Where do the Spurs go from here?

San Antonio played pretty well down the stretch this season, winning 17 of its last 25 games in March and April. (That’s a 56-win pace, by the way.) The Spurs looked sharp in their first round series against the Mavs, but looked old and slow as they were swept by the Suns.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the Spurs approach this offseason. They just signed Manu Ginobili to an extension, and Tim Duncan is signed for two more seasons, so Tony Parker may be the player most likely to be moved. He has one more year on his contract at the tune of $13.7 million and at just 27, he’s in the prime of his career. George Hill could take over the full-time point guard duties, if necessary.

Trading Parker would be a big shift in direction from a personnel standpoint. San Antonio’s Big Three — Ginobili, Parker and Duncan — have been together for eight seasons and three titles, but they haven’t reached the Finals in the last three tries and haven’t made it out of the semis in the last two years. This begs the question — how big of a change are the Spurs willing to make?

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Line of the Night (12/3): DeJuan Blair

The Spurs lost at home to the Celtics, 90-83, but it was a national television coming out party for rookie DeJuan Blair, who posted 18 points and 11 rebounds in one of his best games of the season. He hit 9 of 11 shots from the field, and scored eight straight points in the fourth quarter to keep the Spurs in the game.

Interestingly, Manu Ginobili only played 18 minutes and sat much of the final period even though the Spurs were trying to mount a comeback. With the loss the Spurs fall to 9-7 on the season, while the Celtics advance to 15-4.

Line of the Night (11/5): Carlos Boozer

I thought about awarding this to Deron Williams for his 27-point, nine-assist, seven-rebound effort in Utah’s 113-99 win over the Spurs, but then I remembered that Tony Parker isn’t exactly known for his defensive prowess. Tim Duncan is. So that makes Carlos Boozer’s line — 27 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocked shots — all that more impressive. He went 12-20 (60%) from the field and regularly scored on Duncan, who has been named to the All-Defensive team 12 times in his illustrious career.

The final score should be no surprise. The game was in Utah, and the Jazz had their backs up against the wall a little bit as they started out the season with a 1-3 record, which included a home loss to the Rockets.

Spurs rookie DeJuan Blair had another nice game, posting 14 points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes. He’s averaging 9.8 points and 8.5 rebounds through four games and is shooting better than 70% from the field. The Spurs will use him extensively during the season to keep Duncan as fresh as possible for a playoff run.

2009 NBA Preview: Impact Rookies

Every year, first-year players greatly impact the NBA regular season. They tend to thrive on bad teams for two reasons: 1) the best players generally go early in the draft to struggling franchises, and 2) those teams need their services so they play heavy minutes. In fact, over the last three years, the players that made the All-Rookie First Team played an average of 29.0 minutes per game. Playing time is opportunity, and with opportunity comes production.

Over that span, players that were named to the All-Rookie First Team played on teams with a combined 500-730 (.407) record. Only four players — Andrea Bargnani and Jorge Garbajosa on the 2006-07 Raptors, Luis Scola on the 2007-08 Rockets and Michael Beasley on the 2008-09 Heat — played on teams with a winning record. The other 11 players were on teams that averaged 25 wins.

Looking ahead to the 2009-10 NBA season, there are a number of rookies that will get big minutes on bad teams. I’m going to rank them in order of what I perceive to be their talent plus their opportunity, because a rookie needs both to succeed in his first year. Fantasy hoopsters should take note: Rookies can be great picks on draft day, if you know which ones to pick.

1. Blake Griffin, Clippers
In the preseason, Griffin is averaging 14.7 points and 8.5 rebounds in 28.5 minutes per game. The Clippers found a taker for Zach Randolph to clear the way for Griffin to start at power forward, and he should be a fixture there for the next few years. I expect he’ll get 33-35 minutes per game during the regular season, so 16-17 points and 9+ rebounds are a reasonable expectation. From a fantasy perspective, he’s currently PF19 off the board, but will likely finish as the PF11 or better if he stays healthy. 10/27 Update: He didn’t stay healthy. Griffin will miss six weeks with a stress fracture in his knee.

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2009 NBA Draft: Cheers & Jeers

It’s waaaaaaaay too early to start judging the 2009 NBA Draft, but that’s not going to stop me (or anyone else, for that matter) from trying. It takes at least three years before a draft class really shakes out, so there’s no reason to fly off the handle criticizing (or praising) a team for what they did on Thursday night.

That said, as the draft wore on, there were some picks I liked and some that I didn’t. This is by no means the final say on whether or not the pick is good or bad; it’s just a snapshot that’s based on what we know right now.

So let’s jump the gun:


Thunder: #3 James Harden
I don’t know that Russell Westbrook is really a point guard, but Harden projects to be a great fit in OKC.

Sixers: #17 Jrue Holiday
The talented freshman worked out for most of the lottery teams and was reportedly up and down leading up to the draft. With this much PG depth, I figured someone would slip and the Sixers were the beneficiary. In Holiday, they get a lottery talent and their point guard of the future, though Lawson would have been able to come in and help the Sixers more immediately.

Nuggets: #18 Ty Lawson
I thought he’d go to a team in more need of PG help, but the Nuggets swooped in and snatched him up. At the very least, I think he’s going to be a capable starter.

Grizzlies: #36 Sam Young
At 24, Young doesn’t have the upside of many of the players drafted ahead of him, but he’s already a better player than most, as well. If he can improve his handle, he could be a starter-quality small forward.

Spurs: #37 DeJuan Blair
Think this guy played with a chip on his shoulder before? Just wait and see what kind of energy he brings in 15-25 minutes playing for the Spurs. I know his knees are an issue, but I’m shocked that he wasn’t picked earlier in the second round.

Hornets: #43 Marcus Thornton
The Hornets have issues on the wing and they took a point guard with their first pick. They made up for it in the second round by acquiring Thornton, an off guard, from the Heat. He’s a great scorer and can make contested jumpers.


Timberwolves: #5 Ricky Rubio / #6 Jonny Flynn
It’s not that I don’t like the individual players or the individual picks; they just don’t make any sense when picked together. I don’t know how a Rubio/Flynn backcourt will be successful. Had the T-Wolves drafted Stephen Curry with one of the picks, it would have made a lot more sense.

Jazz: #20 Eric Maynor
Maynor is a good all-around player, and maybe the best that was available, so let’s not be too hard on the Jazz here. Still, how many minutes is he going to play behind Deron Williams? If he turns out to be a player, they can use him as an asset, so maybe they didn’t feel that way about any of the frontline players that were available.

Hornets: #21 Darren Collison
New Orleans has star/superstar quality players at PG, PF and C, and a good young prospect in Julian Wright at small forward, so off guard seems to be their biggest need. Like Utah, the Hornets went with a point guard to back up their best player. I like Collison, I just don’t like this pick for New Orleans (though they made up for it in the second round).

Blazers: #31 Jeff Pendergraph / #33 Dante Cunningham
I don’t have a problem with the players themselves, but with the fact that Portland passed on DeJuan Blair twice in the second round (where the financial risk is much lower if his health turns out to be a problem). They could have used his toughness and rebounding, but were unwilling to roll the dice on his knees.

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