Final Regular-Season Grades for Every San Antonio Spurs Player
Death, taxes and the San Antonio Spurs.
Like clockwork, the veteran team defied preseason odds as they captured the league's best record of 62-20.
They will enter the postseason as a title favorite, having given the world few reasons to doubt their ability to succeed.
That said, while it has been a team effort that guaranteed consistent production, it was the individual efforts and improvements that truly put San Antonio over the top.
With the regular season having come to a close, it is once again time to dissect the puzzle that formulates one of the most unique rosters in the league.
Though he only logged minutes in four games, Damion James earned himself a contract that guarantees him a roster spot during the postseason.
Signed late in the season, James brings size, depth and a versatile offensive skill set to the squad.
His only true test thus far came during a start against the Houston Rockets in which he scored six points and grabbed nine rebounds in 29 minutes of action.
Still, more evidence is needed before any proper conclusions can be made. While he still has the playoffs to try to make an impact, James will have to settle with a participation trophy for now.
Trading an unused point guard for a multi-faceted small forward was a no brainer for San Antonio, especially given their lack of depth at the position.
Though Austin Daye has hardly been a star, he has served his purpose within the system, adding an offensive repertoire that encompasses both a smooth jump shot and a respectable inside game, Additionally, his sizable frame and overall length provide the Spurs with a legitimate reserve option behind Kawhi Leonard who can play the wing while also guarding larger players.
He scored in double digits three since joining the roster, contributing his best shooting performance—a 22-point, 60 percent from long range outing—during a rout of the Philadelphia 76ers in late March.
Unfortunately, while his playing time has been greater than one may have initially predicted, Daye's impact has been marginal.
That said, nobody thought that the transaction would provide them with anything aside from slight depth. There is room for improvement, but he's still learning the ropes and was certainly serviceable when his number was called.
It will be a sad day when Matt Bonner plays his final game as a member of the San Antonio Spurs.
However, there is reason to believe that the day is looming or, perhaps, has already passed.
Previously a specialist used in specific situations, the beloved deep threat has found minimal court time this season, with his overall usage dwindling as the season progressed.
In the playoffs, he'll be used sparingly, if at all.
Though he'll always hold a special place in Spurs fans' hearts, Bonner's forgettable 2013-14 campaign can be summed up by the fact that he was the only player on the roster who was never featured in the starting lineup.
Brought in as a replacement for the outgoing DeJuan Blair, Jeff Ayres set the bar fairly high with an above-average preseason campaign. Unfortunately, he failed to reach those expectations during the regular season when his services were most needed.
His patented mid-range jump shot became inconsistent and his overall inside game was average at best.
Though he did provide the team with a handful of quality outings—as well as a bit of athleticism—Ayres has done little to prove that he can make an impact in the playoffs.
Fortunately, as the second or third big man off the bench, his role demands very little.
With Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw having already assumed the top three big men slots, there have not been many opportunities for Aron Baynes to move up a rung on the ladder.
He and Ayres alternate as the second reserve post player, and neither has been anything more than serviceable.
Of course, Baynes was brought in for his sheer size and will continue to be a post option should the team need another post body. He is not a difference maker, but not much is ever demanded from him.
Since the 2013 postseason, Cory Joseph's role with the team has effectively diminished.
By the end of last year, the Texas product had assumed the backup point guard duties behind Tony Parker. This season, however, the primary reserve job fell upon the shoulders of Patty Mills, who emerged as the team's second-most talented point guard.
While Joseph may have relinquished that duty, he still remains an important piece. He is recognized as the next best true point guard option behind Parker—his skill set mirrors the quintessential orchestrator's.
He can also be expected to grab a handful of minutes per night. Though the amount of which fluctuates based on the game's progression, Joseph rarely ceases to impress with his top-notch defense or his well-rounded offense.
He remains a legitimate option, although his role may be rather insignificant. As a whole, his campaign was average, but still served as a platform for him to make an impact when relied upon.
Patty Mills was the team's most improved player and is potentially a candidate for the league-wide award.
Previously known for his trademarked towel waving, Mills was a lost talent amidst a sea of talented point guards. After an offseason of hard work, though, the Australian point guard returned slimmer and ready for an increased workload.
Beating Joseph out for the primary backup duties was his first major feat, one that he followed up with a series of impressive performances during this watershed season.
The apex of this exciting campaign came during February when he dominated offensively, scoring in the double digits on a consistent basis, even eclipsing the 30-point plateau during one contest.
While maintaining his lethal three-point ability, Mills grew both as a passer as well as a finisher over the course of the season.
He has become one of the team's most integral bench sparks and will remain an asset throughout the playoffs should the team continue to reward his improvement with ample playing time.
Danny Green's offensive game can effectively be described with that single word. Since entering the season, he has been inconsistent on offense, fluctuating between long-range superstar and complete liability.
