May 3, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) is helped off the court after being injured against the Houston Rockets during the second half in game two of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
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The San Antonio Spurs will need to adjust with Tony Parker out for the remainder of the 2017 NBA Playoffs. They have some options, but will it be enough to make up for the loss of their star point guard?
Wednesday night in Game 2 of the 2017 NBA Western Conference semifinals, San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker was carried off the court with an apparent leg injury.
It is never easy to see a player go down with an injury, nonetheless a face of the team, former Finals MVP and starting point guard. But injuries are part of the game, and the San Antonio Spurs have a few options to go to with Parker out of the lineup.
Here’s a look at five adjustments the Spurs will need to make and which players will have to step up in Parker’s absence.
Apr 25, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs point guard Patty Mills (8) reacts after being fouled while scoring during the second half in game five of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Right off the top you should be thinking about Patty Mills. Mills is averaging 9.4 points per game on 48.5 percent shooting from deep in these playoffs. He’s also a capable playmaker, averaging 3.5 assists per during the regular season. Mills is a very strong player, and is also a good fit for this series with his speed and three-point shooting.
Whenever the Spurs need a big three, Mills is usually there spotting up to take it. He’s averaging two made three-pointers per game this postseason in just 20 minutes a night. That number could easily double should he become the starter.
Defensively Mills is a sneaky good option as well, who has had some key plays matched up with James Harden. Mills’ speed and toughness lets him get in Harden’s chest and stay with him on drives. Obviously Harden has the size advantage once he gets to the post, but Mills could slow Harden down before he gets there.
Mills may be the most likely option to fill in as starter, but he would be a considerable loss to the second unit.
May 3, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Manu Ginobili (20) battles for a rebound with Houston Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley (behind) and Eric Gordon (10) during the second half in game two of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Ginobili Making Plays
When we think of Manu Ginobili we think of him slashing to the basket or contorting his body for a reverse layup first. A secondary thought that comes to mind, though, is his playmaking ability. Ginobili’s passing IQ combined with his experience in the Spurs offense could make him a suitable option in Parker’s absence.
Ginobili is averaging just 15.4 minutes in these playoffs, but that will need to change without Parker. His presence in lineups could create a calming effect for a team that just lost one of their leaders. He also provides a similar skillset to Parker in that he can get into the paint and create for himself or others.
While Mills is technically Parker’s backup and may be able to provide more minutes, points AND defense than Ginobili, Manu would provide continuity for the starters with his similar experience and playing style to Parker.
May 1, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Dewayne Dedmon (3) dunks the ball as Houston Rockets power forward Ryan Anderson (3) looks on during the second half in game one of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
In Game 2, we saw Pau Gasol inserted into the starting lineup over David Lee. While Gasol starting at center instead of Lee was a success, Parker’s injury could result in Gasol headed back to the bench.
With Patty Mills or Manu Ginobili likely inserted into the starting lineup, the production of the second unit could drop considerably. Having Gasol headline that group would provide a scoring option for when Kawhi Leonard or LaMarcus Aldridge sit.
The Spurs’ best bet to move into the starting center role is Dewayne Dedmon. His length, energy and defensive mindset are a better match for the lob-catching Clint Capela than Lee. Lee’s scoring and passing would also be well-served in the second unit with a playmaker now becoming a starter.
May 1, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kyle Anderson (1) steals the ball from Houston Rockets shooting guard Eric Gordon (10) during the second half in game one of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Slow Mo Rising To The Occasion
Near the end of the San Antonio Spurs’ bench is a former first round pick waiting for his shot. Kyle Anderson was a rotation player during the regular season but has seen fewer than 10 minutes per game in the playoffs. Anderson could be an interesting option for the Spurs in Parker’s absence because of his versatility on defense and his passing on offense.
At UCLA Anderson was a point guard, and averaged 6.5 APG in his sophomore season. I’m not saying Anderson should be seeing considerable time running point with Parker out, but he can be a playmaker within the offense. In his time with the Spurs he’s proven to have good passing abilities and IQ when it comes to where and when to make a pass.
His defense is what is most intriguing for this series. With his length (6’9″ with 7’2″ wingspan) he is a great option on switches, and this year has shown he is comfortable in Popovich’s defensive schemes.
He wouldn’t provide much on the offensive end scoring-wise, but if he’s in a lineup with Leonard and Gasol/Aldridge it won’t matter. Anderson may be a good bench option with Mills/Ginobili called up.
May 3, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots the ball as Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) defends during the first half in game two of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Just give Kawhi the ball and get out of the way
Let’s face it, this team was always going as far as Kawhi Leonard took them. And when the going gets tough, late in the fourth quarter, he’s going to have the ball anyway. So why not just move that timeline up some?
Obviously the team can’t make him into their version of “James Harden: The Point Guard” all game. They need him for too many things that adding this on would wear him down. And if there is one thing they cannot allow this injury to do, it is lessen Leonard’s ability to play down the stretch in (hopefully) later series. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t his show in the fourth quarter.
The best strategy for the San Antonio Spurs is to keep Kawhi’s usage as close to the same for as long as possible. Let Patty or Manu get him looks early, keep the ball movement high, and then put the ball in his massive hands for the fourth quarter.
There is no “replacing” Tony Parker for the San Antonio Spurs, not right now. He clearly emerged as the No. 2 to Kawhi in these playoffs with his scoring and leadership. But the other players will have to all step up to do their best.
Patty or Manu will need to facilitate the offense early, while the other has to provide a big boost off the bench. Danny Green and Aldridge will have to continue to find their rhythm and increase their scoring numbers. Anderson and Dedmon, who haven’t played much in this series, might have to step up and play big roles. But most of all, Kawhi Leonard is going to have to continue doing what he is doing, and then some.