This year’s Spurs are better equipped to defend the Warriors

(Note:  We are expanding our original content at Basketball Intelligence.  Starting today, we will be including a weekly feature from our rotation of outstanding NBA analysts.

Today’s feature is from Eli Horowitz, assistant men’s basketball coach at Caltech & NBA/WNBA analyst):


Barring injury, the Warriors should repeat as NBA champions in 2017-2018. But after an enthralling offseason that saw the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder add future hall of famers in an effort to compete with the Warriors, it’s easy to forget how close the Spurs were to going up 1-0 in the Western Conference Finals, with a chance to put pressure on Golden State. Unlike other teams in the West that added superstars, the Spurs’ offseason was ridiculed as they overpaid Pau Gasol, added injury-prone Rudy Gay and lost Jonathon Simmons, who played a significant role in the playoffs last year. Put it all together, and many feel like the Thunder and Rockets moved ahead of San Antonio with their respective additions of Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and several good role players. Although criticism off the offseason has some merit, you can’t win games in the summer. The Spurs won 67 games in 2015-2016 and 61 games in 2016-2017, and may be even better equipped to defend the Warriors this year:

Size across the roster

When people talk about size, they mistakenly think about big men clanking post-ups and an inefficient style of play in the modern NBA. But the Spurs have size throughout their roster, starting in the backcourt. Dejounte Murray is a 6-foot-5 point guard with the length to disrupt opposing lead guards and some wings:

He was unafraid in the playoffs last year, and should breakout in year two as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich trusts him more. His shooting mechanics leave a lot to be desired, but his ability to penetrate and finish at difficult angles should offset the loss of Simmons.

The Spurs have the best defensive wing combo in the league in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Both can guard positions one through four, and their ability to take turns on opposing stars is a rarity in the NBA. Rudy Gay presents a third long perimeter defender, albeit nowhere near Leonard or Green, who could shine at the four. Add LaMarcus Aldridge, who is a huge body at the four, and who is still big at the five against the Warriors lineup of death, and the Spurs have big bodies that make it difficult for opponents to move through their offense.

Losing Dewayne Dedmon is notable. But Pau Gasol was key to stopping the Rockets in last year’s playoffs. He’s a liability out in space, but the Spurs have the perimeter defense to fight over, under and through screens and allow the Gasol to hang out by the basket. You know Popovich will somehow turn Joffrey Lauvergne into a competent defender as well, much like he did with David Lee last season.

If the Warriors have shown any weakness it’s to long, athletic teams that can also pound the offensive glass. The Oklahoma City Thunder went up 3-1 playing this style two postseasons ago and the Spurs have shown it to work themselves, until Leonard’s injury in last year’s semifinals. It’s annoying to go up against players who can both pressure up on the ball and have the length and quickness to stay with the play and prevent straight line drives to the rim. It’s probably not enough, but the Spurs positional size will force the Warriors go to plan C.

Versatility at the four

Rudy Gay will be the biggest experiment nobody is talking about this NBA season. There’s too many flashy storylines elsewhere, too many All-Stars who switched teams that will get first billing. But Rudy Gay unleashes a potential lineup of Murray-Green-Leonard-Gay-Aldridge that will be as good as it gets against the Warriors. Aldridge’s defense has been solid for the Spurs, and he can hang with Draymond Green, knowing their are four long defenders who can help at the rim. We’ll see if Murray can stick with Steph Curry, but that would allow Green, Leonard and Gay to rotate on Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala. If Murray isn’t ready, Patty Mills will at least scrap on defense and is an offensive upgrade. Better yet, let Murray hang on Iguodala and let Green or Leonard challenge Steph.

If the Spurs want to get really crazy, Gay can even play the five at times:

This would allow the Spurs to play both Mills and Murray, or give Davis Bertans more minutes. Bertans was surprisingly stout defending in the paint last year. Stick him on Iguodala or even Green and he might just hold up. If the Warriors counter by posting him up, that’s a win for San Antonio as it halts the continuous movement of the Warriors and gives the Spurs a break.

The Thunder and Rockets have defensive lineups that might be even more potent, but they sacrifice offense. Carmelo Anthony will struggle on any Warrior defensively, and Andre Roberson is an offensive liability. The Rockets best offensive and defensive lineups are vastly different. The Spurs might be the team with the best defensive lineup that sacrifices the least offense.


