What Would Manu Ginobili Look Like on this Spurs Team

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Project Spurs illustration/NBA

The San Antonio Spurs will be holding a jersey retirement for Manu Ginobili on Thursday night following their game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Ginobili announced his retirement in late August, and even if he had been leaning towards retirement, there was still a chance that he could have played this season. If he had returned, what would his role on this team have been? Would he have improved the team? And if so, by how much?

The Core Ten

Our Paul Garcia has written about the Spurs current rotation and how the Spurs have been successful when all are healthy since the start of 2019. Ginobili would have fit well into this rotation, especially when the Spurs start small. This could give the Spurs a bench lineup of Patty Mills, Ginobili, Marco Belinelli, Davis Bertans, and Jakob Poeltl.

In Ginobili’s last season, he was a slightly below average 3-point shooter for his position, shooting 35% from 3-point range, ranking him in the 41st percentile among guards. He would still fit well into a Spurs’ bench that has three (and sometimes four, depending on who starts) 3-point shooters. Ginobili would also be a primary ball handler for the bench unit which could allow Coach Gregg Popovich to rest DeMar DeRozan longer.

If Poeltl did start, the rotation would be a bit tougher as the bench would be Mills, Ginobili, Belinelli, Bertans, and Rudy Gay. The best solution would be for Popovich to substitute Gay in for Poeltl early and bring Poeltl back in with the bench.

Improvement with Ginobili

In his last season with the Spurs, Ginobili had a net rating of +0.3 when he was on the court versus when he sat. While the Spurs’ offense was much better when Ginobili was in the game, scoring 6.8 more points per 100 possession than when he was on the bench, the defense was much worse as well. The Spurs allowed 6.5 more points per 100 possession when Ginobili was in the game.

This season, when lineups of Mills, Belinelli, Bertans, and Poeltl play, they are scoring 131.9 points per 100 possession and allowing 105.3 points per 100 possession. If last season was a trend, that group’s defense would have been worse with Ginobili on the court, but their offense would still be so strong, that it would probably still give them a solid net rating.

In researching the reason for Ginobili’s drop in defensive efficiency last season, no lineups really seemed hurt his numbers to make them appear worse than they should be, without doing even deeper research. When he played with Dejounte Murray, the defense was better, but not by as much as had I expected.

When Ginobili played with Mills, the defense was fairly bad, and when Mills wasn’t on the court, lineups with Ginobili were in the 80th percentile on defense. Looking at the individual lineups though, it seems like most of the time when Ginobili played with strong defenders, the defense was good and vice-versa, with a few exceptions.

Ginobili would have a place with the current Spurs bench lineup, and having Bertans and Poeltl in the middle may have helped the defense. It seems like Ginobili is very self-critical, and the slip on defense may be indicative of a decline in his ability to stay in shape at the level needed to compete in the NBA. The Spurs certainly could have used his corporate knowledge throughout the season, however, and would have welcomed him back with open arms.

All stats from CleaningTheGlass.com

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