August 13, 2017, 11:11 pm
Hoop-Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look at the 2016-17 season and what went right and wrong for every team. From coaching analysis to fantasy impact, we dive in to the year that was and make sense of it all. If you’ve missed any, you can find them here.
The Spurs entered the season hoping for some good things with their newest acquisitions, of both high and low profile. Though all the talk surrounded the eventual-champion Warriors, San Antonio authored another terrific season under the leadership of Gregg Popovich and the two-way stardom of Kawhi Leonard. An aging roster still managed to roast just about everyone they came across, and only an ill-timed injury could put the Spurs down for good. Hoop-Ball’s Post-Mortem takes a look at another successful year in San Antonio.
As usual, the Spurs were excellent from start to finish yet again this year. They suffered only one three-game losing streak, which came in the meaningless final three contests of the regular season. San Antonio only lost consecutive games three other times all year, cruising to a 61-21 finish and the second seed in the Western Conference.
The Spurs, in their first year without Tim Duncan, handed the torch to ascendant two-way superstar Kawhi Leonard. He posted an MVP-caliber campaign in a year where he was somehow overshadowed by a pair of historic performances, but continued to thrive as one of the game’s quietest star. Their roster didn’t require a ton of overhaul, though they did sign veteran (and strong on-paper fit with the Spurs methodology) Pau Gasol as well as David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon. In the wake of Duncan’s retirement and the departure of David West, it was clear that the Spurs wanted to revamp the frontcourt. They picked point guard Dejounte Murray 29th overall with their only selection of the draft.
Really though, this season was all about Kawhi. There was some scuttlebutt about the team considering trading LaMarcus Aldridge, but nothing came to pass and the Spurs continued to rock and roll behind Kawhi’s mastery. As usual, they made the most out of a roster that didn’t stack up to the rest of the league’s elite on paper, getting the typical contributions from their old standbys in Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green while receiving useful bench production from Patty Mills, Jonathon Simmons and company.
San Antonio got through Memphis (again) in the first round of the postseason and dispatched Houston in six games despite a devastating injury to Tony Parker that occurred in Game 2, landing an embarrassing knockout punch with a 114-75 road victory in a game where they were also without Kawhi Leonard. They were shocking the eventual-champion Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals as well, finding themselves up 25 when Leonard went down through some questionable means. Dirty or not, it changed the course of the series as the Spurs completely collapsed without their MVP candidate, falling to the Dubs in four games.
Back for his 20th full term at the helm, Gregg Popovich continues to be the best in the business. The Spurs have won at least 50 games in every full season with coach Pop at the helm, and there’s no signs of that streak ending any time soon. He always gets the best out of his players, and the fact that a different supporting character seems to come up big every single year is a testament to both his and the organization’s skill for spotting and developing overlooked talent.
The Spurs were one of only three teams to rank in the top-10 for both offensive and defensive rating, joining the juggernaut Warriors and the Raptors. They were also top-10 in assist percentage, assist-to-turnover ratio, rebounding percentage, effective field goal percentage, turnovers per game and true shooting percentage. Long story short, San Antonio was really good, but I’d get fired if I just wrote that and moved on.
As you might’ve gathered from the assist figures there, the Spurs were able to generate some good looks. They led the league in 3-point efficiency, shooting .391 from deep despite ranking 25th in attempts per game. Interestingly enough, San Antonio was bottom-five in terms of number of shots at the rim but tied for the second-most attempts from the mid-range. It’s not too surprising considering some of the personnel at their disposal but it does illustrate how playing to the strengths of your roster can produce an effective unit regardless of where the shots are coming from. The saving grace is that those came off a nice passing sequence more often than not, as the Spurs had the fourth-fewest isolation possessions in the league.
Defensively, San Antonio led the league with a sparkling 100.9 defensive rating. They were top-10 in terms of opponent points in the paint, fast break points, second chance points and points off turnovers. They also limited the damage on the longball, holding opponents to just 23.7 3-point attempts per game, the third-fewest in the league. As many great defensive teams do, the Spurs slowed down the pace and ranked just 27th in the category, which helps explain why so few Spurs actually earn fantasy relevance over the course of a season.
