While the San Antonio Spurs haven’t overhauled their roster this offseason, they have made significant changes that could affect the lineup this season.
Gone are Roger Mason Jr., Keith Bogans, Ian Mahinmi, and Malik Hairston but James Anderson and Tiago Splitter are likely to make you forget they ever played for the Spurs.
Mason and Bogans were rotation players last season, with Bogans even starting a few games. Hairston just couldn’t crack the rotation.
Last season, when Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich was trying to find the right mix of players to put in his starting five, News 4 WOAI’s Humberto Cervera quipped “He’s just throwing stuff at the wall and trying to find out what sticks.”
Unfortunately for Popovich, nothing ever stuck.
This year, however, I don’t forsee him having to throw stuff at walls for long. With the amount of talent on this team, there are a lot of intriguing starting combinations.
Splitter, DeJuan Blair and Antonio McDyess are all very capable of starting next to Tim Duncan in the post.
McDyess is the savvy vet, whose range unclogs the paint so Duncan can go to work. Blair is the beast, well capable of a double-double every night. His limb-tearing style of rebounding, even over taller bigs, mixes well with Duncan’s shot-blocking abilities. Splitter is probably more all-around talented center and having a center over 6-9 would be very beneficial to the Spurs.
I’m not going to rush out and call them the next “twin towers,” but having two shot-blockers in the post could give the Spurs their best interior defense they’ve had since David Robinson was around. Splitter is also very mobile and with Duncan losing a few steps over the last couple of seasons, having someone that could stay with the younger, more athletic, centers would be a nice change of pace.
So at center, I expect McDyess to start, but Splitter will eventually take over. Blair is probably best-suited to bring some energy and hustle to the second unit.
That leaves Duncan and Richard Jefferson to fill out the frontcourt.
There are also many possibilities when it comes to the backcourt. Does George Hill keep the starting point guard role he ended the season with? Do the Spurs go small with a Tony Parker-Hill backcourt combo. Does Manu Ginobili start and can Anderson break the starting five?
Pop loves Ginobili coming off the bench too much to change that. While I like the Parker-Hill option best, that leaves Garrett Temple as the backup. Anderson could very well be the dark horse to start at the two. I doubt Pop drafted him to be buried at third-string shooting guard behind Hill and Ginobili.
The Spurs could use a consistent outside shooter in the starting lineup and with Anderson, there aren’t too many risks. He may be one of the more dynamic outside shooters on the roster, since he’s also able to get to the rim and create his own shot.
This also gives the Spurs a very strong second unit, but there is one thing I’m overlooking. Anderson is a rookie and Pop is his coach. Spurs fans know how Pop is towards younger players.
The best and probably the safest option is the Parker-Hill backcourt. Parker will be coming into the season with a full summer off and Hill just seems to keep improving. Having a scorer, who’s capable of hitting the three and playing good perimeter defense is too good an option to keep on the bench.
Popovich manages minutes wisely and I can see him bringing in Ginobili midway towards the end of the first quarter so Hill is rested enough to also play some backup minutes.
The bench wouldn’t be too shabby either, with McDyess, Blair, Anderson, Ginobili, Temple, Gary Neal and possibly Alonzo Gee.
So my 2010 starting lineup: Tony Parker, George Hill, Richard Jefferson, Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter.
Give us your thoughts on this lineup and submit your own in the comments.