Do The Spurs Still Need A Perimeter Defender?


Editor’s note: Please welcome our newest staff writer, Paul Garcia, to the Project Spurs family. He’ll be bringing his unique takes along with his “Views from the Couch” column to Project Spurs weekly. He is very active during Spurs games on twitter so be sure to follow him there.

With the recent departure of Ime Udoka, there is a roster spot still available for an extra wing player (SG-SF) with the San Antonio Spurs. The reason I focus specifically on “wing” player, is because the Spurs (33-6) already had three different wing players on the roster (Bobby Simmons, Danny Green, Ime Udoka) and neither made significant contributions to reserve a permanent spot with the squad. Really, right now the only wing players are Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, George Hill, and James Anderson (when he returns from injury).

So the question is asked: Do the Spurs still need another perimeter defender?

Three Levels: The Big Boys, All Star-esque, Just Playing Basketball

Let’s go look at some numbers against some of the league’s top wing players that San Antonio has played thus far!

[Metrics: mpg = minutes per game. FG = Field Goal. FG% = Field Goal Percentage. FT = Free Throws per game. TO = Turnovers per game. Rbd/ast = Rebounds/ assists per game. PPG = Points per game.]

Assessment Classifications:

Horrible D = this player scored well above their scoring average, while shooting an extremely high percentage on limited shots. They also may have involved teammates well or gotten to the free throw line at will.

Solid D = The player got near their scoring average, but took almost as many shots per point.

Excellent D = this player had many turnovers, shot an awful percentage, or was held WELL under their average scoring.

The Big Boys

–Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) (24.9 ppg): One game (Spurs 1-0): 31 mpg, 8-27 FG, FG 30%, 2-2 FT, 5 TO, 21 ppg. Assessment: Excellent D.

–Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) (28.2 ppg): Two games (Spurs 2-0): 35.5 mpg, 8.5-19 FG, FG 45%, 2-3 FT, 5.5 rbd, 3.5 TO, 19.5 ppg. Assessment: Excellent D.

–Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets) (23.9 ppg): One game (Spurs 2-0, DNP in second game): 42 mpg, 10-20 FG, FG 50%, 10-14 FT, two TO, 31 ppg. Assessment: Horrible D.

–Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics) (19 ppg): One game (Spurs 0-1): 35 mpg, 7-10 FG, FG 70%, 2-2 FT, 1 TO, 18 ppg. Assessment: Horrible D.

All Star-esque

–Danny Granger (Indiana Pacers) (21 pts ppg): Two games (Spurs 2-0): 37 mpg, 8-16.5 FG, FG 48%, 1.5-3.5 FT, 3.5 TO, 20.5 ppg.  Assessment: Solid D.

–Gerald Wallace (Charlotte Hornets) (16.5 ppg): One game (Spurs 1-0): 32 mpg, 2-11 FG, FG 18% , 2-2 FT, 1TO, 7 ppg. Assessment: Excellent D.

–Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers) (13.7 ppg): One game (Spurs 1-0): 19 min, 3-7 FG, FG 43%, 4-5 FT, 1 TO, 10 ppg. Assessment: Solid D.

–Ray Allen (Boston Celtics) (17.6 ppg): One game (Spurs 0-1): 39 mpg, 13-16 FG, FG 81%, 3-5 FT, 1 TO, 31 ppg. Assessment: Horrible D.

–Eric Gordon (Los Angeles Clippers) (23.5 ppg): Two games (Spurs 2-1, Gordon had one DNP): 37 mpg, 9-17 FG, FG 53%, 3-4 FT, 6.5 ast, 3 TO, 22 ppg. Assessment: Solid D.

Just playing basketball

–Jeff Green (Oklahoma City Thunder) (15.5 ppg): Two games (Spurs 2-0): 26.5 mpg, 3-8.5 FG, FG 35%, FT 3-4, 9.5 ppg. Assessment: Excellent D.

–Luol Deng (Chicago Bulls) (17.8 ppg): One game (Spurs 1-0): 42 mpg, 6-17 FG, FG 35%, 5-5 FT, 18 ppg. Assessment: Solid D.

–Michael Beasley (Minnesota Timberwolves) (20.9 ppg): Four games (Spurs 4-0): 27.25 mpg, 5.3-12.75 FG, FG 42%, 1-1 FT, 2.5 TO, 12 ppg. Assessment: Excellent D.

Explanation Please

The results show you that the Spurs held five players to horrific games (Excellent D). They allowed four players to get their usual numbers (Solid D), and only allowed three players to really put on a show (Horrible D). So, when you add the figures; it shows defensively, a 9-3 advantage for the Spurs perimeter defense.

Let’s look a little closer to the players that will most likely be involved in the playoffs (because that’s what matters): The Spurs held three players (Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green) to awful games (Excellent D). They allowed Luol Deng to get his average numbers (Solid D) and could not stop (Horrible D) Carmelo Anthony, Ray Allen, or Paul Pierce. So essentially, they went 4-3 against playoff players, but finished 5-2 in their team record.

Considering Paul Pierce and Ray Allen shot 76% combined, it’s highly unlikely they will ever shoot that great a percentage against the Spurs again. Even though Carmelo had a big game, rumors are he may not finish the season with Denver. He could end up in New Jersey or New York. So by those calculations, the Spurs perimeter defense could have held all these players to a 6-1 defensive performance. What does that translate to? The Spurs 3 wing players (Ginobili, Jefferson, Hill) have been doing a great job defensively against the leagues top wing players.

Holding Down The Fort

Here’s a quick look at how the Spurs wings are holding down the perimeter defense and contributing on the offensive end:

[I measure a wing by: minutes, FG shooting, 3PT shooting, steals, Turnovers while in the game, personal fouls committed and points]

Manu Ginobili: 31.8 mpg, FG 44%, 3PT 37%, 1.87 stl, 2.5 TO, 1.8 PF, 19 ppg.

Richard Jefferson: 31.7 mpg, FG 48%, 3PT 43%, .58 stl, 1.24 TO, 1.9 PF, 13.3 ppg.

George Hill: 27.8 mpg, FG 47%, 3PT 38%, 1.09 stl, 1.42 TO, 2.3 PF, 11.4 ppg.

James Anderson (Only played in six games): 17.7 mpg, FG 42%, 3PT 50%, .33 stl, .67 TO, 1.5 PF, 7 ppg.

What’s the call?

Judging whether or not to add another wing; instead of a big man, I think, rests solely on how well James Anderson plays when he returns from his injury. He only played in six games and looked magnificent. But, how do we know that’s how consistent he’ll be in March? Jefferson, Ginobili and Hill average 30.43 minutes per game right now. With a fourth wing getting steady minutes; such as Anderson or another player; Ginobili, Hill’s and Jefferson’s minutes would decrease in the long run. This would be great for RJ and Ginobili. It’d be good to have Ginobili under 27 minutes by late March, to make sure he’s ready for the playoffs. The Spurs could use another big, but we’re already at the point where Tiago Splitter is barely getting any playing time nor has DeJuan Blair been getting steady minutes either. My call, is to give Anderson a shot when he returns from the injury and see how he fits in. If he’s back to being consistent; rotate those four wing players, if not, start searching the market for available wings before the trade deadline. The Spurs are 33-6, to have a record like that and be number one in the NBA, they’re doing something right.

[All stats used as of 01-12-2011]

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Paul is an editor, writer and content manager for (@ProjectSpurs) and (@ATLeague_NBA). Paul is also the host of the Spurscast (@TheSpurscast). Paul has been a credentialed media member covering the San Antonio Spurs and NBA since 2011. Paul has been featured on numerous radio, tv, online and podcast shows.