Pop is a living legend in the NBA and will only relinquish the Spurs job when he feels it’s time to leave. He’s got the Spurs operating like a well-oiled machine on both ends of the floor and they typically dismantle anyone who isn’t amongst the elite of the elite. Having Popovich around means that San Antonio is an instant contender, and don’t expect that to change going forward.
ADP: 9 / 7 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 8/7 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 8/4 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 74
Leonard was drawing serious hype in the preseason, and rightfully so. His fantasy exploits caught up to his on-court talent and the MVP candidate posted 25.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.7 blocks and 1.8 triples per game while shooting .485 from the floor, .380 from three and .880 from the free throw line on 7.2 attempts per game. The points, rebounds, assists and free throw numbers all represent career-highs.
While San Antonio has developed a reputation as a whirring ball-movement machine, Leonard actually does his fair share of ball-stopping. Of course he’s so damn good that it doesn’t draw complaints, but he gets a lot of his buckets by going to work on his own — 52.4 percent of his buckets last season were unassisted. Leonard also gets his buckets from some of the less-common shooting spots in today’s game. The most field goal makes he had from any area on the court were his 469 from the mid-range, followed by 323 above-the-break threes. It helps that he shot .473 and .365 from those spots, respectively, and clearly he doesn’t need an analytically-friendly shot profile to make magic.
He was particularly helpful in 9-cat leagues thanks to just 2.1 turnovers per contest. Among the 25 players who took 16 or more shots per game last season, Leonard trailed only Jabari Parker, Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal and Klay Thompson in turnovers. Defensively, Leonard ranked seventh in the league in steals, and his elite production there helped to offset his decline in blocks (from 1.0 to 0.7).
Leonard is going to be a first-round asset for a long time coming, even if his upward-trending turnovers take some of the shine off for 9-cat owners. It’ll be interesting to see where he lands in the first-round this season with so much moving and shaking around the league, but whoever winds up with Leonard will not be disappointed and may end up with a little sliver of profit.
ADP: 30 / 22 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 61/48 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 63/53 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 72
The big scoring days in Portland weren’t likely to follow Aldridge to San Antonio, and he saw a healthy slip down the fantasy ranks this past year. He managed to handle his first year with the Spurs fairly well, particularly in the season’s second half, but this year brought a decline in points, rebounds, field goal percentage and free throw percentage. Though LMA actually saw a two minute increase up to 32.6 per contest, his scoring dropped to 17.3 points per game, the lowest it’s been since he became a full-time starter. His rebounds fell from 8.5 to 7.3 though he did get the rest of his numbers up by small margins, posting 1.9 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.2 blocks. Aldridge also shot a career-best .411 from deep, though it only amounted to 0.3 triples per game.
Most of his value was lost in efficiency, as he shot only .477 after shooting .513 in his first year with San Antonio. His shooting inside the arc did most of the damage, as he fell from .521 to just .480 this year. Digging into his shot profile, there was a pretty notable drop in LMA’s looks in the restricted area. This past season, he saw 570 shots from the mid-range, 256 from the restricted area and 167 from the paint. Two years ago he was at 523 from mid-range, 325 from the restricted area and 181 from the paint. The additions of Gasol and Dedmon seemed to force him further away from the hoop, and while he’s still a pretty effective mid-range guy it’s just not a good recipe for shooting over 50 percent.
Additionally, Aldridge missed a handful of games, including one due to illness, one resulting from a sore right knee, two from a heart arrhythmia and one more with a sprained left thumb. More troubling is the fact that he struggled so much on defense throughout the postseason, and it points to a decline in minutes for someone who’s also piling up nicks and bumps entering his 12th year in the league. That spells trouble for a guy who really doesn’t bring many cash counters besides blocks, especially considering that he’s seen his rebounding rate decline in four straight seasons. With San Antonio’s assembled personnel, this might be his new reality in terms of shooting percentage and any hit on minutes will do some damage to his volume. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him fall further down the rankings next year.
ADP: 36 / 51 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 108/93 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 84/75 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 64
An older player like Gasol will always be at risk of a notable dip in San Antonio thanks to DNP-CDs, but some decline was also going to be the result of Gasol shifting into a third option on offense. Considering the huge drop in playing time to a career-low 25.4 minutes (6 minutes less than he’d ever received), he did well to return mid-round value on a per game basis. Though Gasol posted a career-low 12.4 points per game, he still dropped 7.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 blocks per contest while upping his field goal percentage to .502, the highest it’s been since his Laker days. Unfortunately his free throws fell off a cliff, down to .702 after two straight years of .790 or higher.
