The San Antonio Spurs started the 2016-17 campaign asking a couple of questions. Who will replace the great Tim Duncan in the starting lineup? Can Kawhi Leonard cope with being the Spurs leader?
Oct 21, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12, left) and Kawhi Leonard (2, right) talk on the bench during the second half against the Houston Rockets at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Coming off a season where the Spurs set a franchise record in wins (67) and a home record of 40-1, eyes were definitely going to be on how San Antonio will start the season. Winning has become the norm for San Antonio over the recent years. Each season they have battled at the top of the Western Conference as one of the elite teams.
Through 31 games this season, the Spurs have won 25. What started off promising with an opening day win against the Golden State Warriors, the Spurs look to not only have the pieces to take down the ‘super-team’ but others in the NBA.
During that game, San Antonio showed they had players of their own. Though they may not be the marquee type of the Warriors trio, they went out and played the game the way the Spurs know how, trusting one another.
Since that opening day win, the Spurs have already made some headlines. Starting with their 12-0 start on the road, San Antonio has also had multiple win streaks during the first 28 games.
They have had streaks of nine straight as well as their current, five heading into their game against the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday night.
Replacing Duncan in the starting lineup was not going to be an easy task to but Pau Gasol has filled it nicely in his first season with San Antonio. Averaging 11.8 points per game and 7.9 rebounds, Gasol is not the most agile big-man but he does help stretch the defense out leaving room for Kawhi Leonard to do his job.
We know the bulk of the scoring will come from Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, so outside of the duo what has been impressive in the Spurs start thus far?
Dec 25, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Dewayne Dedmon (3) dunks the ball against the Chicago Bulls during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Impact of Dewayne Dedmon and David Lee
The Spurs have always seemed to get a great amount of production from their bench and over the years they have not been let down. With Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili being the two that get the call off of the bench, it is the impact of two newest members of the team that have been producing well and giving the Spurs more energy and muscle.
Dewayne Dedmon is an athletic big that can run up and down the floor with the best of them. In his first year with San Antonio, he gives San Antonio a physical player on the block and a great rebounder. Averaging 15 minutes a game, Dedmon makes the most out of his opportunity. He mostly comes in for his defensive ability and rebounding. He is averaging 5.6 rebounds per game.
Knowing what he brings on the glass, Dedmon has been great in the paint, on the offensive end. His has a soft touch on the glass. With his athletic ability, it has helped the Spurs play above the rim as he has been a big target for Mills as a recipient of many lob-passes.
He knows how to finish when he gets the ball in the paint and his physicality is paying off.
Speaking of physicality, David Lee is another that can bang down low with the best of them. Lee, just like Dedmon is a solid rebounder at 5.2 a game. When Lee and Dedmon are together on the floor, good things tend to happen.
Dec 25, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Pau Gasol (16) celebrates with teammate Patty Mills (8, left) after a basket during the first half against the Chicago Bulls at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Gasol’s settling in with Spurs
The one player on the Spurs roster that will get the most criticism throughout his first season is Pau Gasol. Besides, he has been inserted into the lineup to take the place of the greatest Spur of All-Time in Tim Duncan, so the comparisons will be there. The what ifs? Duncan played better defense? So on and so forth.
One thing that Gasol made clear when he came to San Antonio was that he was not there to take the place of Duncan, to re-write what he has done during his 19 year career. He is the staple of the franchise and Gasol was there to do his part, play his game.
His better days are probably behind him the times he played for Memphis, Lakers and Chicago during his first season with San Antonio, he is starting to find his groove. Yes he lacks the defense that Duncan provided, but offensively he has shown his worth.
Averaging 12 points per game and shooting 50 percent from the floor, Gasol can hit the mid-range and has shown his 3-point ability as well this season. What this does is open up the floor for the slashers, especially Leonard.
As you see in the video above, Gasol hitting mid-range jumpers around the free throw line has been the norm throughout his career.
Paired with LaMarcus Aldridge, the “twin towers” both have the the same offensive skills. Though Aldridge maybe better down on the block, both can cause issues for opponents when they are both knocking down jumpers.