Spurs Starter Spotlight: Injuries call for backup starters

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MEMPHIS, TN - FEBRUARY 6: Vince Carter #15 of the Memphis Grizzlies blocks the shot against the San Antonio Spurs on February 6, 2017 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Over the last two weeks, the San Antonio Spurs have lost three out of seven games in which eight different players started for the silver and black.

Due to the injury sustained by starting center, Pau Gasol, in mid-January, San Antonio has been forced to utilize backup big men in their starting rotation. Additionally, Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge suffered minor injuries during the last few weeks causing them to miss a game apiece. How did this constant rotating of starting players affect the Spurs’ success over the last seven games? Let’s take a look at some of their contributions.

LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge started six of the Spurs’ seven previous games only missing the February 2 home game against the Philadelphia 76ers with a sore knee. Over the last seven games, Aldridge averaged 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds in 32 minutes. Aldridge has obviously struggled as of late, shooting only 38% from the field. Aldridge scored in the teens in five out of his previous six games with his highest scoring game on January 31, in a win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He had 25.

Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard also started six of the Spurs’ last seven games but missed the February 2 loss to the Grizzlies in Memphis due to a right quad contusion. Leonard, who is the Spurs’ current leading scorer, averaging 25.5 points per game, made huge contributions to San Antonio during the last two weeks. In addition to his scoring impact, Leonard averaged 6.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 32.8 minutes per game. While Leonard’s defensive abilities are still worthy of attention, his offensive skills have improved greatly. Two years ago Leonard averaged 16.5 points per game. Last year, he improved to 21.2 PPG. Now, he’s consistently the Spurs’ top scorer with a 25.5 average.

Tony Parker

Veteran Tony Parker has played in all of the Spurs’ last seven games and been his consistent point-guard self the entire time. Although Parker doesn’t score as much as he used to, his impact on the court is still felt through his play-making skills and true point guard prowess. Over the last seven games, Parker averaged 10.1 points, four assists, and even managed to come up with as many as six rebounds against the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 31.

Danny Green

Averaging about the same as last year, Danny Green has begun to contribute more defensively to Spurs’ wins. Since January 28, Green averaged 1.4 steals a game and one block per game. Offensively, Green’s 8.7 points per game average over the last 7 games isn’t too much of a surprise either. He’s been able to step in and knock down big shots, while also taking on more of a role as a distributor.

Dewayne Dedmon

Filling in for injured Pau Gasol, Spurs backup center, Dewayne Dedmon started in the Spurs’ last five games. The Spurs won four out of the five games Dedmon started. In his five starts, Dedmon averaged 7.6 points in 21.2 minutes. While his scoring capabilities are evident, the biggest impact of this backup big man is his ability to show up big on the boards. Dedmon averaged 8.8 rebounds in his five starts over the last few weeks.

Davis Bertans

Since January 29, Davis Bertans started twice, –  in a loss against the Dallas Mavericks on January 29 and the February 2 win against Philadelphia. The rookie forward scored six points in 17 minutes against Dallas while managing to come up with three rebounds and two blocks. In the win against Philadelphia, Bertans finished with 12 points, six rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 30 minutes.

Jonathon Simmons and David Lee

David Lee and Jonathon Simmons both started once for San Antonio in the last two weeks, Lee in the January 27 loss in New Orleans against the Pelicans, and Simmons in the February 6 loss against the Grizzlies in Memphis. David Lee had 13 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes in his start, while Simmons had four points, two rebounds, and two steals in 24 minutes when he played as a starter.

Looking forward: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has had to experiment with different lineups due to injuries, but the ability to insert several players into the lineup should pay dividends later in the season and into the playoffs. The most recent reports have Gasol returning after the All-Star break, which should bring the Spurs’ regular starting group back together for the second half of the season.

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