NBA Roundtable

Game Time: Chicago vs San Antonio

In General NBA on October 30, 2009 at 2:55 am

Not a game log, just a few thoughts on the game.

San Antonio Spurs Thoughts

Starting Lineup

  • Tim Duncan
  • Matt Bonner — poor rebounder
  • Richard Jefferson — below average rebounder
  • Michael Finley — very poor rebounder
  • Tony Parker — mediocre rebounder

Can we please get Timmy more help on the backboards? He’s the only above average rebounder in the lineup.

Offensively, I’m not wild about this group. I think it relies on Duncan too heavily for scoring. This is the stage in Duncan’s career where the Spurs need to move away from him as a scorer and allow him to be a facilitator with his defense, rebounding and passing ability.

Duncan’s skills and offensive talents will always have him around the ball in some way or another, which will allow him to continue having a major impact on the game offensively. But I’d like to see less stress on him for being a go-to scorer. For the Spurs to ask others to step up (since they have three 20ppg threats on the perimeter, they can achieve this).

The Spurs do this effectively at different stages of the game but I’d like to see it become more of a constant.

DeJuan Blair

He’s doing some great things offensively and on the backboards but he’s giving a good chunk of that right back with his weak defense.

Antonio McDyess

McDyess has only pulled down 6 rebounds over 34 minutes in his first two games as a Spur. That’s Bargnani territory. He was very poor tonight against the Bulls.

I’m not worried about it at this stage but it’s something to keep an eye on because the Spurs need him at his very best just to have a chance of beating the Lakers this season.

Small Ball Lineup

  • Tim Duncan
  • Richard Jefferson
  • Michael Finley or Roger Mason Jr
  • Manu Ginobili
  • Tony Parker

Richard Jefferson cannot play the power forward position. He’s a small bit undersized as a small forward already. Plus he’s a poor rebounder. He doesn’t have the strength or defensive ability to cover bigger power forwards or many of the high level combo-forwards out there (plus you lose his defensive strengths + quickness on the perimeter).

Moreover, the Spurs do not have a suitable wing to play alongside Manu Ginobili in this lineup. Finley and Mason are both defensive liabilities and poor rebounders. While Bogans is serviceable but below average.

This will be the third straight season where the Spurs do not have a small ball lineup that will be effective against good opposition. Since Robert Horry was last an effective player for San An.

The Spurs still badly need a James Posey type of player who gives them that type of lineup flexibility.

Luol Deng — The Deng-RJ matchup, particularly in the small ball lineups, was a huge advantage for the Bulls. Jefferson couldn’t come close to matching Deng’s power and speed. Luol routinely had his way with him whenever they got close to the paint or competed on the backboards.

Marcus Haislip

Haislip is a terrific athlete (6-10, quick, long, that combo-forward mold) and he possesses a very good perimeter jump shot judging from his play in Spain.

I haven’t seen him play since he left the NBA several years ago, but reportedly he had improved a lot from his time in Spain with Unjaca. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see him play in preseason and I don’t think he’s even on the active roster since the season started so it’s impossible to say what he has to offer.

Anyway, Marcus Haislip looked like a possible option for the small ball lineup but the odds of him filling that hole look fairly slim right now.

The Big Men

I was disappointed to see Matt Bonner out there at the start of the game. He’s a great stand still shooter but I don’t think he’s good enough to be playing such an important role. Furthermore, the Spurs look old and slow when Ratliff or McDyess is on the floor and DeJuan Blair is the worst defender of the bunch.

The early signs from the big men are not encouraging.

LA Lakers

At times during this game we saw how much trouble the Spurs had combating three good big men in Joakim Noah, Brad Miller and Ty Thomas.

This is why I think the Spurs are still clearly behind the Lakers. They’ll have a shot at beating LA come playoff time, but the Lakers should be huge favourites heading into that series.

I just don’t think Tim Duncan has enough help in the paint to compete against LA’s size and talent. He can only guard one of Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum. Leaving the other to feast on Matt Bonner or Blair or Ratliff or McDyess. Then there’s Lamar Odom. And all the while Tim Duncan will have a huge amount of responsibility on his shoulders to anchor the defense and provide help for all his teammates while also defending his own mark (a tough assignment). It just seems like too much to ask of him.

Also, while Duncan provides 35-40 brilliant minutes of play the Lakers will be coming right back at him with 48 minutes of non-stop attacking from the Lakers trio of bigs. There will be no rest bite for Duncan and there will be a constant threat on his fellow big men.

This will give allow the Lakers to control the paint (control the paint, control the game), and thus, hugely improves their chances of winning the game. This will leave the Spurs resorting to their perimeter game for any chance of winning a playoff series against the Lakers and the odds of that playing out in their favour look slim.

Chicago Bulls Thoughts

Very little to say on the Bulls … use of the big men:

  • Chicago used Taj Gibson off the bench a fair amount last night. It looks like they’re going to be using him extensively during the season.
  • That means Chicago are going deep with four big men. But since the other three big men (Noah, Thomas, Miller) are all capable of playing around 30 minutes or more a game that means that the Bulls will either play one of them less minutes or play one or more at a different position.
  • The Bulls decided to use Ty Thomas as a small forward for parts of the game. I saw them do this against the Wizards in preseason too, with Deng as the two guard (who defended Arenas), in a big lineup. It looks like it’s going to be a part of their rotation this season.
  • I like the way the Bulls have been using Thomas in the small forward slot. He can play the position well defensively but offensively he’s an issue. Thomas is poor when left out near the perimeter, but having him make hard cuts to the rim and across the paint while posting up smaller players looks a very good strategy.
  • Brad Miller’s shooting ability and passing ability opens up the Bulls offense superbly. He’s a joy to watch.

