Year-End Grades for Every Key San Antonio Spurs Player
Never doubt the San Antonio Spurs.
Like death and taxes, the Spurs' success has become something of a guarantee in recent years, as the veteran squad continues to dodge any questions regarding its age.
Though they are still searching for that signature win—a source of concern for some—the team has still been a dominant Western Conference squad and a leading contender.
Sitting atop the Southwest Division, San Antonio currently sports a 23-7 record as it prepares for the new year.
With 2014 right around the corner, it's time to analyze the parts that make up the Spurs' unique puzzle and their production thus far.
2013-14 Stats: 2.4 points, 0.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 7.70 PER
If you like trades, you're going to love Jeff Ayres.
The only thing that the former Indiana Pacer has taught us thus far is that the Spurs will need to make a deal if they want to add a fourth big man to the rotation.
To say that Ayres has struggled would be an understatement; aside from sporadic flashes of talent, the artist formerly known as Jeff Pendergraph has done little to impress.
Though his ability to shoot the mid-range jumper was initially deemed a valuable asset, only five of his makes this season have come from an area other than the restricted area. Shooting just 44 percent on the season, the power forward is underachieving on the offensive end.
Defensively, he hasn't made up for his offensive failures. There's little to criticize about his defensive play but also very little to praise.
Overall, Ayres is struggling to live up to his preseason expectations as it becomes abundantly clear that barring a turnaround, Ayres cannot provide the team with very much help in any category.
2013-14 Stats: 8.0 points, 1.5 assists, 1.4 rebounds, 17.64 PER
Don't hold your breath, because it doesn't appear as though the Patty Mills show will end anytime soon.
From mascot to bench stud, Mills' journey has been an entertaining one, and the Spurs fanbase is loving every minute of it.
Though his playing time is rather low—he is, after all, stuck behind one of the league's best point guards—the three-point-shooting specialist has still managed to make an impact.
Connecting on over 40 percent of his deep attempts, Mills has become a legitimate—and consistent—three-point shooter as well as an improved defender and respectable distributor.
He outhustles nearly everyone on the floor, and while he isn't necessarily the team's most talented option, he's filling his role better than anyone.
Having finally found his niche in a loaded backcourt, Mills should continue to succeed in 2014.
2013-14 Stats: 8.0 points, 1.3 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 14.04 PER
Danny Green has become the Manu Ginobili of 2013-14.
While inconsistency has hurt the team's resident three-point specialist in the past, it's hurting the team more so now than ever.
As a three-point shooter, Green is either knockdown or inept on any given day, and the emergence of Marco Belinelli as a perennial scoring spark hasn't helped Green's case.
Green has recently lost his starting duties to Belinelli, and while he has actually been impressive as a bench spark, dealing with inconsistency has become frustrating.
On the defensive end, he remains the second-best perimeter stopper after Kawhi Leonard, making it difficult to bench him even during his off nights.
Though he has been impressive on certain days, other games tell a different tale. If he gets hot come playoff time, the Spurs' deep attack will be a force to be reckoned with—that much is evident from his good nights.
But until he can improve his consistency, he'll continue to frustrate the San Antonio community. It hasn't been all bad in 2013, but there are plenty of New Year's resolutions for Green to make for the coming year.
2013-14 Stats: 9.6 points, 3.5 assists, 2.3 rebounds, 14.98 PER
Contract-year Boris Diaw should be every-year Diaw.
The versatile forward will never be a star, but he is turning into one of the most impressive role players in the league, and while he doesn't always look pretty in action, it's safe to say that he gets it done.
Despite limited action, the team's third big man has turned in a handful of incredible performances. Though he has never been known as a scorer, Diaw is enjoying the best per-36 scoring average of his career and his highest-ever field-goal percentage.
He isn't the best shooter, passer, rebounder or defender; however, the team can rely on him as a source of production on a nightly basis.
Though the team's frontcourt may not have much depth, Diaw ensures that it isn't completely lost.
As long as he remains consistent and healthy, the frontcourt will remain a viable source of production even when its other inhabitants struggle.
2013-14 Stats: 10.0 points, 1.8 assists, 2.7 rebounds, 15.21 PER
Gregg Popovich is a man of few words, so you knew something had to be up when he told Project Spurs' Paul Garcia, that Marco Belinelli was "fitting in more quickly than any new player I think we’ve ever had."
Belinelli, a fairly under-the-radar acquisition, is enjoying a change in scenery more than any other player around the league.
The perimeter ball movement that San Antonio so flawlessly executes has proven to be an ideal fit for the talented distributor, not to mention a fair share of the team's three pointers—the overall goal of this ball movement—have come from his end.
Currently shooting just under 50 percent from deep, Belinelli is set to break franchise records should his three-point shooting onslaught continue.
