Spurs’ Starters: Stock Up or Down?

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SF Kawhi Leonard:

Quick stats – Four starts at small forward, 31.3 minutes per game, 28 Points Per Game (PPG), 3.3 Steals Per Game (SPG), 4.3 Assists Per Game (APG), 3.5 Rebounds Per Game (RPG), 4-15 from three (26.7 percent), 35 of 70 shooting from the field.

Breakdown – Everybody knows Leonard is a defensive stalwart, but he is starting to show the world that he is a two-way superstar on the hardwood. Through four games, he has put up over 30 points twice – including a career-high 35 in a win over the Warriors, 129-100 – after putting up four all of last season. His three-point percentage has dipped down (keep in mind it’s only a four-game sample size), but he’s driving to the basket with confidence and using a soft touch from mid-range to make up for it.  Defensively, Leonard remains the premier thief of the NBA, routinely stealing the ball and taking it the other away for a breakaway slam. It’s going to be a fun year for ‘the Claw.’

Stock – UP

PF LaMarcus Aldridge:

Quick stats – Three starts at power forward (one rest), 30.7 minutes per game, 18 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 0.3 Blocks Per Game (BPG), 2-4 from three, 41 percent from the field.

Breakdown – With Tim Duncan retiring, it was assumed that Aldridge would move over to center this season, despite rumors that he did not want that role. Even though he’s near the height of a seven-footer (6’11”), Aldridge has been a power forward the majority of his career. It seems Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich decided to keep him where he’s comfortable and play Pau Gasol at center. It’s worked out so far, as the Spurs are 4-0 and Aldridge is averaging nearly 20 points a game.

Stock – EVEN

*PF David Lee:

Quick Stats – Four appearances, including one start, 16.8 minutes, 8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 0.3 BPG, 0.8 SPG, 56 percent shooting from the field. Lee scored eight points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 25 minutes in his lone start against Miami.

Breakdown – Almost an after thought signing from the Spurs’ offseason, but Lee has emerged as a very serviceable bench player. He does the dirty work – getting boards and playing defense – while still being a viable scoring option. Lee has been injury-prone in the past so it’s anyone’s guess how long he’ll keep it up, but it’s working now.

Stock – UP

C Pau Gasol:

Quick Stats – Four starts at center, 23 minutes per game, 9.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 0.8 BPG, 3-4 from three, 45.7 percent shooting from the field.

Breakdown –It took Gasol a little time to find his rhythm with his new team, scoring 18 points in the first three games combined. In the fourth game, he put up 20 and helped lead the Spurs past Miami, 106-99. The absence of Aldridge allowed Gasol to play more of a power forward role against the Heat. While many say that center is Gasol’s “natural position,” he’s played nearly half of his career at power forward (1,059 total games, 488 at power forward, 571 at center) and had two of his three highest scoring seasons as a power forward (19 PPG in ’02-’03 and 20.4 PPG in ’05-’06). That being said, he did win championships in Los Angeles as a center, so it seems there isn’t a wrong answer there for the Spurs. Solid scorer and rebounder, but his defensive paint-presence is lacking, which is concerning as he will be playing center.  Expect to see more minutes from Dewayne Dedmon against bigger and quicker teams.

Stock – EVEN

PG Tony Parker:

Quick Stats – Three starts at point guard (one rest), 24.7 minutes per game, 5.3 PPG, 3.3 APG, 1.7 turnovers per game, 0.3 SPG, 26.3 percent shooting from the field (5-19), 2-4 from three.

Breakdown – Parker has been the one sub-par aspect of the Spurs this year. He’s down in every statistical category so far and is being outplayed by backup Patty Mills, at least offensively. At 34 years old, he seems to have lost a step or two. Once again, it is still very early in the season and he could turn it around, but he has not looked good in the first four games. He still remains one of the best passers on this team.

Stock – DOWN

*PG Patty Mills:

Quick stats – Four appearances including one start, 22.5 minutes per game, 13.3 PPG, 2.8 APG, 0.5 turnovers per game, one SPG, 13-22 from three (59 percent), 18-35 shooting from the field (51.4 percent). 18 points (4-7 from three) and five assists (to one turnover) in 24 minutes in his lone start of the season against Sacramento.

Breakdown – Mills is seriously pushing to be the Spurs’ next starting point guard, especially if Parker keeps up his abysmal play. Mills is undersized – which is a big issue on defense – and isn’t the best passer. He is lights out from three (13-22 so far on the season) and lightening quick down the court with the ball. At 28, Mills is in his prime and seems to be ready for an advanced role.

Stock – UP

SG Kyle Anderson:

Quick stats -Four starts at shooting guard. 23.8 minutes per game, 3.8 PPG, 46.2 percent from the field, five rebounds, 3-4 from three.

Breakdown – The emergence of Jonathon Simmons as a force off the bench has kept Anderson from showing out so far, despite entering his first season as a starter. It’s not that Anderson is playing bad; he’s just not playing that much between Simmons and the 14-million-dollar-man Manu Ginobili coming off the bench. With Danny Green coming back in a couple weeks, Anderson might get buried deep on the bench this season, barring an injury.

Stock – DOWN

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