Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sizing Up Spurs Draft Prospects

We've still got two rounds of playoffs to go and two weeks to go in May, but I can't wait for the month of June. Between the end of the conference finals, the finals and the NBA Draft, the month of June is great. It all started last night with the NBA Draft Lottery. The Cavs struck gold with the first pick (with the Clippers' pick no less) and also have the fourth pick in the draft. The Timberwolves got the second pick in the draft then David Kahn said some unflattering things about widows and sick kids. They'll probably take Derrick Williams, but some reports are Kahn  wants to trade the pick. And yes, I think the Spurs should call and say can we interest you in Tony Parker.

What is for sure is that the Spurs have the second to last pick in the 1st round. The name of the game is defense. This year is more critical than ever to get the pick right because it's a weak draft. There's a few guys at the back end of Ford's 1st round that could help the Spurs.

-Lucas Norgueira, Brazil: He's listed at 6'11" but this photo floating around the internet shows him at least and inch or two taller than Dwight Howard. He's only 18 and probably needs another year or two in Europe to bulk up and develop offensively. But defensively he's a rebounder and shot blocker, so really there's not much else to say about the Spurs needs. Also, he has awesome Sideshow Bob like fellow Brazilian Anderson Varejao, so that's a plus. And Brazilian big men have a pretty good track record in the league so far.

-Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA: You see this guy and you think Tayshaun Prince. 6'8", rail thin and very sharp defensively. I think ideally the Spurs would like a big man they can develop, but if they can find a guy to slice in to Richard Jefferson's minutes that isn't 6'3" (I'm looking at you Gary Neal) that'd also be a big help defensively. Ford's lists Honeycutt's strengths as a super smart small forward, excellent passer, high basketball IQ, good size for his position and a great shot blocker. So basically everything the Spurs need right now. ESPN projects him to go to the Thunder at #24, Hoops Hype has him going #17 to New York. Sports Illustrated just released their mock draft and they have Honeycutt going #20 to Minnesota (a small forward is just what the T'Wolves need since they have Wesley Johnson and Martell Webster... Kaaaaaahhhhhnnnn!).

-Malcolm Lee, UCLA: Here's a guy who could be a really great pick if he falls in to the right system. He's a 6'5" point guard who is an elite defender and can guard both guard spots. His jumper is inconsistent but sounds like it's workable. Chad Ford made a terrific point in his latest blog post. UCLA players under Ben Howland have over performed once they got in to the league. Jrue Holiday and Aaron Afflalo are two great examples of mid to late first round picks who have turned in to starters quickly for their perspective teams. Basically Lee reminds me of George Hill, except he played in the Pac-10 and not the IUPUI select conference. If the Spurs were to actually trade Tony Parker (doubtful), Lee could be the new project and given the recent UCLA track record could be an excellent pick.

I love all three of these options for a team that has the second to last pick of the first round. I don't know if they'll pan out, but the Spurs have seemed more focused in the last few years of developing their draft picks instead of either trading the pick or stashing a guy in Europe... forever.

A couple of other notes: I did a mock draft with Dale Blasigame over at the Normal Guy Guide. We loathe this draft from about pick 5-20. 20-30 is good for value, but I would have picking in the teens in this draft.

There are a couple guys I love in this draft. One is Williams. Another is Jan Vessly. He plays at an elite league in Spain and attacks the basket. Think a young Tracy McGrady. If the Wizards can draft him at #6, then they instantly become a must see when they come to Sacramento next year. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Altering A 60 Win Team... This Guy Isn't The Answer, Is He?

I didn't think I'd be writing something like this in early May, but here we are, the 2nd round has begun and for the 2nd time in 3 seasons the Spurs aren't a part of it. If you listen to some, like long time Spurs doubter Ric Bucher, it's time to blow the team up. I don't want to go that far, but some changes have to be made.

