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 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


Today’s Best NBA Reporting and Analysis 5/6/16

TOR 96, MIA 92 (from Chris O’Leary, thestar.com):

Read it here:  https://www.thestar.com/sports/raptors/2016/05/05/five-raptors-heat-moments-that-mattered-in-game-2.html   from Matt Moore, CBS Sports:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25578944/toronto-manages-to-tie-series-but-miami-still-has-upper-hand-takeaways   and from  Matthew Way, BBall Breakdown:  http://bballbreakdown.com/2016/05/05/raptors-find-redemption-overtime/

–  Raptors Need To Use Valanciunas A Lot More On Offence  (from Ryan Wolstat, Toronto Sun):

Read it here:  http://www.torontosun.com/2016/05/05/raptors-need-to-use-valanciunas-a-lot-more-on-offence

–  Raptors Need Better Offensive Execution  (from Jordan Greer, Sporting News):

Read and view it here:  http://www.sportingnews.com/nba/news/dwane-casey-raptors-kyle-lowry-heat-nba-playoffs-lebron-james/128awrjmwo3821iivc33z06clk

–  Why Chris Bosh Is Out Of The Playoffs  (from Rohan Nadkarni, Sports Illustrated):

Read it here:  http://www.si.com/nba/chris-bosh-health-blood-clot-miami-heat-nba-playoffs

–  Moe Harkless’ Defense On Klay Thompson (from Joe Freeman, Oregon Live):

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

–  Harrison Barnes Remains Stoic In Face of Criticism  (from Tim Kawakami,  mercurynews.com):

Read it here:  http://www.mercurynews.com/tim-kawakami/ci_29856214/kawakami-warriors-harrison-barnes-remains-stoic-face-criticism

–  The Amazing Shaun Livingston  (from Kerry Eggers, Portland Tribune):

Read it here:  It’s all a best-case scenario for the amazingly rebounded Shaun Livingston

 Video Breakdown:  Festus Saves The Dubs  (from EricApricot,  Golden State Of Mind):

Read and view it here:  http://www.goldenstateofmind.com/2016/5/4/11589550/warriors-vs-blazers-video-analysis-2016-highlights-festus-ezeli-defense

–  Three Adjustments The Blazers Need To Make  (from Ben Golliver,  Sports Illustated):

Read and view it here:  http://www.si.com/nba/2016/05/06/nba-playoffs-trail-blazers-damian-lillard-warriors-stephen-curry-game-3

–  LaMarcus Aldridge Is Dominating  (from Matt Moore,  CBS Sports):

Read and view it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25578812/lamarcus-aldridge-is-dominating-and-the-thunder-are-just-fine-with-that    from Anthony Slater, newsok.com:  http://newsok.com/okc-thunder-should-the-thunder-double-team-the-scorching-hot-lamarcus-aldridge/article/5496296

–  Andre Roberson’s Defense  (from Berry Tramel, newsok.com):

Read it here:  http://newsok.com/now-you-know-why-andre-roberson-starts-for-the-thunder/article/5496301

–  CLE/ATL Notes  (from Terry Pluto, cleveland.com):

Read it here:  http://www.cleveland.com/pluto/index.ssf/2016/05/cleveland_cavaliers_scribbles_35.html

–  Did Vogel Get A Fair Shake? (from Zach Lowe, ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/15468298/frank-vogel-just-latest-coach-grow-stale-larry-bird-world

–  Up Next For Pacers:  Small Ball Coach Who Is Not Afraid To Ruffle Feathers   (from Mitch Lawrence, Sporting News):

Read it here:  http://www.sportingnews.com/nba/news/larry-bird-frank-vogel-pacers-coach-small-ball-warriors-playoffs/5tre4sjidao1xylwc7qsrr3p

 Debating Hack-a-Farce  (from Zach Lowe, ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/15464738/there-no-clear-answer-how-solve-hack-shaq-issue

Player Profile:

–  Dirk Nowitzki  (from Tariq Saleh, givemesport.com):  http://www.givemesport.com/770486-dirk-nowitzki-a-success-story-built-on-perseverance-loyalty-and-class


Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 5/4/16


–  Cavs’ Priority Is To Stop Korver  (from Chris Vivlamore, myajc.com):

Read it here:  http://www.myajc.com/news/sports/basketball/cavaliers-priority-is-to-stop-korver/nrGft/    from Chris Haynes, cleveland.com:  http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2016/05/how_jr_smith_struck_out_the_at.html

–  Richard Jefferson Breaks Down The LBJ Pass “That Can’t Be Defended”  (from Joe Vardon, cleveland.com):

Read and view it here:  http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2016/05/an_oral_history_of_lebron_jame.html#incart_big-photo

–  Tyronn Lue’s Even-Keeled Disposition (from Chris Fedor,  cleveland.com):


–  GSW 110, POR 99  (from Kevin Arnovitz,  ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/blog/nba/post/_/id/19254/portland-makes-the-shift-then-golden-state-changes-the-game

–  Why The Warriors Win Without Curry  (from Nate Scott,  USA Today):


–   Steve Kerr Uses His Bench Perfectly  (from Ann Killion, sfgate.com):

Read it here:  http://www.sfgate.com/warriors/article/Plenty-in-reserve-as-Warriors-Steve-Kerr-uses-7391812.php

–  Festus Ezeli’s Startling Impact On Game Two Win  (from Rusty Simmons,  SFGate):

Read it here:  http://www.sfgate.com/warriors/article/Ezeli-startlingly-impacts-Warriors-Game-2-win-7391810.php    and from Monte Poole,  csnbayarea.com:  http://www.csnbayarea.com/warriors/ezeli-plays-role-savior-warriors-comeback-win-game-2

MIA 102, TOR 96  (from Coach Nick,  BBall Breakdown):

Watch it here:  http://bballbreakdown.com/2016/05/03/heat-at-raptors-game-1-vine-game/

–  OKC 98, SAS 97  (from Buck Harvey,  expressnewss.com):

Read it here:  http://tinyurl.com/jzok5zl

–  Film Room:  Breaking Down The Thunder’s Game Two Defensive Adjustments  (from Last Chance, Welcome To Loud City):

Read and view it here:  http://www.welcometoloudcity.com/2016/5/4/11577456/film-room-thunder-vs-spurs-2016-defensive-adjustments

–  Spurs Realizing Vision With LaMarcus Aldridge  (from Rob Mahoney, Sports Illustrated):

Read it here:  http://www.si.com/nba/2016/05/04/spurs-lamarcus-aldridge-vision-nba-playoffs-thunder

–  Karl-Anthony Towns Q & A  (from Jared Dubin, Bleacher Report):

Read it here:  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2637363-qa-with-karl-anthony-towns-rookie-of-the-year-favorite-talks-thibs-and-more

Catching Up With Skills Coach Drew Hanlen  (from Osman Baig,  wizofawes.com):

Read it here:  http://wizofawes.com/2016/05/04/washington-wizards-drew-hanlen-interview/

–  The Clippers:  What To Do Now  (from Mika Honkasalo, Hoops Hype):

Read and view it here:  http://hoopshype.com/2016/05/03/clippers-where-they-failed-and-what-do-do-now/

Additional Player Notes, Updates, Profiles:


Isaiah Thomas  (from Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald):  http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/celtics/2016/05/bulpett_pistons_isiah_thomas_loves_the_celtics_isaiah_thomas

–  Deron Wiliams  (from Earl K. Sneed,  mavs.com):  http://www.mavs.com/mavs-hope-deron-williams-makes-himself-at-home-in-dallas/

–  Thon Maker (from Jordan Zirm, stack.com): http://www.stack.com/a/go-inside-thon-makers-training-for-the-nba-combine


Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 5/3/16


–  Preview:  Raptors/Heat  (from James Herbert, CBS Sports):

http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25575451   and from Kurt Helin,  NBC Sports:


–  Raptors/Heat: Numbers Preview  (from John Schuhmann):

Read it here:  http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2016/05/03/numbers-preview-raptors-heat/

–  The Importance Of The Raptors’ Role Players  (from Yaron Weitzman, SBNation):

