. . . and put Manu Ginobili back on the bench.
It’s not what you were expecting to hear because Manu is well Manu, Anderson played sparingly in 26 games, especially when he came back from injury, and Richard Jefferson is considered the weak link in the starting five depending on what you think of whoever is starting at the five spot.
Last season, there was a log jam at the two spot, and because of his injury, Anderson was the odd man out. Once Anderson went down, Gary Neal flourished in the back up role at the two. Now that George Hill has been traded, the Spurs don’t have a back up to Tony Parker, and as we just covered, Neal spent way more time playing the two and – Lord help us all – the three (if Neal is 6’4″ I’m next in line to replace David Stern as NBA Commissioner).
Putting Neal and Anderson in the backcourt together without Hill or Parker probably isn’t the best idea. Making Neal the starter would pretty much kill any chance you have at improving defensively on the perimeter, something our man Paul Garcia wrote about in his terrific piece on Neal’s Room For Improvement.
So what’s the most logical move? Make Anderson your starting shooting guard and have Manu and Neal be the back up backcourt. Manu is still going to be the first guy off the bench, which means Anderson or Jefferson will be the first guy to the bench. Making this roster will also save the Spurs from having to spend a sizeable chunk of whatever free agency money they have on a back up point guard and then they can spend all of whatever cash they have on finding another big man.
Not sold on James Anderson? I understand, you haven’t seen him in a while and when you did you didn’t get to see much. But let’s remember a couple of things, Anderson is a long 6’6″ former Big 12 Player of the Year who can shoot the lights out, which is exactly what the Spurs love to have on the wing with Parker. Remember Michael Finley?.
Before his foot injury, Anderson was quickly working his way in to the rotation despite being limited during the summer and fall because the Spurs were being cautious with a hamstring injury. He shot 46 percent from three in the six games he played before his foot injury. His November 3rd game against Phoenix was his most impressive, when he played some big minutes in a back and forth game in Phoenix that will be remembered as Jefferson’s best game as a Spur. Anderson had two great passes to Jefferson, including one on the fast break that I remember made me raise my eye brows. There was also this play early in the preseason where Anderson showed his defensive instincts, and in his limited play Anderson did show he’s a good defensive player, both man to man and on help defense.
Here’s the deal Spurs fans, this season is going to be one where the Spurs will likely have to take a couple of risks. Trading Hill means they lost their shot creator for the second unit. Has there been a better shot creator than Manu this side of George Gervin for the Spurs? Also, imagine how energetic the second unit will look with Manu creating, Neal and Bonner shooting and DeJuan Blair and Kawhi Leonard diving to the basket for the boards.
The Spurs still need size, that’s for sure, but putting Anderson – and Tiago Splitter – in the staring lineup would make the Spurs a bigger starting-five and would limit some of the defensive mismatches they encountered last season.