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 1/13/17

How The Rockets Are Doing It (from Mike Honkasalo, Hoops Hype):

Read and watch it here: http://hoopshype.com/2017/01/12/the-rockets-are-rolling-and-james-harden-is-the-frontrunner-for-mvp/

From Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/rockets/article/After-31-wins-in-season-s-first-half-Rockets-10853568.php?cmpid=twitter-premium&t=3965214272438d9cbb

From Trent Arnold, Space City Scoop: http://spacecityscoop.com/2017/01/13/houston-rockets-defense-wins-championships/

–  The Week In Review  (from Zach Lowe, ESPN):

Read it here: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/18461666/zach-lowe-10-things-like-featuring-cj-mccollum-jumpers-nba

Denzel Valentine Continues To Expand His Role  (from Sam Smith, bulls.com):

Read it here:  http://www.nba.com/bulls/features/valentine-continues-expand-his-role/

From Cole Zwicker, fansided.com: http://fansided.com/2017/01/13/denzel-valentine-bulls-rookies-nba/

Buddy Hield Has Found His Rhythm  (from Howard Megdal, fansided.com):

Read it here: http://fansided.com/2017/01/13/buddy-hield-new-orleans-pelicans-rhythm/

–  Antetokounmpo’s Limitless Potential  (from Kevin Ferrigan, nbacouchside.com):

Read and watch it here: https://nbacouchside.com/newsletter-sample-giannis-antetokounmpos-limitless-potential-e6586293c8e7#.nw0npopcn

 The Sixers’ Turnaround & Forward Focus  (from Brian Seltzer, sixers.com):

Read it here: http://www.nba.com/sixers/news/game-preview-amidst-promising-stretch-sixers-focus-forward

From Bob Cooney, Philly.com: http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/sixers/20170113_Cooney__Sixers_learning_to_rely_on_their_defense.html

–  Spurs: The Aldridge To Green Connection Out Of The Post-Up  (from Paul Garcia, The Sports Daily):

Read and watch it here:  http://thesportsdaily.com/project-spurs/the-aldridge-to-green-connection-out-of-the-post-up/

Tyler Johnson Has Been The Highlight Of The Heat’s Season (from Allana Tachauer, All U Can Heat):

Read it here: http://allucanheat.com/2017/01/13/tyler-johnson-miami-heat-highlight/

Video Breakdown: Steph Curry’s Creativity, Chaos & Control (from EricApricot, Golden State Of Mind):

Read and watch it here:  http://www.goldenstateofmind.com/2017/1/13/14261770/nba-warriors-vs-pistons-video-analysis-2017-highlights-curry-durant-pachulia

–  Thursday Recap, featuring Devin Booker’s 28-Point Fourth Quarter (from Tim Cato, SBNation):

Read and watch it here: http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2017/1/13/14259734/2017-nba-scores-suns-devin-booker-28-points-fourth-highlights-video

– Video Breakdown : GSW 127, DET 107 (from Coach Nick/Dave Dufour, BBall Breakdown):

Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=p5XTY5D0EoI

–  Playing Good Defense Vs. Measuring Good Defense  (from Khrishna Narsu, Nylon Calculus):

Read it here: http://fansided.com/2017/01/12/nylon-calculus-shot-defense-metrics-actions/

– The Evolution Of The NBA Big Man  (from David Gendelman, The Guardian):

Read it here: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jan/12/nba-big-man-evolution-basketball

Feel For Talent Has Made The Sixers Better  (from Jack McCaffery, The Reporter Online):

Read it here:  http://www.thereporteronline.com/article/RO/20170113/SPORTS/170119898

–  How OKC Determines Its Inactive Players  (from Erik Horne, newsok.com):

Read it here: http://www.tulsaworld.com/sportsextra/thunderextra/thunder-how-okc-determines-its-inactive-players/article_5dda8d28-dd16-5d46-8c8c-c29b7755cfdf.html

The Timberwolves Are Playing Good Defense (from Jace Frederick, Pioneer Press):

Read it here: http://www.wctrib.com/sports/pro/4198286-believe-it-or-not-timberwolves-are-playing-good-defense

DeAndre Jordan Leads Clippers’ Tenacious Defense (from Mike DiGiovanna, LA Times):

Read it here: http://www.latimes.com/sports/clippers/la-sp-clippers-report-20170112-story.html

–  Deron Williams Is Thriving  (from Bobby Karalla, Mavs.com):

Read and watch it here:  http://www.mavs.com/deron-williams-has-thrived-since-returns-of-dirk-bogut/

