The Spurs open against the New Orleans Hornets on Oct 28th. What will the starting line-up be on that night?
There are 2 positions that are unequivocally locked in: Point Guard and whatever position it is we assign to Tim Duncan. Power Forward or Center, it doesn’t really matter. Tim will start, and he’ll be our main big man. Point Guard, obviously, is the other position without challenge. Tony Parker will be our starting PG.
I think we can assume with great certainty that Richard Jefferson will be our starting small forward. We didn’t throw away our cap flexibility for the next two years, go into the luxury tax, and go “all in” at the table to get a bench player.
The other two positions are more clouded, and by extension, more interesting. Our starting “center” will probably be Antonio McDyess (and probably should be). There doesn’t seem to be much challenge on the roster to him. Matt Bonner did better than expected work last year, but is best used in a reserve role for an offensive punch; Theo Ratliff can still be a monster protecting the rim, but is too limited offensively and shouldn’t be playing starter minutes; DeJuan Blair is showing amazing signs in training camp, but there’s no way in hell Pop is starting a rookie. We’re set up to have a great big man rotation, but McDyess looks like the clear favorite to start. The only reason I hesitate is because he has been used primarily as a sixth man for the last few years in Detroit and excelled at the role and accepted it with grace and dignity, much like Ginobili always has. So it’s not outrageous to envision him coming off the bench for us as well, much like Kurt Thomas did the last two years. But my money says he’ll be starting.
That only leaves shooting guard, and the really big question that is always inherent to the Spurs: will Manu start? Pop jerks him around so much, even he likes to joke about it. Manu, the consumate professional and competitor, doesn’t really care. He plays when it really matters, and he’ll do anything to help his team win.
There is no doubt that Manu is far and away our best shooting guard. But should he start? Spurs fans are usually divided on this. Some see it as an affront to all that is holy to not have this amazing player starting. I’m not one of those people. I love the way our rotation sets up with Manu coming off the bench, and I think we’re ultimately best served by not having him start.
It’s hard to get three really great players in rhythm at the same time. With Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili all starting, there just aren’t enough balls and enough possessions to get them all into the flow of the game. Parker especially needs to get off to a good start, or he can disappear from a game. It’s crucial to get Tony involved and in rhythm in the first four minutes of the game. If he doesn’t, he’ll usually lose energy and focus and just kind of coast through the game. But in order to get him involved, he needs to be controlling the offense and attacking the rim. This usually leaves Ginobili as the odd man out and underutilized. However, if we bring Ginobili in about the 5:00 minute mark of the game, we should already have Parker established and can now get Manu involved. This also allows us to rest Duncan or Parker or both at the end of the first quarter and still have a lethal scoring threat on the floor.
If Ginobili doesn’t start, I’d like to see Roger Mason, Jr. get the start. There hasn’t been much talk about Mason, Jr. this offseason, and he seems to have been lost in the shuffle a bit with all the new acquisitions and crop of fresh-faced youngsters. But let’s not allow the end of Roger’s last season overshadow the beginning. He was an absolute sniper for us, shooting the ball with confidence and courage, filling a necessary role in our offense and even winning some huge games for us. Things started to unravel when Pop made him the de facto back-up PG. This year, that shouldn’t be an issue for us. Hill is back-up PG, and Mason, Jr. will be asked to do what he does best–shoot (and make) 3s. With the added burden removed from his shoulders, I think we’ll see a return to form of the Big Shot Rog that we all fell in love with during the first half of last season.
And that player is the ideal starting shooting guard for us. He won’t be asked to handle the ball or create his own offense or make decisions. All he’ll need to do is float around the 3-pt line, waiting for kick outs from a driving Parker or a double teamed Duncan. Much like Parker, Roger is a confidence player. He is well served starting and getting that vote of confidence from Pop and being allowed to play with the big boys. A sniper is only as good as his confidence will allow. He is the ideal 4th scoring option in the starting line-up. No one will game plan for him, and he’ll have all the open looks he could ever want.
As far as I know, Pop has given no indication as to the starting line-up come opening night. My guess: Parker, Mason, Jr., Jefferson, Duncan, and McDyess. What do you guys think?
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