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NBA Team Previews: 2008 San Antionio Spurs Preview

Kyle Fisher

Kyle Fisher

Kyle Fisher writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.


SAN ANTONIO SPURS
By Kyle Fisher
RotoWire Writer



STATE OF THE FRANCHISE


The Game 7 victory over the Hornets in the Western Conference semifinals turned out to be the highlight of the season for the Spurs. A repeat of their NBA Championship season in 2006-2007 was denied by the Lakers in five games, as the Spurs blew two separate 20-point leads and simply ran out of gas against the younger, deeper Lakers.


Unlike the 2006-2007 season, the Spurs did make some moves to address their greatest nemesis: age. They signed Roger Mason to a two-year deal and expect first round pick George Hill to come immediately and provide needed rest for guards Tony Parker and Emmanuel Ginobili. The Spurs got several bits of bad news in the off-season as Tiago Splitter, the team's first round choice in 2007 opted to sign a long-term deal in Spain, and Ginobili reinjured one of the tendons in his left foot in the Olympics. This is the same foot that hampered Ginobili for the final few months of last season. Ginobili says he will need surgery on his foot and will need six to eight weeks to recover. That time frame puts his rehabilitation near the end of October and might restrict his playing time early in the season. The Spurs also lost sharpshooter Brent Barry, who opted to sign a free agent deal with the Rockets.


It is an odd year and in the past this has meant a parade down the Riverwalk for the Spurs. However, with Ginobili starting the season hobbled, and the overall strength of the Lakers, the youth and depth of the Hornets and Jazz, the addition of Ron Artest to the Rockets and Greg Oden's arrival with the up-and-coming Trailblazers, this will the most challenging season for the Spurs in recent memory.

PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION


As usual the center position will be a two-headed monster. This season Fabricio Oberto and Kurt Thomas should split time and see about 20 minutes a night. Youngster Ian Mahinmi may also get a little time at both center and power forward.


Tim Duncan will man the power forward position and should log between 30 and 35 minutes a night. Coach Gregg Popovich will continue to monitor Duncan's minutes to try to keep him fresh for another playoff run. Mahinmi, Thomas and occasionally Matt Bonner will spell Duncan. Bruce Bowen will continue to be the Spurs' defensive stopper and will log around 30 minutes a night with Ime Udoka providing most of the minutes of the bench.


With Ginobili's health a big question mark at press time, look for Michael Finley to start at shooting guard with depth coming from Roger Mason and rookie George Hill. When Ginobili gets healthy don't look for him to play more than 30 minutes a night, as his health and energy are vital to the Spurs' playoff run. Finley should get around 20 minutes while Mason and Hill get in the neighborhood of 10-15 minutes. Tony Parker will again start at the point and play between 30-35 minutes while Hill and veteran Jacque Vaughn compete for backup minutes.

PLAYER OUTLOOKS:


Center



Fabricio Oberto: Oberto started 64 games for the Spurs last season but averaged just 20.1 minutes a game. Oberto averaged 4.8 points and 5.2 rebounds while leading the team in field goal shooting at 60.8 percent. With the expected time share, and Oberto's statistical contributions, expect limited value on a fantasy roster.


Kurt Thomas: Thomas came to the Spurs from the Sonics last season and started nine of his 28 games. Thomas is seen primarily as a rebounder and defensive player who helps to keep Tim Duncan out of foul trouble. Thomas is a good mid-range shooter but will get limited shot attempts and will be in a time share with Oberto.


Ian Mahinmi: Mahinmi may finally get a chance to stick with the Spurs' roster this season as a backup center/forward. Mahinmi is a good athlete who rebounded the ball well in the summer league. At just 22, he still lacks a great deal of basketball experience and will get limited minutes if he sticks on the roster.

Forward



Tim Duncan: Duncan had another solid season averaging 19.3 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. While Duncan is no longer a first-round fantasy selection, he still offers solid value at the power forward position, as he scores, rebounds, blocks shots and shoots a solid percentage from the floor. Duncan even improved on his biggest weakness as he shot 73 percent from the line last season. Duncan did have a career-low 1.95 blocks per game and entering his 11th season, he may no longer be an elite shot blocker. Still, while Duncan may no longer be a 22 point, 12 rebound, 2.5 block a night player, the future Hall-of-Famer still will go early in most fantasy drafts, especially if he is center eligible.


Bruce Bowen: Bowen's 2007 was much like his 2006 campaign. He played about 30 minutes a night, shot just under 41 percent from the floor and averaged six points a game. Bowen is the Spurs' defensive stopper but this attribute does not translate well in the fantasy world. Bowen's greatest attribute will again be his 3-point shooting, as he shot 41 percent from the 3-point line and made 1.1 threes per game.