The biggest factor that allowed him to hold onto reasonable value was an increase in threes. He hit a career-high 56 triples in only 64 games, easily lapping the 24 that he hit in 2015-16 which previously served as his career-high. Last year’s total accounts for over half of his career 130 makes. As you might expect, Gasol got some good looks from downtown, as 16.5 percent of all of his shots this season were threes classified as either open or wide open. In fact, every single three that Gasol knocked down this year came off an assist, and there’s no reason to think that that sort of ball movement philosophy will stop. It’s a nice new wrinkle that should offset his declining blocks.
It wasn’t the rest program that did Gasol in, but rather a fractured finger in January that cost him 15 games. Considering how freaky that injury was, there’s plenty to like about his chances of repeating this type of output. He’ll be around the top-100 as it’s unlikely his minutes dip much lower than this. While Gasol’s days as an early-round play are gone, he can still deliver enough blocks, boards, and suddenly triples to help you out.
ADP: 118 / 93 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 130/120 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 123/118 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 68
Green drew the ire of countless fantasy players in 2015-16, as he was about as maddening as a mid-round pick could be. After three years of consistent output, his field goal percentage plummeted from .430-plus down to .376 and his threes fell from around 2.0 per game to just 1.5. It was an out of character drop from Green, and while he was expected to bounce back this season he didn’t come all the way back up.
The Spurs view him as a vital part of their rotation so he kept his usual role (26.6 minutes), posting 7.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.8 blocks, 1.7 threes and 1.1 turnovers per game while shooting .379 from the floor. He also had his free throw numbers rocket back up to .844 after a relatively ugly .739 mark the year prior.
Green also battled injuries for the first time in three season as a left quad strain forced him to watch eight of the first nine games from the sidelines and a left quad contusion cost him five more at the end of the year.
How you view Green going forward essentially hinges on whether you think he can restore his field goal percentage. Even if he can’t get back up to the 44 percent level, he should still be able to crack the low forties again. We’re believers, though Green is quickly running out of goodwill to burn. He should also have a slight minutes boost with Jonathon Simmons out of the picture, and we’re putting him around the top-100 for now. It’s unlikely to be a pleasant ride for H2H owners but Roto players will typically be happy with the output when it’s all said and done.
ADP: 109 / 127 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 231/249 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 239/252 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 63
Parker was a huge drag on fantasy owners this season, as his name value carries far more weight than his on-court production. He played a career-low 25.2 minutes per game, posting just 10.1 points, 1.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.4 threes. Additionally, his .466 from the field was the worst he’s shot since his first three seasons in the league and the first time he’s been below .480 since then. If his efficiency is dropping and the flow of already paltry cash counters dries up, you’re praying that he can rack up points and assists — an impossibility given his dwindling workload.
That’s without factoring in the missed games, to boot. Parker dealt with myriad injuries throughout the year, including missing four November games as a result of knee soreness, another in December with a sore thigh, four more in January with foot pain and four in March with back soreness. In the Western Conference Semifinals, Parker ruptured his quad tendon and said that he’s looking to return in January after undergoing surgery in the offseason.
Coming off a rough injury and entering his age-35 season, there’s not much to like about Parker’s fantasy prospects. That’s before getting into his serious stat set issues. Fantasy owners can safely leave Parker off their draft boards.
ADP: 140 / 139 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 118/122 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 155/155 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 80
Mills resumed his sixth man role and made only eight starts despite San Antonio’s older guards missing their fair share of time. He was able to post a career-high in minutes per game with 21.9, but still couldn’t crack double figures with just 9.5 points per game. He did shoot over 41 percent from deep, chipping in 1.4 threes a night, but the rest of his 1.8 rebound, 3.5 assist, 0.8 steal statline doesn’t do much to impress. He got a lot of value from missing only two games, one with a tight left calf and the other as a rest day.
We’ll see if Mills gets bumped into the starting job with Tony Parker on the mend to start next season, as he was able to play 28.9 minutes per game in his starts last year. He was basically a 12-point, six-assist guy with 2.4 threes per game in that scenario so it’d be enough to hold some value. He’ll probably get a little playing time bump even off the bench unless Dejounte Murray really surprises, but is going to be a low-end guard at best until he gets close to 30 minutes per game.