Yet, despite his haphazard shortcomings as a shooter, Green has been one of the team's most important members due to his aptitude on the other end. Defensively, his perimeter contributions are second only to Kawhi Leonard. During Green's absence, there were evident holes in the defense that resulted in a short period of struggle for the team.
His ability to defend talented guards will be important in the team's 2014 title run, just as it was during last year's attempt.
Of course, it would be nice if he added a level of positive consistency on offense, though his innate flair as a perimeter stopper should ensure that the fanbase retains a favorable perspective regarding their starting shooting guard.
Like Mills, Boris Diaw has made incredible strides.
Though he began his upward trend after departing the lowly Charlotte Bobcats, Diaw truly enjoyed a career year during 2013-14.
He contributed in all facets—he scored from every inch of the court, distributed better than most big men and defended better than anyone would have predicted.
All the while, he carried enormous weight on his shoulders as the only consistent backup talent in the frontcourt.
He's going to be an X-factor during the playoffs, and his performance thus far gives fans plenty of reasons to be excited.
Belinelli was a new face for the Spurs, though he demonstrated little trouble assimilating into the team's unique system.
A talented passer and shooter, his skill set—which mimicked that of Manu Ginobili—ensured that his talents would be utilized well within the fast-paced offense.
However, his hot start to the season set unreasonable expectations which eventually hurt Belinelli's stock. After winning the three-point contest during All-Star weekend, the Italian guard's efficiency and production took a hit. His three-point average dipped well below the 50 percent mark that he owned throughout the season's first half and his overall shooting percentage fell quite a bit.
Nonetheless, despite a poor ending to an otherwise brilliant first year in San Antonio, Belinelli has carved out a spot for himself and will continue to have chances to execute as the Spurs embark on their postseason run.
Tiago Splitter often falls into a similar category as Danny Green.
A frustratingly inconsistent offensive player, Splitter often finds himself on many fans' bad side. However, a true look into his defensive contributions shows that there is little reason to dislike or distrust the big man.
Splitter's defensive rating can be found alongside those of Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and Danny Green—three of the team's best ball-stoppers.
He has been a vital backbone to the team on that end, which has helped to compensate for any offensive shortcomings.
In the playoffs, the team is going to need more consistent production from him offensively, although his true role—one in which he excels—can be found on the other end.
After last year's train wreck of a season, Manu Ginobili had given people a reason to doubt him.
His sizable contract this offseason only furthered this frustration toward a player who collapsed under pressure during the NBA Finals.
However, he quickly proved that the new season would be different, executing in a manner that was reminiscent of the old Manu Ginobili.
His resurgence allowed him to gain back the trust of all naysayers, as he scored and passed with the extra flair that allowed him to become a fan favorite.
While he certainly has aged, Ginobili is currently in the midst of a renaissance, making the team extremely lethal as they attempt to win a fifth ring.
Kawhi Leonard's junior campaign began somewhat slowly. He struggled offensively, shooting at a low percentage while becoming a non-factor as a three-point shooter—a territory that he dominated during his first two seasons.
His slump was short-lived, though. The San Diego State product quickly showed fans why he was the team's future, as he increased his offensive production while maintaining the defensive intensity that boosted his draft stock in the first place. Both his defensive and offensive ratings ranked above his teammates, while his PER fell third behind Ginobili and Duncan.
Additionally, Leonard emerged as one of the team's top rebounders, cementing his role as a bona fide stud.
Though it is difficult to stand out on such a deep team, Leonard has done so admirably and will undoubtedly be an integral piece during the next few months.
Tim Duncan simply won't go away.
It's a fact that dooms opponents while ensuring that the Spurs retain their ability to make an annual title push.
Though he turns 38 on April 25, Duncan has shown few signs of decline.
Offensively, he remains a top option from virtually anywhere within the arc. His post game has always been incredible, but it seems as though his mid-range jump shot has grown progressively over the course of his career.
Additionally, he remains the team's defensive anchor, providing the squad with a backbone in the paint on whom they can rely to keep opposing big men in check.
Though common sense would dictate otherwise, Duncan has continuously defied odds, cementing his legacy as an all-time great.
It's a tale as old as time, but one that doesn't seem to be fading anytime soon, and the league should be ready for whatever the Big Fundamental has in store next.
Tony Parker is one of the best players at his position, and while his totals may suggest a few shortcomings, the veteran guard did little to disappoint during the season.
While his points per game dropped rather significantly from last season—20.3 to 16.7—Parker still shot at a near 50 percent rate while supplementing his top-notch scoring attack with a distributing game that solidified the Spurs as the league's best passing team.
Even though he may have dropped off slightly, Parker is the team's alpha dog and will be relied upon for superstar production this postseason.
Luckily, he has consistently proved that he can be one of the league's best players, and once his playing time increases, any doubts regarding his star power will be promptly dismissed.
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