–  Why Do Bucks Play So Well With Jason Terry On Court? (from Alex Boeder, Bucks.com):

Read and watch it here:  http://www.nba.com/bucks/features/boeder-why-do-bucks-play-so-well-jason-terry

–  The Suddenly Indispensable Joe Ingles (from Dan Clayton, Salt City Hoops):

Read and watch it here:  http://saltcityhoops.com/salt-city-seven-011217/

Michael Beasley Can Help Young Bucks Learn Pace And Timing  (from Charles F. Gardner, jsonline.com):

Read it here: http://www.jsonline.com/story/sports/nba/bucks/2017/01/12/bucks-beasley-setting-right-pace-youngsters-follow/96484776/

Dwane Casey: “Sky’s The Limit” For Nogueira  (from Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press):

Read it here: http://www.yorktonthisweek.com/raptors-coach-casey-says-sky-is-the-limit-for-young-centre-lucas-nogueira-1.7201551

Still Manu (from Tom Petrini, The Sports Daily):

Read it here: http://thesportsdaily.com/project-spurs/still-manu/

Harkless Thriving With Blazers  (from Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel):

Read it here: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/orlando-magic/os-sp-orlando-magic-maurice-harkless-0113-story.html

Chris McCullough In The D-League  (from Bryan Fonseca, Nets Daily):

Read and watch it here:  http://www.netsdaily.com/2017/1/13/14261420/chris-mccullough-moves-in-all-the-right-directions


Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 12/18/16

–  The Hornets Are Right Where They Should Be  (from Paul Flannery, SBNation):

Read it here:  http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2016/12/18/13997908/hornets-steve-clifford-kemba-walker-sunday-shootaround

How Similar Are The Rockets To D’Antoni’s Suns?  (from Tom Ziller, SBNation):

Read it here:  http://www.sbnation.com/2016/12/14/13951652/mike-dantoni-rockets-suns-seven-seconds-or-less

From Jesse Blancarte, Basketball Insiders:  http://www.basketballinsiders.com/nba-saturday-houston-rockets-back-on-track-under-mike-dantoni/

–  Walton, Lakers Make Coaching Staff’s Health A Priority  (from Bill Oram,  OCRegister):

Read it here:  http://www.ocregister.com/articles/walton-738765-coach-coaches.html

–  James Johnson, Sixth Man Of Year? (from Frank Urbina, allucanheat.com):

Read it here:  http://allucanheat.com/2016/12/18/is-miami-heats-james-johnson-making-a-case-for-sixth-man-of-the-year/

–  The Evolution Of Terrence Ross (from Sahal Abdi  Raptors Rapture):

Read it here:  http://raptorsrapture.com/2016/12/18/the-evolution-of-terrence-ross/

–  The Balancing Act That Horford Has To Establish (from A. Sherrod Blakely, csnne.com):

Read it here:  http://www.csnne.com/boston-celtics/celtics-heat-preview-horford-taking-greater-load-offensively

Jokic Scores,Passes, Rebounds And Defends (from Ryan Blackburn, Denver Stiffs.com):

Read it here:  http://www.denverstiffs.com/2016/12/14/13934602/stat-of-the-week-nikola-jokic-s-numbers-are-mind-boggling

–  For Bucks, The Time Is Now  (from Gary D’Amato, Journal Sentinel):

Read it here:  http://www.tri-cityherald.com/sports/nba/article121618272.html

–  Sean Kilpatrick: One Who Got Away From Sixers (from Keith Pompey, philly.com):

Read it here:  http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/sixers/20161218_Nets__Sean_Kilpatrick__One_who_got_away_from_Sixers.html

–  Raptors’ Rebounding: A Work In Progress (from Doug Smith, Toronto Star):

Read it here:  https://www.thestar.com/sports/raptors/2016/12/17/raptors-need-to-roll-off-the-rim-to-win.html

Lance Thomas’ Return Helps Knicks’ Small Lineup  (from Quentin Haynes, Hoops Habit):

Read it here: http://hoopshabit.com/2016/12/17/new-york-knicks-lance-thomas-return-helps-knicks-small-ball/

–  Ian Clark: Kerr’s Reliable Bench Weapon  (from Monte Poole,  csnbayarea):

Read it here:  http://www.csnbayarea.com/warriors/after-long-journey-warriors-clark-now-kerrs-reliable-bench-weapon

–  Pistons At Crossroads Over Stagnant Play  (from Vince Ellis, Detroit Free Press):