Between the draft, free agency, summer league and an onslaught of trades, the NBA world has spent the last five months talking about players. But coaching still matters, especially in the playoffs. After watching the Rockets embarrass his team in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals last year, Popovich pushed all the right buttons to adjust on James Harden. They went over and zoned up pick and rolls to force midrange jumpers. They event went under some screens and personalized their pick and roll coverage depending on who was involved. It was complex, and completely gassed the Rockets, who lost the next four out of five.

Popovich has now had three years to learn the Warriors. He’s had small victories along the way even while balancing the late stage careers of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan. His schemes alone won’t be enough to stop Golden State, but he’s a lot closer to figuring it out than his colleagues.

It wasn’t a stellar summer for San Antonio, but the addition of Gay, the sophomore campaigns of Murray and Bertans, a refocused Aldridge and the continued evolution of Leonard are more than enough to keep the Spurs in the mix. They don’t have the sheer talent of Houston or Oklahoma City, but they might have the best defensive lineups to throw at the Warriors.

Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 9/24/17

The OKC-NYK Trade:
Video: Doncic Eurobasket Breakdowns (from Mike Schmitz, Draft Express):
   – Pick And Roll Scoringhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaE0eAxLm3A
   – Pick And Roll Passing:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7A2FQB5IWk
Meyers Leonard Improved His Game (And Confidence) This Offseason (from Nate Mann, Rip City Project):
Rondo Quickly Making An Impression On Pelicans’ Teammates (from Jim Eichenhofer, pelicans.com):
Ian Clark: Hopeful Sharpshooter (from geespn, pelicansdebrief.com):
Denzel Valentine Has Breakout Opportunity This Season (from Craig Brallier, pippenainteasy.com):

Today’s Best NBA Reporting and Analysis 2/1/16

–  The Warriors Are As Motivated As Ever  (from Steve Popper,  Bergen Record):
–  Tyronn Lue’s Communication Skills Have Put The Cavaliers Back On Track  (from  Chris Haynes, cleveland.com):
–  Pau Gasol:  Bulls ‘Not Disciplined’  (from Nick Friedell,  ESPN):
–  Monta Ellis Fuels Pacers Past Nuggets In Overtime  (from Candace Buckner,  indystar.com):
–  Blazers Keep Wins Rolling  (from Kerry Eggers, Portland Tribune):
–  Jazz Are Taking And Making More Threes   (from allthatamar, slcdunk.com):
–  Hoiberg’s Lineups Killed The Bulls Again  (from thehungarianjordan,  blogabull.com):

 The Corner Three Isn’t So Easy   (from Erik Horne, newsok.com):

Read it here:  http://newsok.com/why-the-nbas-most-valuable-shot-the-corner-3-isnt-so-easy/article/5475823

–  Top Western Conference Teams’ Schedule Is Backloaded  (from  Aaron Barzilai,  medium.com):
–  How Bad Is Rockets’ Defensive Rebounding?  (from Jordan M. Foley,  Vantage Sports):
Additional Player Notes, Updates, Profiles:
–  Khris Middleton:  Second Fiddle No Longer  (from Lori Nickel,  jsonline.com):   http://www.jsonline.com/sports/bucks/bucks-khris-middleton-second-fiddle-no-more-b99660348z1-367127371.html
–  Stanley Johnson Doesn’t Back Down On Defense  (from Rod Beard,  Detroit News):  http://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/nba/pistons/2016/01/31/pistons-johnson-back-defense/79618372/
 Breaking It Down:  Cory Joseph And Dual Screeners  (from Blake Murphy,  raptorsrepublic.com):  http://www.raptorsrepublic.com/2016/02/01/breaking-it-down-cory-joseph-and-dual-screeners/
 –  James Harden  Q & A  (from Rohan Nadkarni,  Sports Illustrated):  http://www.si.com/nba/2016/02/01/james-harden-houston-rockets-golden-state-warriors-nba-finals

–  Video Breakdown: Al-Farouk Aminu’s Three Point Shot  (from Dane Carbaugh, blazersedge.com):  http://www.blazersedge.com/2016/2/1/10866524/portland-trail-blazers-offense-three-pointer-al-farouq-aminu-video

