Bench Briefings: Grading the Juice Unit


Thanksgiving looms less than a week away, and so does the end of the semester for most college students.

With Finals approaching faster than you can chug three Red Bull’s during an all-nighter as you finish that 10-page paper that you’ve known about for eight weeks, we figured it would be the perfect time for everyone to take a break and grade someone else for a change.

The San Antonio Spurs are 10-3 through their first 13 games, with all three losses coming at home against potential playoff teams. All things considered, it’s incredible that the Spurs are still on pace for a 57-25 record. Only four games have seen San Antonio at full strength, and one of those had Danny Green on the bench for the entire second half.

For this week, we’re going to ignore sample sizes. Ignore how many times head coach Gregg Popovich has tinkered with his rotation, ignore how many new faces the Spurs are dealing with and ignore who has and hasn’t played this season. It’s time to grade players on a quantitative and qualitative basis.

Davis Bertans, Bryn Forbes, Dejounte Murray
These three are being grouped together strictly because of their lack of playing time.

Bertans has been average with his shooting from beyond the arc. Forbes has produced in only two games when he’s received double-digit minutes, and Murray has spent more time driving up and down I-35 between San Antonio and Austin than he has going up and down the court.

The trio combined for 47 points in their only stint together in Austin, but the team failed as a unit, getting blown out by the Oklahoma City Blue. Regardless of playing time and struggles, there have been bright spots. Murray had a near triple-double in his last game in Austin. Bertans managed to hit a pair of 3-pointers against the Kings, playing 17 minutes off the bench with Dewayne Dedmon out. Forbes has been the only question mark, because there are no minutes for him with Danny Green back in the fold. There’s a bright spot at the end of the tunnel. But the end of the tunnel may not appear until next summer, if ever.

Grade: Incomplete

Nicolas Laprovittola
Laprovittola filled in admirably as the faux backup point guard while Patty Mills started for the injured Tony Parker. With Parker’s return, Laprovittola has seen his fair share of DNP-CDs, as Pop has opted to leave Murray active so the rookie can get extended minutes in case of a blowout.

But the numbers show that the offense stalls with Laprovittola on the court. His net rating is third worst on the team at -5.8 and his offensive rating is second worst, at 84.2. The Spurs also have their worst team turnover rate (TmTOV%), 15.9 percent, when Laprovittola is on the floor.

It may take an injury to see him step on the court again anytime soon, but as a 26-year-old rookie, his veteran leadership on the bench gives the Spurs something they looked for last year, without having to sign someone like Andre Miller again. He’ll eventually get it together.

Grade: D

David Lee
When the Spurs announced their acquisition of David Lee, skepticism clouded the signing. Plenty of people (myself included) felt the Spurs would’ve been better off taking the money and flushing it down the toilet.

The fact is, Lee is a skilled All-Star power forward who is exiting his prime, but has enough left in the tank to be a constant contributor. Lee hasn’t been a terrible defender, and his per-36 stats have him averaging a double-double with points and rebounds. Given that Lee is technically undersized for his position, he’s still been a prolific crasher of the glass, pulling down 16.6 percent of the Spurs’ rebounds, good enough for second behind Dewayne Dedmon.

Literally the only down side of Lee in San Antonio is trying to find highlights of him on YouTube and coming across some guy that collects Ferrari’s instead.

Grade: A

Jonathon Simmons
It feels like ages since Simmons torched the Warriors for 20 points on opening night.

Real quick, let’s recap every 3-point attempt by Simmons this season: Make. Make. Make. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss.

Simmons has come crashing down to earth statistically, averaging 4.8 points and 2.9 rebounds in November, while shooting just 38 percent. Simmons also has the second worst effective field goal percentage of Spurs with at least 100 minutes played, shooting 43.4 percent, just one-tenth better than Kyle Anderson.

But the leader of the juice unit still has a solid 12.0 net rating, and holds the second best defensive rating for the Spurs while he’s on the floor. The shots will eventually start to fall…maybe.

Grade: Four orange emojis, or a B+

Kyle Anderson
Here are Anderson’s stats since last week’s bench briefings: 2.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 11.5 minutes per game. Shooting: 36.4 percent on field goals, 33.3 percent on 3-pointers.

Grade: C-

Dewayne Dedmon
Dedmon started the season as the savior of the Spurs’ interior defense in the post-Duncan era. Then something happened after the Spurs’ loss to the Los Angeles Clippers that has seen Dedmon go from 18 minutes per game to about seven minutes per game.

It seems as if Pop figured out that a starting lineup with two floor spacing bigs shouldn’t be followed by a lineup with two bigs who struggle to score outside of 10 feet. The best indication of what Pop’s rotation will look like going forward is the game against the Detroit Pistons.

Gasol and Aldridge started the game as usual, with David Lee coming in for Aldridge slightly after the midway point of the first. Gasol would finish out the entire first quarter before being substituted by Aldridge to start the second quarter. Gasol came in for Lee midway through the second, and the Spurs finished out the half with their starting bigs, as Aldridge played the entire second quarter.

Dedmon’s not in the doghouse by any means, he’s just a rotation casualty right now.

Grade: B-

Manu Ginobili
This needs to be reiterated throughout the rest of this season. Manu Ginobili is 39-years-old. And anything he gives you at this stage of his career is a positive. Ginobili is shooting a career-low 39.7 percent from the field, but a career-high 41.9 percent on 3-pointers. I just…

Grade: A

Patty Mills
Mills is second on the Spurs in offensive rating (113.7) He’s third in net rating (13.8), first in assist to turnover ratio (3.75), second in assist ratio (29.1). He is also tied for first in efficient field goal percentage (58.8%), second in true shooting percentage (62.5%) and he’s averaging a career-high in assists per game (3.8), while close to career highs in points (10.2) and rebounds per game (2.0). Whatever happened to Mills while in Rio de Janeiro this summer, has transferred over to this season seamlessly.

Grade: Exempt from final exam for being so good.


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