Read it here:  http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2016/5/2/11555886/toronto-raptors-depth-cory-joseph-norman-powell-kyle-lowry-pacers-game-7

Norman Powell/ DeMarre Carroll (from Mike Ganter, Toronto Sun):

Read it here:  http://www.torontosun.com/2016/05/02/rookie-powell-helping-fuel-raptors-playoff-run

–  Raptors Facing Different Challenge In Heat  (from Blake Murphy, sportsnet.ca):


–  Roberson’s Defense On Leonard Keys Thunder’s Bounceback  (from Erik Horne, newsok.com):

Read it here:  http://newsok.com/thunder-journal-robersons-defense-on-leonard-keys-thunder-bounceback-in-game-2/article/5495656

–  OKC 98, SAS 97  (from Rob Mahoney, Sports Illustrated):

Read it here:   http://www.si.com/nba/2016/05/03/nba-playoffs-oklahoma-city-thunder-san-antonio-spurs-game-2

–  Breakdown: The Final Play  (from Zach Harper, CBS Sports):

Read and view it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25575595/breakdown-everything-that-went-wrong-on-final-play-of-thunder-spurs

–  Thunder/Spurs: Game Two Vines (from Coach Nick, BBall Breakdown);

Watch it here:  http://bballbreakdown.com/2016/05/03/thunder-at-spurs-game-3-vine-game/

–  Thunder Need New Strategy For Guarding LaMarcus  (from Matt Moore, CBS Sports):

Read and view it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25575239/thunder-need-new-strategy-when-it-comes-to-guarding-lamarcus-aldridge

–  Steven Adams’ Untold Story  (from Brian Windhorst,  ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/15443039/untold-story-thunder-center-steven-adams

–  Cavs 104, Hawks 93  (from Jason Lloyd, ohio.com):

Read it here:  http://three-pointer.com/cavs-104-hawks-93-jason-lloyds-21-thoughts-on-defending-kyle-korver-free-throws-and-3-pointers/    from Paul Flannery, SBNation:  http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2016/5/3/11575444/hawks-lose-kyle-korver-lebron-james-cavaliers-nba-playoffs-2016

–  Tristan Thompson Is Demoralizing The Hawks On The Glass Again  (from Dave McMenamin,  ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/blog/cleveland-cavaliers/post/_/id/2594/tristan-thompson-demoralizing-hawks-on-glass-again    and from Chris Fedor,  cleveland.com:  http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2016/05/tristan_thompson_proves_to_be.html

–  How Do The Blazers Stop Bogut  (from Marcus Thompson II,  Mercury News):

Read it here:  http://www.mercurynews.com/marcus-thompson/ci_29842580/thompson-how-do-blazers-stop-bogut

–  Everybody Loves To Trash Talk Draymond  (from Ben Cohen, Wall Street JOurnal):

Read it here:


–  If The Pacers Move On From Vogel, Other Teams Should Pounce  (from Matt Moore, CBS Sports):

Read it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25574798/if-pacers-decide-to-move-on-from-frank-vogel-other-teams-should-pounce

–  NBA Coaches  (from Bob Walsh, coachbobwalsh.com):

Read it here:  http://coachbobwalsh.com/2016/05/03/nba-coaches/

  •  Brad Stevens Interview  (from Adam Himmelsbach, Boston Globe):

Listen to it here:  http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/celtics/2016/05/03/parquet-interview-with-brad-stevens/m8O5PS71EtHuNlL46dmsBM/story.html




–  The NBA’s Best And Worst Shotmakers  (from Kyle Wagner,  fivethirtyeight.com):

Read it here:  http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-nbas-best-and-worst-shot-makers/

Additional Player Notes, Updates, Profiles:

–  Terry Rozier  (from Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald):  http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/celtics/2016/05/bulpett_celtics_terry_rozier_eyes_next_train_to_success

–  Kemba Walker  (from Hornets.com):  http://www.nba.com/hornets/kemba-walker-2015-16-blog

–  J.J.Barea  (from Bobby Karalla,  mavs.com):  http://www.mavs.com/j-j-bareas-late-season-explosion-helped-to-fuel-mavs-playoff-push/