–  Carmelo Anthony Takes A Shot At Leadership  (from Chris Herring,  Wall Street Journal):  http://www.wsj.com/articles/carmelo-anthony-takes-a-shot-at-leadership-1454271054
–  Timberwolves Need More From Andrew Wiggins  (from Key Dae,  canishoopus.com):  http://www.canishoopus.com/2016/2/1/10880850/the-timberwolves-need-to-start-getting-a-lot-more-from-andrew-wiggins
–  Rivers Trying To Find A Way To Keep Age From Catching Up With Paul Pierce  (from Dan Woike,  ocregister):  http://www.ocregister.com/articles/pierce-702230-rivers-times.html
K. J. McDaniels  (from Curt Low,  spacecityscoop.com):  http://spacecityscoop.com/2016/02/01/man-buried-houston-rockets-bench-k-j-mcdaniels/

–  Quinn Cook  (from Chris Reichert,  Upside&Motor):  http://upsidemotor.com/2016/02/01/quinn-cook-canton-charge-cleveland-cavaliers-duke-blue-devils-national-champion/

–  Ryan Boatright Chooses Europe Over D-League (from Ethan Drigotas,  Ridiculous Upside):  http://www.ridiculousupside.com/2016/1/30/10874392/boatright-ryan-europe-d-league-Grand-Rapids-Drive-Italy-Overseas


Today’s Best NBA Reporting and Analysis 1/27/15

–  Thunder:  Ball Movement And The Importance Of Context  (from Positive Residual,  Nylon Calculus):

Read it here:  http://nyloncalculus.com/2016/01/26/okcs-ball-movement-and-the-importance-of-context/

–  Billy Donovan:  Connecting With Thunder Players  (from Scott Cacciola,  NY Times):

Read it here:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/26/sports/basketball/oklahoma-city-thunders-billy-donovan-goes-one-on-one-to-foster-team-unity.html

–  Rookie/Vet:  Tyson Chandler/ Devin Booker  (from The Players’ Tribune):

Watch it here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjXQGewGpBM

–  Brad Stevens:  The Wizard Of Boston  (from Jeff Siegel,  fansided.com):

Read and view it here:  http://fansided.com/2016/01/27/brad-stevens-boston-celtics-coaching-wizard/

Timberwolves Coach Mitchell Tries To Reach His Young Roster  (from Associated Press):

Read it here:  http://www.sctimes.com/story/sports/2016/01/26/nba-timberwolves-coach-tries-reach-young-roster/79373922/

–  Recapping Tuesday’s Games (from SBNation):

Read it here:  http://www.sbnation.com/nba-scores

Additional Player Notes, Updates, Profiles:

–  Carmelo Anthony  (from Troy Tauscher, BBall Breakdown):  http://bballbreakdown.com/2016/01/carmelo-anthony-less-is-more/

–  Justise Winslow  (from Zach Buckley,  Bleacher Report):   http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2611044-he-is-raising-the-bar-every-game-justise-winslow-is-what-miami-heat-wanted

–  Ian Mahinmi  (from Nate Taylor,  Indystar.com):  http://www.indystar.com/story/sports/nba/pacers/2016/01/25/pacers-hope-their-defense-stiffens-when-ian-mahinmi-returns/79312668/

–  Emmanuel Mudiay  (from Christopher Dempsey, Denver Post):  http://www.denverpost.com/nuggets/ci_29434888/michael-malone-emmanuel-mudiay-talks-spark-improved-play

–  Lance Thomas  (from Jared Dubin,  Bleacher Report):  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2611335-new-york-knicks-glue-guy-isnt-who-anyone-was-expecting

–  Nik Stauskas  (from  John Finger,  csnphilly.com):   http://www.csnphilly.com/basketball-philadelphia-76ers/long-search-shot-nik-stauskas-finally-starts-find-rhythm

–  Willie Cauley-Stein  (from Ailene Voisin, Sacramento Bee):  http://www.sacbee.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/ailene-voisin/article56302670.html

–  Jrue Holiday  (from Brett Dawson,  The Advocate):  http://theadvocate.com/sports/pelicans/14690843-128/pelicans-guard-jrue-holiday-getting-healthier-more-dynamic

–  D’Angelo Russell  (from Baxter Holmes, ESPN):  http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles-lakers/post/_/id/42677/dangelo-russell-benched-for-trying-to-take-over

–  Meyers Leonard  (from Jason Quick,  csnnw.com):  http://www.csnnw.com/blazers/how-shirt-told-story-meyers-leonard-and-trail-blazers-tuesdays-win