Chicago’s rotation

  • That gives Chicago a frontcourt rotation of Deng + Thomas + Noah + Miller + Gibson with Thomas doubling up as the backup small forward.
  • And then playing a backcourt rotation of Rose + Salmons + Hinrich with Salmons giving a few small forward minutes.

Chicago really doesn’t need to go deeper than that. They can play those eight guys big minutes without needing to go deeper into their bench.

  • Next in line is Jannero Pargo. Then they have James Johnson. And also Lindsey Hunter and Aaron Gray. That’s the roster.

Two other notes

Bulls Guards — Derrick Rose was very good last night — looking forward to seeing more of him in the coming weeks to see how much he’s improved over last season — The Bulls guards, Rose + Hinrich, their non-stop attacking of San Antonio’s guards was one of the, if not the, main key to the Bulls. They tore apart San Antonio’s defense and created openings for others. They also tired Tony Parker and that was a big reason for TP’s poor performance.

Offensive Rebounding + Running — The Bulls offensive rebounding in the first half was excellent and it kept them in the game despite their poor shooting. Also, their big men did a great job of running the floor and forcing the Spurs bigs to do likewise.

Joakim Noah — Noah had a big impact on the game. His rebounding and overall activity caused the Spurs problems all night long. Noah looks set to have an excellent season.

  1. Hey Dave, long time!

    Finally the season has arrived and you can be sure to see here mire often, giving my two cents worth of opinion about Manu and the Spurs.

    After their fantastic performance from the game against the Hornets (do check out my match review), how the hell did they fell hard against the Bulls. Well you know what it’s still too early to tell as the season just started.

    I do have plenty of optimism about this newly revamped Spurs team. The arrival of Jefferson and McDyess has certainly added more depth to the roster and looks more better than last season. Some people are doubting about their ability to play here but I’m sure with years of experience they can do no harm. Oh yes! Not to forget their rookie DeJuan Blair, what a monster he was against the Hornets.

  2. Very interesting take on the Spurs.
    They did appear to have some serious holes vs Chicago.

  3. Hey John,

    It’s been a long time, great to hear from you!

    I was worried there for awhile about Argentina qualifying for the World Cup … It just wouldn’t be the same without Argentina involved. Very happy to see them make it in the end!

    Looking forward to seeing Messi & Co. in South Africa next summer.

    Sixty Wins

    The Spurs have only had three 60 win teams in the franchise’s history:

    * 1995-96 — 62 wins and 20 losses + second round loss in playoffs (to Utah who lost in the conference finals to Seattle)
    * 2002-03 — 60 wins and 22 losses + NBA Championship
    * 2005-06 — 63 wins and 19 losses + second round loss in playoffs (to Dallas who went to the finals)

    I think this Spurs team is going to be fourth 60 win team in the club’s history.

    Spurs vs Lakers

    The Spurs have an excellent team but despite having so much talent on their roster … I’m just not happy about how they match up with the Lakers in a playoff series.

    I think there’s going to be an awful lot of pressure on Antonio McDyess to DeJuan Blair. These guys are going to have to negate a good chunk of Lakers’ big men’s value (Gasol, Bynum, Odom). That Lakers are too talented up front for Duncan to go to war without major help in the paint.

    As the season goes on I’ll be paying close attention to how the Spurs supporting big men are faring defensively. Particularly in matchups against tall, long, athletic big men who are skilled players. I think this could very well be the deciding factor in a Spurs-Lakers playoff series.

    I’m also going to be watching to see how much help the Spurs bigs get from the perimeter players on the backboards, I’m concerned about that too.


    It’s going to be a fantastic season for the Spurs. I’m expecting lots of beautiful basketball! Very excited about watching this team play.

    Oh, and there seems to be some optimism about Tiago Splitter joining the Spurs next season. He has the size + talent to even out the Lakers matchup should it be as difficult as I’m expecting it to be. So, things can get even better for the Spurs in the near future.

  4. Dave,

    Interesting post. I picked the Spurs to win it all, but you make some excellent post as a counter argument. One thing about Jefferson is regards to rebounding, though. He has been a poor rebounder in the last few years, but actually had a season when he averaged 7 per game. I think he’s the type of player that plays better the better the players around him.

  5. Tim W.,

    Jefferson’s rebounding + defense began to decline about a year (plus that injury shortened season) after he was asked to shoulder more of the scoring burden. Since then Jefferson’s focus has shifted from being an all-round contributor to being his team’s best or second best scorer. The drop off as an all-round player wasn’t just limited to his rebounding but also to his defense, I think, which I feel has dropped off considerably from where it was five years ago when the Nets in the Finals.

    Richard Jefferson is still young enough and athletic enough to get his defense + rebounding back up to his previous levels – no physical reason for the decline, the reasons are mental – so there’s definitely cause to believe that he can get back to his previous levels but I’m not optimistic about that happening.

    Until there’s a change in his mentality as a player, I don’t expect to see anything too different from what we’ve seen in the last few years … and when players go through that change (focus shift to scoring) and lose that mentality it becomes a real struggle to get it back (plus it shows a lack of BBIQ that it happened in the first place). You can see it spurts but normally it’s riddled with inconsistency (for example, McGrady and his defense).

    Maybe the Spurs can bring about the change … I don’t know.

    I’m not hopeful. More belief in his defense improving (expect it to be his + Pop’s first priority) than the rebounding.

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