Read it here:  http://www.freep.com/story/sports/nba/pistons/2016/12/18/detroit-pistons-team-meeting-indiana-pacers-loss/95580402/

–  The Heat Miss Tyler Johnson’s Offense And Defense  (from Waler Villa, Miami Herald):

Read it here:  http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/nba/miami-heat/article121566422.html

–  Video Breakdown:  How The Rockets Broke The Three-Point Record  (from Coach Nick, BBall breakdown):

Read and watch it here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=8AYOkpOLJgI

Shelvin Mack Plays Key Role For Jazz While Staying Beneath The Radar  (from Tony Jones, Salt Lake Tribune):

Read it here:  http://www.sltrib.com/sports/4723142-155/utah-jazz-shelvin-mack-plays-a

–  Eric Gordon: Harden’s Perfect Complement  (from Rahat Huq, red94.net):

Read and watch it here:  http://www.red94.net/eric-gordon-perfect-complement-james-harden/16524/#

 Three Things Okafor Can Improve Quickly  (from Mike O’Connor, The Sixer Sense):

Read and watch it here:  http://thesixersense.com/2016/12/18/three-things-jahlil-okafor-improve-his-game-quickly/

–  Frank Vogel Gained Strength From Traumatic Fire 26 Years Ago  (from Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel):

Read it here:  http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/orlando-magic/os-sp-frank-vogel-survives-fire-1218-20161217-story.html

–  Saturday Recap (from Kristian Winfield, SBNation):

Read it here: http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2016/12/18/13996926/nba-scores-2016-rockets-comeback-timberwolves-knicks-nuggets-warriors-blazers-cavs

From Insider Hoops/AP:  http://www.insidehoops.com/daily.shtml

–  GSW 135, POR 90  (from Ethan Sherwood Strauss, ESPN):

Read it here:  http://www.espn.co.uk/blog/golden-state-warriors/post/_/id/3120/efficiency-exercise-durants-accuracy-puts-warriors-in-charge

–  HOU 111, MIN 109  (from Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle):

Read it here:  http://www.chron.com/sports/rockets/article/Three-pointers-Takeaways-from-Rockets-win-over-10804368.php

–  Video Breakdown: Westbrook’s Shammgod  (from Tom Ziller, SBNation):

Read and watch it here:  http://www.sbnation.com/2016/12/18/13998102/russell-westbrook-shammgod-video-thunder-highlights


Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 6/3/16

 GSW 104, CLE 89

  -from Ben Golliver, Sports Illustrated:

Read it here:  http://www.si.com/nba/2016/06/03/nba-finals-cavaliers-warriors-lebron-james-stephen-curry-game-1-video

  – from J.A. Adande, ESPN:

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2016/story/_/id/15918848/cavs-stars-shine-warriors-show-different-way-win

  – from Jeff Zilgitt,  USA Today:

Read it here:  http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/playoffs/2016/06/03/lebron-james-kevin-love-kyrie-irving-cavs-big-3-nba-finals-game-1/85332438/

  – from James Herbert, CBS Sports:

Read it here: http://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/cavs-no-match-for-balanced-warriors-in-game-1-of-nba-finals-takeaways/

  – from Terry Pluto, cleveland.com:

Read it here:  http://www.cleveland.com/pluto/index.ssf/2016/06/cleveland_cavaliers_playoff_sc_6.html

–  Warriors’ Game Plan: Find Irving And Score On Him  (from Nate Scott, USA Today):

Read and view it here:  http://ftw.usatoday.com/2016/06/warriors-cavaliers-game-1-kyrie-irving

–  Iguodala: Difference Maker  (from Chris Fedor, cleveland.com):

Read it here:  http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2016/06/andre_iguodala_reigning_nba_fi.html

–  Bdzelik Sees Path To Fixing Rockets’ Defense  (from Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle):

Read it here:  http://www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/rockets/article/Jeff-Bedzelik-has-a-plan-for-Rockets-defense-7960354.php

–  Dissecting The Noel For Teague Trade Rumor (from Derek Bodner, phillymag.com):

Read it here:  http://www.phillymag.com/news/2016/06/03/dissecting-the-jeff-teague-for-nerlens-noel-rumor/


Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 5/7/16

–  CLE 121, ATL 108 (from James Herbert, CBS Sports):

Read it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25580027/cavaliers-outclass-hawks-again-in-game-3-four-things-to-know    and from Kacy Sager, BBall Breakdown:  http://bballbreakdown.com/2016/05/07/hawks-change-everything-but-the-outcome/