Archie Goodwin  (from Paul Coro, azcentral.com):  http://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/nba/suns/2016/01/26/archie-goodwin-settling-suns-point-guard-stint/79385706/

–  Erick Green  (from Randy Hollis,  Deseret News):  http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865646267/Jazz-notebook-Traded-for-each-other-in-2013-Green-and-Gobert-now-teammates.html

–  Ronald Roberts, Jr  (from Keith Schlosser,  Ridiculous Upside):  http://www.ridiculousupside.com/2016/1/27/10827206/ronald-roberts-nba-d-league-raptors-905-obstacles-interview

Today’s Best NBA Reporting and Analysis 11/15/15

–  Last Year’s Hawks Were Not a Fluke  (form Paul Flannery,  SBNation):

Read it here:  http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2015/11/15/9734278/hawks-fluke-kyle-korver-kent-bazemore

Gregg Popovich on Brett Brown  (from Bob Cooney,  philly.com):

Read it here:  http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sixerville/Popovich-on-76ers-Brett-Brown-He-loves-coaching-that-team.html

–  The Jazz’ Three-wing alignment  (from Tony Jones,  Salt Lake Tribune):

Read it here:  http://www.sltrib.com/sports/3174938-155/utah-jazz-team-going-on-a

–  Jazz’ Pace is Slow and That’s OK With Coach Snider  from Mike Sorensen,  Deseret News):

Read it here:  http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865641558/Jazz-among-NBAs-slowest-teams-but-thats-OK-with-coach.html

–  Trey Burke’s Move to the Bench Has Jazz Moving in Positive Direction  (from Zach Harper,  CBS Sports):

Read it here: http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25372491/trey-burkes-move-to-bench-has-jazz-headed-in-promising-direction

Knicks Know They Have to Rely Less on Carmelo Late in Games  (form Ian Begley,  ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/blog/newyork/knicks/post/_/id/63504/knicks-know-they-have-to-rely-less-on-carmelo-anthony-late-in-games

–  Pelicans: Ravaged by Injuries  (from James Herbert,  CBS Sports):

Read it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25374000/ravaged-by-injuries-pelicans-look-for-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel

Rockets: Is it Time to Panic?  (from Calvin Watkins, ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/blog/houston-rockets/post/_/id/1387/rockets-lose-again-is-it-time-to-panic

How Are the New Guards Out West ( Rondo, Matthews, D. Williams, L. Williams, Lawson) Doing?  (from Aaron Fischman, Vantage Sports):

Read and view it here:  http://www.vantagesports.com/story/Vkgxsx4AAJVcIzQQ/how-are-the-new-guards-out-west-performing

Recapping Saturday’s Games (from SBNation):

Read it here:  http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2015/11/14/9736294/nba-scores-schedule-clippers-pistons-rockets-mavericks

Explaining the Play:  Iguodala’s Last Gasp 3 Saves the Dubs  (from EricApricot, goldenstateofmind):

Read and view it here:   http://www.goldenstateofmind.com/2015/11/15/9737678/warriors-vs-nets-2015-highlight-video-andre-iguodala-three

New Pacers System Brings Out the Best in Paul George  (from Candace Buckner,  indystar.com):

Read it here:  http://www.indystar.com/story/sports/nba/pacers/2015/11/14/insider-new-pacers-system-brings-out-best-paul-george/75712738/

–  The Blazers’ Rebounding Problems  (from Steven Dewald, ripcityproject.com):

Read and view it here:  http://ripcityproject.com/2015/11/15/rebounding-dooms-blazers/

Thunder Reducing Their Turnovers  (from Erik Horne,  newsok.com):

Read it here:  http://newsok.com/okc-thunder-thunder-flipping-its-early-season-turnover-woes/article/5460523

Will Pau Gasol Thrive Under Coach Hoiberg?  (from K. C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune):

Read it here:  http://www.thenewstribune.com/sports/nba/article44941341.html

Intense Wizard Practices Yield Simplified Defense  (from Jorge Castillo,  Washington Post):

Read it here:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wizards-insider/wp/2015/11/15/intense-wizards-practices-yield-simplified-defense-win-over-magic-saturday/

Danny Ainge Develops D-League Strategy  (from Gary Washburn, Bosotn Globe):

Read it here:  https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2015/11/15/danny-ainge-develops-strategy-for-nbadl/iwxgvbfo8G1GCmlOQDBlpN/story.html

Celtics’ Defense Earning Respect  (from Joshua Bateman,  Hardwood Houdini):

