ADJUST THE POINT GUARD'S ROLE
If the last 12 months have been any indication, Tony Parker's days as a star-level contributor are coming to an end. That isn't to say he won't have his moments; the point guard is still cagey and skilled enough to get to the rim and make winning plays. He's merely been slowed by age and injury to the point of inconsistency. His offensive rating last year was 105, the lowest since his third season.
San Antonio's attack is based on a complex choreography that doesn't require Parker to overhandle the ball. Nevertheless, his ability to attack the basket in quick bursts and break down a defense off the dribble have always had value in coach Gregg Popovich's system. The fact that the 33-year-old Parker is losing a step—as was apparent last season and only reinforced in his lackluster performance for France at EuroBasket over the summer—means that some restructuring would naturally be in order.
The Spurs have options. Signing free-agent power forward LaMarcus Aldridge gives Popovich the kind of isolated scoring option he hasn't had in years. But he needs to take advantage of Aldridge's abilities as a facilitator as well as a go-to scorer. Small forward Kawhi Leonard has become a more creative player and should be encouraged to further that aspect of his game. Crisp, fluid ball movement should still be the Spurs' calling card, but the roles of the players running the offense—Parker especially—need to be reshuffled.
A rival scout sizes up San Antonio
LaMarcus Aldridge is a mid-range shooter. That's what they really need from him. He and Tim Duncan remind me of [David] Robinson and Duncan. I wouldn't be surprised if Pop [Gregg Popovich] goes back to some of the stuff they ran back then. There will not be as much of an emphasis on three-point shooting. They will work the elbows, do a lot to get the ball into the post.... You see some miles on David West. The thing he brought to Indiana that was most important was toughness and leadership. That's not as big a need in San Antonio. I thought getting another stretch four would have been a priority.... Manu Ginóbili can still step behind the pick-and-roll and make big shots. He doesn't beat guys as well anymore, and he isn't as consistent finishing. He's a playmaker, but it's more in spurts and flashes now.... Tony Parker needs to have his minutes cut. Point guard is such a tough position in the West; it's harder for him to be consistent. He still shoots a good percentage but he forces a lot of shots.... Danny Green is 0 for 6 or 5 for 6. You don't know what you are going to get from him. He gets away with being an O.K. defender because they have great team defense.... They didn't replace Marco Belinelli, so there's a lot of pressure on Green and Kawhi Leonard to carry them from three-point range. Maybe Jimmer Fredette will step up and be Stephen Jackson this year.... Pop's in the upper echelon of play-calling. He plays different lineups. He shows you the unexpected. He emphasizes defense and doesn't allow any slippage. [But] what sets him apart is managing an entire season. He sees the big picture.
COACH GREGG POPOVICH
(20th season with Spurs)
2014--15 RECORD 55--27
(2nd in Southwest)
PG TONY PARKER
14.4 PPG; 4.9 APG; 48.6 FG%; 42.7 3FG%
SG DANNY GREEN
11.7 PPG; 4.2 RPG; 43.6 FG%; 41.8 3FG%
SF KAWHI LEONARD
16.5 PPG; 7.2 RPG; 47.9 FG%; 34.9 3FG%
PF LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE*
23.4 PPG; 10.2 RPG; 46.6 FG%; 35.2 3FG%
C TIM DUNCAN
13.9 PPG; 9.1 RPG; 2.0 BPG; 51.2 FG%
SF MANU GINÓBILI
10.5 PPG; 4.2 APG; 42.6 FG%; 34.5 3FG%
PF DAVID WEST*
11.7 PPG; 6.8 RPG; 3.4 APG; 47.1 FG%
PG PATTY MILLS
6.9 PPG; 1.7 APG; 38.1 FG%; 34.1 3FG%
Defensive rating of Kawhi Leonard last season, the best in the NBA. It was the ninth time a Spur led the league in the past 20 years.
GREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED