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Hitting the free agent market: Boris Diaw

On July 1, San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw will hit the free agent market as an unrestricted free agent. I’ll be reviewing Diaw’s production from the regular season and playoffs last season, to quantitatively assess how much value he brought to the Spurs on both ends of the floor.

First, let’s take a look at some of base statistics in the regular season and the playoffs.

Period   of Season Regular   Season (79 games) Playoffs   (23 games)
Points 9.1 PPG 9.2 PPG
Shooting   (3PT Shooting) 52% FG (40% 3FG) 50% FG (40% 3FG)
Minutes 25.0 MPG 26.3 MPG
Rebounds 4.1 RPG 4.8 RPG
Assists 2.8 APG 3.4 APG
Offensive   Rating 109.3 113.2
Defensive   Rating 101.3 103.2

As you can see, across the board, Diaw’s numbers are very similar in both parts of the season. Now, let’s go deeper than the base statistics and take a look at Diaw in detail on both ends of the floor, by the use of Synergy Sports metrics. (One note to keep in mind when reviewing Synergy data, the data is compiled from both the regular season and playoffs.)

Diaw on Offense

Before discussing Diaw’s versatility in being able to score the basketball, we also have to recognize his passing ability. Though his 2.8 assists per game in the regular season don’t look quite impressive, when you go further into different metrics, you’ll see just how much of a responsibility Diaw held in helping the Spurs’ offensive machine operate. Here were Diaw’s passes and touches per game in the regular season via the SportVU metrics.

38.9 passes per game (3rd most on team), 49.2 touches per game (3rd most on team)

Outside of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, no one on the Spurs touched and passed the ball more last season than Diaw. From his ability to find cutters, open 3-point shooters, work the “high-low” pass with Duncan, Diaw has displayed his passing ability in all sorts of facets on the court. One of his most memorable passes came in the NBA Finals, when he was double-teamed in the post, and fed a behind-the-back pass to Tiago Splitter for an open dunk.

Now let’s take a look at how Diaw scored the ball last season. The chart below shows Diaw’s Top-5 most used scoring possessions when scoring the ball, based on a Points Per Possession (PPP) measurement.

Screenshot (100)

After looking at the data, one could argue that Diaw was the Spurs’ most versatile big man on the Spurs’ roster last season offensively speaking, as he was more dynamic in scoring than even Duncan (see chart below).

Screenshot (101)

Diaw’s offensive scoring arsenal allows him to shoot open jumpers, post-up defenders, cut for layups, score as a roll man, and finish in transition. The chart below shows how Diaw scored by possession and where he ranked overall amongst all NBA players, by Synergy’s metrics.

Possession   Type Points   Per Possession Synergy   rank in NBA
Spot-Up 1.01 130
Post-Up 0.98 24
Cut 1.19 108
Pick-&-Roll Man 0.79 144
Transition 1.12 165

One of Diaw’s most powerful offensive weapons is his ability to post-up smaller or lighter defenders. With the Spurs being able to use versatile lineups against different teams in different scenarios, Diaw often finds mismatches with a smaller defender guarding him, and the Spurs quickly know to give Diaw the ball to work in the post, where ranked 24th best in the entire NBA at scoring on post-up possessions.

Diaw on Defense

On the defensive end, not only can Diaw defend shooting guards and small forwards like Dwayne Wade and LeBron James for spot-minutes, but he’s also one of the best on the Spurs at guarding big men across the league. The data below displays the Spurs’ frontcourt player’s individual defense in how they defended the three most common ways big men score in the NBA: Post-Up, Spot-Up, and Pick-and-roll Man.

Screenshot (102)

Of the Spurs’ six big men, Diaw ranked 5th in defending Post-Ups, 2nd in defending Spot-Ups, and 1st in guarding big men rolling off the pick-and-roll. Outside of defending Post-Ups, Diaw was one of the best by the data at guarding the Spot-Up and Roll man. Overall in the NBA, Diaw ranked 194th in guarding both the Spot-Up and Post-Up, but he ranked 10th best in the entire NBA at guarding the Roll Man.

As Diaw gets ready to hit the free agent market at 32 years old, it’s no secret San Antonio seems like the perfect place for his skill set. Two days after the Spurs won the NBA Championship, Diaw said he didn’t know yet what his decision would be, but did mention he’d like to return to San Antonio.

“It’s early,” said Diaw of returning to San Antonio. “I don’t know yet. I wouldn’t mind (returning).”

“The style of play and philosophy is something that I like,” said Diaw of the Spurs, when asked if it’s a consideration in his decision. “It is a consideration for sure.”

As Jonathan Abrams of Grantland.com recently wrote in telling Diaw’s past story to today, teams that would target Diaw may be cautious because his past has shown that if he’s not in a place that utilizes his skill set, he’s had motivational struggles in those settings.

Add to the fact that his best friend Parker plays with the Spurs and they might have a chance at contending for a second championship together next season, one would think Diaw and the Spurs will figure out a reasonable deal to keep Diaw in the silver and black for next season.

(Statistics via NBA.com/stats, Synergy Sports, and SportVU)

Paul Garcia

About Paul Garcia

Paul is a San Antonio Spurs credentialed media member for Project Spurs. He covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, TX, and the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals. Paul has been featured on WOAI, Fox 29, and numerous nationwide radio shows.

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