Ime Udoka: In Udoka's first season with the Spurs, he struggled with his shot most of the season shooting just 42.4 percent from the floor. Udoka is primarily a defensive specialist who can shoot 3-pointers. Udoka's best fantasy attribute is shooting the three, as he averaged making nearly one 3-pointer per night despite playing just 18 minutes a night.


Matt Bonner: Bonner came to the Spurs two years ago and was expected to provide firepower from the 3-point line off the bench. Two years later and Bonner looks completely lost. Last season he was limited to just 12.5 minutes a game and shot just 33.6 percent from the 3-point line. Bonner lacks lateral quickness and is often a defensive liability, something that will limit his playing time with coach Gregg Popovich. Unless Bonner can regain his shooting form, don't expect a lot of minutes for him.


Robert Horry: If Horry decides to play one more season, don't expect more than just an occasional appearance during the regular season. Horry is no longer the consistent shooter he once was and struggled mightily last season.


James Gist: Gist was one of the Spurs' second round picks and brings energy along with shot blocking. Gist is a tremendous athlete whose game may translate better in the NBA than in college. Gist may be a long shot to make the roster and could be headed for the Developmental League.

Guard:



Tony Parker: While Parker increased his scoring slightly (18.8 ppg), his shooting from both the floor (49.4 percent) and the line (71.5 percent) slipped in the 2007-2008 season. Parker still remains one of the better scoring and shooting point guards in the NBA but currently lacks the skill set (assists, steals, 3-point makes and free throw shooting) necessary to be an elite fantasy point guard. Parker has enough of a track record in the NBA to suggest that those skills will not be drastically increased this season.


Emmanuel Ginobili: The Spurs worst nightmare came true in Beijing. Ginobili playing on a less than 100 percent left foot/ankle reinjured it against the United States, and the affects won't be known until the season starts. When healthy, Ginobili is perhaps the Spurs best fantasy player, as he scores (19.5 ppg), shoots a high percentage from the floor (46 percent), makes a ton of 3-pointers (2.1 per game), is above average in steals (1.47 per game) and shoots 86 percent from the line. With Ginobili's foot/ankle a huge question mark, don't expect this level of productivity, at least early in the season.


Michael Finley: Finley struggled from the floor for the third straight season with the Spurs (41.4 percent). Finley averaged 10.1 points per game but is a far cry from the player he was in Dallas. Still, if Ginobili is out or slowed by his injury for any length of time, look for Finley's minutes to increase early on, as he is more experienced than any of the Spurs other options.


Roger Mason: Mason was acquired from the Wizards in the off-season. Mason will be 28 at the start of the season and brings a blend of youth and experience to the leagues' oldest team. Mason averaged 9.1 points per game and shot nearly 40 percent from the 3-point line. Mason should be able to provide depth at several positions from point guard to small forward.


George Hill: Hill was somewhat of a surprise pick for the Spurs in the first round of I.U.P.U.I., but the Spurs like his versatility and his ability to score. Hill is expected to play both guard positions for the Spurs. Hill struggled with his shot in the summer league, so it may take Hill awhile to get adjusted to life in the NBA.


Jacque Vaughn: Vaughn assumed the backup point guard position last season and is expected to be challenged this season by rookie George Hill. Vaughn was not a great scorer (4.1 ppg) or shooter (42.8 percent) for the Spurs but plays mistake free basketball and had a nearly 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in 15 minutes a night last season.


Malik Hairston: The Spurs acquired Hairston from Phoenix during the NBA draft. Hairston was second round pick and hopes to make the team as a big bodied wing player who is a solid rebounder for his size. Hairston could also be headed to the Developmental League.

Sleeper:



Roger Mason: With Ginobili battling the injury bug, at least during the beginning of the season, Mason's role may be expanded. During Mason's last 24 games he shot nearly 50 percent from the floor and made over two 3-pointers per game while averaging almost 10.5 points in 21 minutes. With the loss of Brent Barry in the off-season and Michael Finley experiencing a three-year shooting slump, Mason could be the Spur who most exceeds expectations.

Bust:



Emmanuel Ginobili: With Ginobili's foot/ankle injury, much of what makes Ginobili such a great player is lost. It is unknown how long this injury will affect Ginobili, but anyone that saw him play in the Western Conference Finals knows just how much he was limited. Ginobili couldn't run the floor in transition and his quickness was almost non-existent. Subsequently, defenses could stay patient and force him into difficult jumpers. At best, Ginobili will be handled gingerly during the beginning of the season, thus limiting his fantasy impact. At worst, Ginobili may battle this injury all season or miss significant time.


Article first appeared on 9/11/08