game in 54 games last year. Played good post defense and was an adequate center off of the bench for the Spurs.
  • Back up PF Kurt Thomas, who was traded for to help post defense against then-newly accquired Sun Shaq and then-newly accquired Laker Pau. (It worked, by the way, as the Spurs got past the Suns last year in the playoffs, but couldn't get past the Lakers who went on to the Finals). Thomas averaged 4.3/5.1/.8 and shot 50.3%. A good post defender with a nice jump shot from about the free throw line.
So these two back ups and sometimes starter defense specialist for Richard Jefferson. They then replaced their two lost bigs with, what else... TWO BIGS.

Antonio McDyess
(Photo from allposters)
Antonio McDyess is an upgrade from Thomas and has the capabilities to get a double double (he sure was close last year). He is the probable starter at PF. Although age may be catching up with him, he won't be asked to do more than provide defense while the stars, Manu, Parker, Jefferson and TD make up the bigger part of the team's contributions.

Theo Ratliff

Theo Ratliff is a shotblocker, plain and simple. He won't score a lot, but he can score on putbacks and block shots if players reach the paint. He will serve well for the price they are paying him. Matt Bonner, who started at center last year, will also be coming off the bench with Ratliff. (Although they could start Bonner at C again this year, and have McDyess be the main backup for Duncan).

2009 Draft Pick: Dejuan Blair

I am, by no means, an expert on the NCAA or their players, besides the big stars, but based on some internet research, Dejuan Blair was unjustly passed by many teams and fell to the Spurs in the second round. The Spurs have a history of drafting very well, even in the second round (where Manu Ginobili was drafted in 1999), and late first round picks (such was Tony Parker in 2001).

Scouts have this to say about 2nd rounder Dejuan Blair:

Consensus: DeJuan Blair was proven to be one of the most dominant players in college this year. However, his lack of athleticism and height are big time negatives in terms of the NBA. Still, undersized power forwards are making a bit of a comeback in the NBA nowadays, so he probably will stick around the League.
We see this a lot in the NBA where good big men in college don't quite do so well in the NBA (Sean May, Roy Hibbert, Greg Oden?) let alone someone who is deemed undersized as is DeJuan Blair. Perhaps the Antonio McDyess and Theo Ratliff signings are insurance signings/give time signings to give Blair some time to work on his game and work around his size. I don't see him making a big impact this year for the Spurs, at least as much as Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess.

Plain and simple, the Spurs boosted their scoring and interior depth. Last year, the Spurs ranked 12th in Off Eff, scoring 106.2 points per 100 possessions and 6th in Def Eff, allowing 102 points per 100 possessions. Richard Jefferson's offense (and for their sake) hopefully a healthy Manu Ginobili (44 games last year) should boost their Off Eff. Antonio McDyess' one on one defense should at least keep the Def Eff around the same number of 100-104 (along with the Spurs' defensive mentality and team identity).

Probable Starting Lineup:

PG: Tony Parker/George Hill
SG: Manu Ginobili/Roger Mason
SF: Richard Jefferson/Michael Finely
PF: Antonio McDyess/Bonner/Ratliff
C: Tim Duncan/Ratliff/McDyess/Bonner

Can this lineup compete with the recharged NBA elite like the Lakers, Cleveland, or the Celtics? Health permitting, yes, but it may not put them over the top. McDyess and Duncan are a somewhat twin tower action that can defend the post with very nicely. But can KG, Pau Gasol, Shaq, and Dwight score on them? Probably, yes.

But this team will compete and have a deep playoff run and could challenge for the western conference championship. In a weakened division with the Rockets without Yao and McGrady, and the Grizzlies who are not a good basketball team, this team should get a lot of wins and have a high seed in the West. Don't sleep on McDyess, he's not only a good defender, but can hit a midrange jumpshot (better than Kurt Thomas could) if teams collapse on Duncan. And along with Richard Jefferson, this team's offense should only improve (and be a little more exciting).

Those are the facts, and that's one way to read between the [base]lines.

Here's Richard Jefferson dunking on his new teammates.


Anonymous said...

I dunno if the Spurs helped themselves all that much. The three new guys are pretty old, no?

Anonymous said...

Umm, DeJuan Blair?? Not to mention the Bucks waved Bowen quite a while ago and there's been no interest by Pop to resign him. Good research there, Slim!

ReadBetweenTheBaselines said...

Anonymous1, Like I said, Go Big or Go Home will be the Spurs' motto this year. This team can't hold up for too many years but it can compete and the Spurs didn't give up that much to get these guys. But yes, they are pretty old (although Jefferson is only 29 and should have a few good years left in him at LEAST).

Anonymous2, Duly noted. The post is updated. Although I'll admit that I'm not the most savvy NCAA expert.