Though his statistics have indeed slipped a bit since he was given starting duties, the Italian guard is still scoring and distributing at a high level. During his time on the bench, Belinelli provided the Spurs with an unparalleled one-two punch off the pine alongside Manu Ginobili. Now that his role has increased, look for him to continue his successful run as one of the league's most productive role players.
Though the team will look elsewhere for star power, Belinelli has emerged as a strong contributor and versatile asset who will continue to make an offensive impact as long as he's given the opportunities.
2013-14 Stats: 7.9 points, 1.1 assists, 6.3 rebounds, 17.01 PER
Tiago Splitter started off the season strongly; he was thriving offensively and had emerged as a defensive stopper at the rim.
Recently, though, his scoring ability has taken a hit.
Though it seemingly disappeared for a period of time, his label as a "soft" player is quickly returning, as it becomes evident that he lacks the strength to finish with force underneath.
That said, he isn't completely inept. On the season, he is still putting the ball in the basket at a fine rate—53 percent—and is one of the best passing big men in the league. Defensively, his contributions continue to be integral to the team's success.
Still, his 38 percent shooting from the floor over the past 10 games cannot be ignored. Recently—at least on the offensive end—it has been frustrating to watch him in action.
Though he is still a defensive force and a capable offensive contributor at times—his track record will show that he is very talented—Splitter's production needs to improve to ensure his presence as a reliable two-way player.
2013-14 Stats: 12.7 points, 1.7 assists, 6.4 rebounds, 17.70 PER
Out of every player, Kawhi Leonard has been the most disappointing.
He hasn't been bad by any stretch of the imagination, but for a player who was initially viewed as a likely Most Improved candidate, Leonard is underachieving.
Defensively he's lived up to expectations. His contributions on that end are irreplaceable and his presence is necessary to ensure defensive success.
But on the other end, there have been plenty of questions regarding Leonard's play.
Originally known as a three-point threat on offense, Leonard has struggled with the shot, and his entire confidence on the offensive end has taken a hit. Shooting below 30 percent from deep on the season—although he has improved slightly in the month of December—Leonard's reliability as a three-point threat has been scrutinized.
While he still turns in solid numbers and puts forth a top-notch defensive effort, Leonard needs to find his rhythm in order to live up to those lofty expectations.
2013-14 Stats: 12.0 points, 4.4 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 19.65 PER
From laughingstock to Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Manu Ginobili has made an incredible leap this season. Known as an X-factor whose production could put the team over the top, the flashy shooting guard has been a valuable bench asset in 2013-14 as he turns in a resurgent year.
Though his statistics aren't eye-catching, he has been solid from game to game and has been the catalyst behind numerous fourth-quarter runs that have contributed to the team's 23-7 record.
Shooting over 50 percent in the month of December, Ginobili has been efficient on offense and remains the team's most reliable free-throw shooter, shooting over 90 percent on the season.
Whatever limitations he has run into, he has found ways around, as Ginobili continues on his road to redemption after last year's shoddy campaign.
2013-14 Stats: 14.1 points, 3.1 assists, 9.5 rebounds, 20.82 PER
Perhaps he struggled out of the gate, but Tim Duncan has since proved that age is just a number.
At 37, the veteran power forward should be on the decline. However, he's been turning in vintage performance after vintage performance as he continues to defy Father Time.
Offensively, he has delegated a large portion of the scoring duties to Tony Parker and the team's plethora of talented role players. Defensively, on the other hand, he remains as much an anchor as he was when he entered the league as a young star out of Wake Forest.
With two blocks per game, he has contributed immensely to one of the league's top defenses while remaining a force on the boards and a valuable post distributor.
Thus far, his biggest issue is game-to-game consistency and remaining efficient on the scoring end.
Still, his defensive prowess cannot be ignored, and though there is plenty of room for improvement, his December averages—16.2 points and 12.4 rebounds—signal a steady improvement since his horrid start.
His unexpected low-efficiency games may be a bit unsettling, but overall it has been a strong year for the veteran big man.
2013-14 Stats: 17.8 points, 6.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 19.53 PER
After posting over 20 points per game in the 2012-13, Tony Parker's scoring average may seem relatively low. That said, there has hardly been a drop-off in production from the Spurs' leading man.
Collecting just over 30 minutes of playing time on average, the captivating point guard garners less court time than most superstars, a prime reason for any statistical slip. Not to mention, the abundance of talented scorers has taken a load off Parker's shoulders, allowing him to save his energy for when the team needs it most.
And when the team needs it, Parker delivers. Frequently he bails the Spurs out of sticky situations by single-handedly taking over, and he'll continue to do it as the team inches closer to the postseason.
Though his stats may not be spellbinding, he is still scoring at a high rate and with efficiency while remaining the talented orchestrator that has guaranteed team success.
His leadership skills are top-notch, and while he has slipped up from time to time, Parker remains an elite point guard and the team's most integral contributor.