–  Channing Frye: Cavs’ Missing Piece?  (from Jeff Zilgitt, USA Today:

Read it here:  http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/playoffs/2016/05/07/channing-frye-lebron-james-kyrie-irving-kevin-love-kevin-durant-russell-westbrook-cavaliers-hawks-playoffs/84060442/

–  Tyronn Lue Has Thrust Cavs Into Company Of Warriors, Spurs  (from Chris Haynes.  cleveland.com):

Read it here:  http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2016/05/tyronn_lues_messages_demeanor.html#incart_river_mobile_index

–  Raptors Could Benefit From Sharing The Ball (from Bruce Arthur, the star.com):

Read it here:  https://www.thestar.com/sports/raptors/2016/05/06/raptors-might-need-to-embrace-a-pass-time-arthur.html

–  Valunciunas’ Growth   (from Chris O’Leary, thestar.com):

Read it here:  https://www.thestar.com/sports/raptors/2016/05/06/the-growth-of-raptors-valanciunas-comes-game-by-game.html

–  How Bosh’s Absence Has Impacted The Heat (from Zach Buckley, Bleacher Report):

Read it here:  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2638459-how-chris-boshs-absence-has-impacted-and-will-continue-to-impact-miami-heat

–  Blazers Need To Limit Draymond’s Impact  (from Joe Freeman, Oregon Live):

Read it here:  http://www.oregonlive.com/blazers/index.ssf/2016/05/trail_blazers_react_to_stephen_currys_game_3_absen.html

–  Kawhi Lets HIs Game Do The Talking  (from Matt Moore,  CBS Sports):

Read and view it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25580158/kawhi-leonard-lets-his-game-and-crucial-rebound-do-all-the-talking

–  How The Spurs Put Away OKC In Game Three (from Dan Devine, Yahoo Sports):

Read it here:  http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nba-ball-dont-lie/-it-s-all-about-the-details—how-the-spurs-put-away-okc-in-game-3-065140365.html

–  Leonard And Aldridge Make The Spurs Look Different, But The Results Stay The Same  (from Tim Cato, SBNation):

Read it here:  http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2016/5/7/11614332/spurs-thunder-playoffs-kawhi-leonard-lamarcus-aldridge-different-look

–  Spurs’  Big Man Trio Is Complementing The Stars  (from Rob Mahoney, Sports Illustrated):

Read it here:  http://www.si.com/nba/2016/05/07/playoffs-thunder-spurs-kevin-durant-tim-duncan-game-3-video

–  Donovan, Thunder Depth Are Being Tested  (from Rob Mahoney, Sports Illustrated):

Read it here:  http://www.si.com/nba/2016/05/06/okc-thunder-kevin-durant-russell-westbrook-billy-donovan-defense-rotation

–  Ian Clark Helping Fill Warriors’ Void  (from Courtney Cronin,  Mercury News):

Read it here:  http://www.mercurynews.com/warriors/ci_29859867/no-stephen-curry-no-problem-ian-clark-helping

–  Should The Blazers Start Allen Crabbe?  (from McLayne Bertsch, ripcityproject.com):

Read it here:  http://ripcityproject.com/2016/05/07/blazers-crabbe-start/

–  Grizzlies Fire Joerger  (from Adrian Wojnarowski,  Yahoo Sports):

Read it here:  http://sports.yahoo.com/news/sources–grizzlies-fire-head-coach-dave-joerger-133415083.html

–  Q & A With Memphis GM Chris Wallace Re Coaching Change  (from grizzlies.com):

Read it here:  http://www.nba.com/grizzlies/news/grizzlies-q-a-chris-wallace-160507

–  Coaching Search Q & A With Headhunter Jed Hughes  (from Associated Press):

Read it here:  http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/05/06/sports/basketball/ap-bkn-search-firms.html

–  Rockets’ Fall Is No Reason To Bash Morey’s Anlaytics Focus  (from Ben Alamar, ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/74347/whatever-daryl-moreys-fate-analytics-movements-foothold-strong-in-nba

Additional Player Notes, Updates, Profiles:



Karl-Anthony Towns  (from Tom West, Sports Illustrated):

Read it here:  https://thecauldron.si.com/karl-anthony-towns-leading-the-nbas-new-generation-b601136723f2#.co4hwi1gn

–  Malcolm Delaney  (from Nikos Varlas, eurohoops.net):  http://www.eurohoops.net/interviews/238458/delaney-were-going-to-berlin-to-win-the-title