ADP: 140 / 133 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 173/178 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 172/189 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 69
Ginobili continued to provide a steady hand off the bench in his 15th season. Predictably, he’s now seen a decline in minutes per game for six straight years, and his 18.7 this year represent a career-low. This year, Ginobili paired that with career-lows in scoring (7.5), rebounds (2.3) and field goal percentage (.390). That shooting mark is his worst by over two full percentage points, though he was able to nail 39 percent of his threes.
That was part of what kept up his low-end value, as Ginobili still knocked down 1.3 threes and grabbed 1.2 steals per game. If either of those dip, he’ll plummet down the ranks. He’ll also miss his fair share of games due to San Antonio’s aggressive rest strategy. Ginobili only missed three of his 13 games due to injury this year, one with a sore back and two with a right quad contusion. Entering his age-40 season and with his workload unlikely to increase, Ginobili isn’t a fantasy option.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 249/257 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 298/312 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 78
Simmons was one of San Antonio’s primary bench wings but didn’t really make a name for himself until some strong performances filling in for Kawhi in the postseason. The 27-year-old dropped double figures in the final seven games of the Spurs’ run. He did have a pretty strong year for San Antonio all things considered, but that wasn’t enough to make him a worthwhile fantasy option. In 17.8 minutes per game, Simmons posted 6.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.3 blocks and 0.4 triples on .420 from the floor.
After the Spurs let him hit unrestricted free agency, Simmons signed a three-year deal with the Magic where he’ll function as the first wing off the bench. Fantasy players might see his path to minutes and remember his strong postseason, but he’s not going to be a great target. There are some stat set issues at play and he’s soon to be 28-years-old while entering his third NBA season, so his developmental curve may have already hit its apex. Simmons will be a late-round play at best despite the new opportunity.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 150/130 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 177/154 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 76
Dedmon was a smart low-key signing that gave the Spurs an affordable rim protector and rebounder to counter the rest of their plodding frontcourt. He more than delivered good value, posting 5.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 0.8 blocks while shooting .622 from the floor. That isn’t all that far off from the numbers he posted in his 37 starts, in which he still only averaged 20.4 minutes per game. Dedmon stayed healthy as well, missing only six games back in November with a left knee sprain.
After signing an affordable two-year deal with the Hawks, sleeper watch is officially on for Dedmon. He’s currently the favorite to start (with more substantial minutes) and could approach quick double-doubles with 1.5 blocks per game in the proper workload, making him a high-upside play who should be available in the later rounds.
ADP: 140 / 134 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 155/154 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 194/188 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 79
The Spurs signed Lee to bolster their frontcourt depth and he was able to stay remarkably healthy for a guy with his checkered past, missing one game apiece with a sore knee and a sore foot. That was until he went down with a partially torn patellar tendon in the Western Conference Finals. It was a sad end from a solid season out of the veteran, who averaged 7.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists on .590 shooting. Lee even had a few turn-back-the-clock showings in his 10 starts but is unlikely to get the 18.7 minutes per game he received this year again, especially coming off a serious injury at age 34.
ADP: N/A / 151 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 250/230 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 277/262 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 72
Though he was able to make a career-high 14 starts this season, Kyle Anderson actually saw his minutes decline from 14.2 per game, down from the 16.0 he posted the season prior. He’s not a great fantasy option regardless of workload, however, as Anderson averaged 27.1 minutes per start but only posted 5.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.7 blocks and 0.4 threes. If that’s his best case scenario, it should go without saying that he’s only an option in very deep leagues.
As usual, it’s tough to poke many holes in San Antonio’s season. Kawhi Leonard’s injury in the Western Conference Finals provides a thought provoking what-if, but other than that the Spurs remained consistently great from start to finish. They’ll have some new dynamics this year with Rudy Gay in town but San Antonio tends to get former stars to merge gracefully into the system. They’ll also have Ginobili back for a 16th year to help buoy a young guard rotation that holds down the fort while Parker recovers. Replacing Dedmon’s rim protection isn’t the highest priority, though they could stand to find an alternative there. The same goes for replacing Simmons on the wing. The trade rumors around Aldridge will continue to swirl, but as long as Kawhi can go the Spurs will be a serious threat regardless of who’s around him.