Read it here:  http://hardwoodhoudini.com/2015/11/15/boston-celtics-defense-has-earned-respect/

Good News and Bad News from the Sixers’ Loss to Spurs  (from Sean O’Connor,  LibertyBallers.com):

Read it here:  http://www.libertyballers.com/2015/11/15/9738164/sixers-spurs-92-83-tenth-loss

–  Sam Mitchell Says NBA’s New Scheduling Policy Is Working (from Jerry Zgoda, startribune.com ):

Read it here:  http://www.startribune.com/mitchell-says-nba-schedule-policy-is-working/349222321/

What the NBA is Doing About the Nuggets’ Home Scheduling Advantage  (from Christopher Dempsey,   Denver Post):

Read it here:  http://www.denverpost.com/dempsey/ci_29118550/league-is-no-fan-nuggets-home-court-edge

Cavs, Heat Trending in Opposite Salary Directions  (from Jason Lloyd,  Ohio.com):

Read it here:  http://www.ohio.com/sports/cavs/jason-lloyd-cavs-heat-trending-in-opposite-salary-directions-1.640579

Additional Player Notes, Updates, Profiles:

–  Rajon Rondo is Leading By Example  (from James Ham,  csnbayarea.com):  http://www.csnbayarea.com/kings/amid-chaos-rondo-leading-example-getting-kings-buy

Tyler Zeller (from Chris Forsberg, ESPN):  http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/celtics/post/_/id/4720985/tyler-zeller-has-set-standard-for-bostons-overcrowded-frontcourt

Marco Belinelli Adapting to Life After Spurs  (from Ailene Voisin,  Sacramento Bee):  http://www.sacbee.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/ailene-voisin/article44970567.html

Valunciunas Is Growing into a Star  (from Ryan Wolstat,  Toronto Sun):  http://www.torontosun.com/2015/11/14/valanciunas-growing-into-a-star

–  Meyers Leonard’s Status/ Allen Crabbe’s Emergence  (from Joe Freeman,  oregonlive.com):  http://www.oregonlive.com/blazers/index.ssf/2015/11/trail_blazers_notes_meyers_leonards_status_allen_c.html

Nowitzki Is Silencing Doubters  (from Matt Moore,  CBS Sports):  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25374162/dirk-nowitzki-silencing-doubters-on-pace-for-historic-37-year-old-season

The Mavs All Love Raymond Felton  (from Tim McMahon, ESPN):  http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas-mavericks/post/_/id/4705780/on-the-mavs-everybody-loves-raymond-felton

–  Pablo Prigioni  On Shooting  (from Coach Nick, BBall Breakdown):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=RBijs932Ito

–  The Situational Changes for D’Angelo Russell  (from Jonathan Tjarks, RealGM):  http://basketball.realgm.com/article/239860/The-Situatonal-Changes-For-DAngelo-Russell

–  Tyler Johnson  (from Ethan J. Skolnick,  Miami Herald):  http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/ethan-j-skolnick/article44217984.html

–  Lance Stephenson Plays Less Than 2 Minutes  (from Justin Verrier,  ESPN):  http://espn.go.com/blog/losangeles/clippers/post/_/id/8042/lance-stephenson-limited-to-under-two-minutes-in-clippers-win

Varejao:  Expensive Insurance for Cavs (from Marla Ridenour,  ohio.com):  http://www.ohio.com/sports/cavs/marla-ridenour-minutes-dwindling-anderson-varejao-becomes-expensive-insurance-for-cavs-1.639534

–  Pelicans’  Ish Smith Is Making the Most of His Opportunities  (from John Reid, NOLA.com):  http://www.nola.com/pelicans/index.ssf/2015/11/new_orleans_pelicans_guard_ish.html

Batum has Made Quick Impact With Hornets  (from Rick Bonnell,  Charlotte Observer):  http://www.heraldonline.com/sports/nba/charlotte-hornets/article44900457.html

Suns’ Brandan Knight Shifts Defense to Off-Guards  (from Paul Coro, azcentral.com):  http://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/nba/suns/2015/11/14/suns-guard-brandon-knight-shifts-defense-off-guards/75805004/

Thabo Sefolosha Getting Back On Track  (form Gary Washburn,  Boston Globe):   Gary Washburn | Sunday Basketball Notes: After ordeal with police, Thabo Sefolosha getting back on track – The Boston Globe


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