While Kawhi Leonard has been the most notable injury for the San Antonio Spurs this season, the team has struggled with injuries across the roster throughout the season. While point guard Tony Parker has missed significant time due to an injury he sustained during last season’s playoff run, the Spurs’ wing positions have been hit the hardest.
Leonard has only played nine of the Spurs’ 61 games this season, Rudy Gay has missed 25 games, mostly due to a heel injury, Danny Green has missed 12 games for various reasons, Manu Ginobili has missed 15 games, and Kyle Anderson has missed eight games.
These are some of the Spurs’ most versatile players on both ends of the court. The Spurs posted their second worst defensive rating of the season in Friday’s games against the Denver Nuggets, allowing 124.0 points per 100 possessions, while their two best defenders, Leonard and Green, were unable to play. When Gay is out, on the other hand, the Spurs’ ability to move Aldridge over to center, giving them access to some of their best offensive lineups, is hindered.
In fact, the Spurs’ record when Gay does not play is 11-14, good for 36 wins if extrapolated to an entire season. The Spurs’ record when Gay does play is a much better 25-11, a record that would result in 57 wins if extrapolated across 82 games.
Per 100 possessions, Gay is having a down season in terms of scoring the ball, but the best season of his career rebounding-wise, per NBA’s stat site. When Gay plays power forward, the Spurs’ rebound 29.4% of their own misses and 77% of their opponent’s misses, ranking these lineups in the 91st and 83rd percentiles respectively. When Gay isn’t on the court, the Spurs’ are still a relatively strong defensive rebounding team, with lineups not including him ranking in the 70th percentile of all lineups across the NBA in defensive rebounding, but these lineups rank only in the 52nd percentile of all lineups in offensive rebounding.
The Spurs’ much-discussed starting point guard change occurred while Gay was out with his heel injury, but there are some promising returns already for the two players in lineups together. Lineups containing both with Gay playing power forward are outscoring opponents by 13.4 points per 100 possessions and are elite at rebounding. As Gay is usually one of the earliest subs off the bench, this lineup has the potential to see some good playing time down the stretch of the season.
The Spurs’ final 21-game stretch is among the toughest in the league, and while Leonard’s return is in question for this season, some of the Spurs’ other key players, namely Gay, are returning to the lineup. This will give the Spurs an opportunity to find what lineups combinations work best heading into the playoffs.
All stats obtained from cleaningtheglass.com unless otherwise specified.