Getting bigger is a simple fix in theory. The next problem isn't. The Spurs lived by the 3 in the regular season and died by it in the playoffs. They way the lost felt eerily similar to the way the Spurs and Mavs knocked out the Suns for those 4 years in the middle of the decade. Too many shooters who didn't show up in the playoffs and not enough defensive minded swing men.

Here's one idea: Gary Neal to Memphis for Darrell Arthur (you'll recognize him as the guy that owned Matt Bonner anytime Coach B had to play defense of any sort). Arthur showed he's a tough defender who is athletic and can space the floor by hitting a 15-foot jumper. That versatility means he could play next to any big the Spurs have on their roster. As for Neal, he was probably the only Spurs shooter who showed up with any consistency in the 1st round of the playoffs, but he's undersized and the Spurs already have plenty of undersized guys. The Spurs also have James Anderson who, before his injury, was giving the Spurs some good minutes. I think he could be the backup 2/3 that Neal is now. Memphis doesn't have a consistent shooter, so a guy like Neal would fill a need for them.

The Spurs could also go after some bigger named centers like Marc Gasol, who just did an amazing job in the Spurs series. A lot of people talked about Duncan's decline and I agree he looked a step slow, but to say he's fallen off the cliff does a huge disservice to the job Gasol did. I think he'd be perfect next to Duncan for the next couple of years and then next to Splitter or whoever comes after Duncan. But he's a restricted free agent who will probably make at least 10 million dollars a year on his next contract. The Spurs don't have the cap room or the assets to get Pau's larger, tougher brother. They'd have to swing a 3 team trade that probably involves Tony Parker (which I'm fine with) or Richard Jefferson's contract (good luck unloading that this summer). The same goes for Nene by the way.

One guy I'm sure they will make an effort to get is Shane Battier. He's a free agent, he fits the Spurs system perfectly and having him and Jefferson split time at the 3 and Hill and Anderson as the back up guards would make the Spurs much tougher on the perimeter.

I think the only other option is trading Tony Parker. I don't know what his value is right now, but would you trade Tony Parker, Matt Bonner and Antonio McDyess' partially guaranteed contract for maybe Josh Smith, Jeff Teague & Zaza Pachulia? This would give the Spurs two young pieces to try to build around. Atlanta gets another All-Star to put in the backcourt with Joe Johnson and switches up the dynamic of a Hawks team that wasn't ever going to be better than 4th or 5th best in the East.

What about Tony Parker and DeJuan Blair for Nicolas Batum and Marcus Camby? Would Portland even do this? Point is you're not going to get another superstar for Parker (unless Deron Williams wants out of New Jersey/Brooklyn) and wants to come play in Texas (where he's from) and for Coach Pop (who he's always said he's admired). That's probably your best case scenario actually. And yes, I know Deron Williams doesn't have the pedigree Parker has, but he also hasn't played next to Tim Duncan his entire career, so I don't want any comments about how you wouldn't trade Williams for Parker.

Here's the last and possibly most intriguing. Tony Parker and Matt Bonner for Pau Gasol and Steve Blake. Does this trade make too much sense for both teams? Gasol would become the Spurs best offensive big and allow Duncan to become a defensive minded big like Robinson did once Duncan arrived. Also, the idea of the two smartest big men in basketball playing for a couple of seasons is pretty exciting to think about. Not to mention that he and Splitter would be perfect when ever Duncan needed some rest. And Blair could slide over to the 4 assuming he continues to develop and lay off the Whataburger. It's a no-brainer really. It would, however, give me two less hashtags on Twitter since #benchbonner and #TradeTP are two of my favorites.

John Hollinger said it best the other day when he said the Lakers couldn't keep up with Dallas' "Midget Brigade". Hilarious and true. Wouldn't getting a speedy guard like Tony Parker who would be a perfect secondary scorer behind Kobe be ideal for the Lakers? Also, they still have Bynum and Odom to offer to Orlando for Dwight Howard. On second thought, let's forget the last two paragraphs were ever written.
So the Spurs have options and it's not as awful a free agent class as people might think, but this has to be the summer where the Spurs think defense and size. Easier to think about then act on.