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Manu no longer the threat he used to be

During the 2013 NBA Finals, Philip Rossman-Reich of Orlando Magic Daily will be contributing to Project Spurs, covering the San Antonio Spurs' march to title No. 5.

When Manu Ginobili first received the ball in the San Antonio Spurs’ Game Three victory over the Heat, he gave a quick pump fake that got Dwyane Wade off his feet and he aggressively attacked the basket, finishing with a two-handed jam. Later on in the game, Ginobili was on the fast break and received a nice helper from Kawhi Leonard to secure two more points.

Those scores are nice and have to be part of Ginobili’s arsenal. The question for San Antonio as this series – and the next few seasons – move forward is whether these kind of plays are going to be the norm for Ginobili’s contributions. Because when it comes to providing jump shooting or floor spacing of any kind, Ginobili simply is not providing much.

In Game Three, Ginobili scored seven points on 3-for-7 shooting. Most notable in his stat line was that all four of his misses came from beyond the arc and he went to the line for only two free throws (and made just one). For the Finals, Ginobili is averaging 8.3 points per game and shooting 9 for 24 (37.5 percent) and just 3 for 13 from beyond the arc.

Ginobili, for all the good he can do, is still a scorer at heart and his value for the Spurs is created in his ability to create off the dribble and be a threat to score from anywhere. Ginobili’s struggles from beyond the arc takes away a major part of his game, especially as his athleticism has gone with age.

According to Basketball-Reference, Ginobili is 35 for 109 (32.1 percent) on all shots of at least 10 feet or more in the Playoffs. This includes his 30.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc and 81 of his 109 field goal attempts from beyond 10 feet have been for three. In the regular season, Ginobili shot 33.7 percent from this distance. This regular season marked the first time in his career he was below 34 percent on all shots beyond 10 feet and was just the third time worse than 35 percent, the first since 2004.

Ginobili is 25 for 48 (52.1 percent) on shots less than 10 feet this postseason. He is averaging 3.0 shots within 10 feet per game this postseason, compared to 4.5 per game last season in the Playoffs and 5.4 per game in 2011.

During the regular season, Ginobili made 55.9 percent of his shots within 10 feet, averaging 3.9 shots within 10 feet per game. Last year he took 3.5 per game within 10 feet and the year before he took 4.9.

You can see a precipitous decline in Ginobili’s ability to get to the rim. However, you do not see any increase in efficiency on shots beyond the 10 foot mark (admittedly an arbitrary dividing line, but one that does help illustrate the point).

Ginobili’s free throw attempts per game this season also dropped to the lowest mark of his career at 2.5 per game. Even in the Playoffs, he is shooting a career postseason worst 3.1 per game. These numbers seem to be drawing us to one conclusion. Manu Ginobili is not the player he used to be – at least in half court sets with the defense set up to stop him.

He is getting to the rim less and scoring more inefficiently from the perimeter. He is no longer the threat he used to be. The question is for San Antonio, at least as far as this series is concerned, is how much the team can get from him in the championship run. The Spurs need fewer turnovers – Ginobili has turned the ball over six times in three games – and more smarter plays from him.

That means Ginobili has to find a way to get to the basket more and not settle for so many of the long-range shots he seems to be struggling with right now.

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