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 7/1/17

Thunder: Swinging For The Fences (from Jared Dubin, The Step Back):
Paul George, the People’s Champion (from Kelly Iko, 94feetreport.com):
DeMar DeRozan Q & A (from Marc J. Spears, The Undefeated):
The Biggest Questions In Another Wild Offseason (from Zach Lowe, ESPN):
Is Teague An Upgrade For Wolves At PG? (fromGerald Bourguet, Hoops Habit):
Iguodala: Team Culture Changer (from Maxwell Ogden, Hoops Habit):
Rubio & The Jazz: Defensive Hand In Glove Fit (from My_Lo, SLCDunk):
Can MCW Bounce Back? (from Ti Windisch, The Step Back):
What Korkmaz’ Arrival Means To Sixers (from Christopher Kline, The Sixer Sense):
Jonah Bolden Could Be Sixers’ Back-Up Four Next Season (from Christopher Kline, The Sixer Sense):
Meet Harrison Gaines, Lonzo Ball’s Agent (from Jake Fischer, Sports Illustrated):
The Phil Jackson Era Wasn’t A Total Dumpster Fire (from Howard Beck, Bleacher Report):
Guide To 2017 Contract Options, Qualifying Offers (from John Schuhmann, NBA.com):
How An NBA Front Office Handles Free Agency, Step-By-Step (from Bobby Marks, ESPN):
Ekpe Udoh: From NBA Bench Player To Turkish Hero (from Patrick Kingsley, NYTimes):
D-League Alums To Watch At Orlando Summer League (from Chris Reichert, 2ways10days.com):
Rob Pelinka Q & A: Draft Evaluation & Offseason Outlook (from Mike Trudell, Lakers.com):
Lakers’ Priority: Cap Flexibility For Next Summer (from Mark Medina, LA Daily News);





Derrick Caracter Is Still Ballin’ (from Shereen Rayan, Lake Show Life):






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  • NBA Agent Bret Kanis
  • CBS Sports “The Agent’s Take” Joel Corry
  • ESPN Amin Elhassan
  • Basketball Analytics Guru Dean Oliver
  • Reno Bighorns Director of Basketball Operations Kyle Nishimoto
  • Portland Trail Blazers Video Coordinator John Ross
  • Creative Artists Agency Consultant Shareen Lavi
  • South Bay Lakers GM Nick Mazzella
  • SMWW President Dr. Lynn Lashbrook
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Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 5/2/16

Preview:  ATL’s D vs CLE’s O  (from KL Chouinard, hawks.com):
–  Kevin Love’s Play Will Be Pivotal  (from Trevor Magnotti, Fear The Sword):
–  Opponents Aren’t Respecting LBJ’s Three-Point Shot (from Brian Windhorst,  ESPN):
–  Preview:  TOR vs MIA  (from Jeremy Woo,  Sports Illustrated):
–  GSW 118, POR 106  (from Ben Golliver,  Sports Illustrated):
–  Warriors’ Defensive Assignments Caught The Blazers Off Guard  (from Jason Quick,  csnnw.com):
–  Klay Thompson’s Comfort Level  (from Zach Harper, CBS Sports):
–  Video Breakdown: The Blueprint To Wins Without Curry  (from EricApricot, Golden State Of Mind):
–  Draymond Green: NBA’s Best All-Around Player?  (from Ben Golliver, Sports Illustrated):
–  Damian Lillard Can’t Beat Warriors’ Defense By Himself  (from Michael Pina, RealGM):
 Time For The Thunder To Fear Kawhi Leonard  (from Berry Tramel,  newsok.com):
–  Danny Green Shakes Out Of Shooting Slump (from Ananth Pandian,  CBS Sports):
–  Spurs Playbook:  The Aldridge/Ginobili Pick-and-Roll (from Eli Horowitz,  Pounding The Rock):
–  Paul George’s Brilliance  (from Nick Friedell, ESPN):

–  Weekend Recap  (from Eric Maroun, Hardwood Paroxysm):

Read and view it here:  http://hardwoodparoxysm.com/2016/05/02/lion-face-lemon-face-game-7-and-heaven/

–  Rockets’ Coaching Search  (from Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle):

Read it here: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/rockets/article/Rockets-coaching-search-about-more-than-checking-7386016.php?t=2eb416a86a438d9cbb&cmpid=twitter-premium

–  The Bucks’ Players’ Plus-Minus: The Good, The Bad, The Meh  (from Frank Madden, Brew Hoop):

Read it here:  http://www.brewhoop.com/2016/5/2/11553476/Bucks-plus-minus-rpm-khris-middleton-giannis-antetokounmpo

Additional Player Notes, Updates, Profiles:



–  Norman Powell (from Arden Zwelling, sportsnet.ca):  http://www.sportsnet.ca/basketball/nba/raptors-fed-off-energy-powell-pacers-series/

 Dion Waiters (from Cray Allred,  Welcome To Loud City):  http://www.welcometoloudcity.com/2016/4/28/11525238/dion-waiters-is-the-emergency-over

–  Terrence Jones (from Ethan Rothstein, The Dream Shake):  http://www.thedreamshake.com/2016/5/2/11562212/the-bizarre-inevitable-divorce-of-terrence-jones-and-the-houston


Today’s Best NBA Reporting and Analysis 4/20/16


–  Valanciunas Proving To Be Big Problem For Pacers  (from James Herbert,  CBS Sports):

Read it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25560363/raptors-jonas-valanciunas-proving-to-be-one-big-problem-for-the-pacers

 Pacers Need To Limit Valanciunas  (from Nate Taylor,  indystar.com):

Read it here:  http://www.indystar.com/story/sports/nba/pacers/2016/04/19/pacers-biggest-adjustment-need-limiting-jonas-valanciunas/83237908/

–  How The Pacers May Adjust To Valanciunas (From Blake Murphy,Raptors Republic):

Read and view it here:  http://www.raptorsrepublic.com/2016/04/20/pacers-may-adjust-jonas-valanciunas/

–  Raptors:  Daring Others Than George To Beat Them  (from Doug Smith, Tornto Star):

Read it here:  http://www.thestar.com/sports/raptors/2016/04/19/raptors-content-to-allow-paul-george-dominate-if-rest-of-pacers-kept-in-check.html

–  Video Breakdown:  Mavericks/Thunder Game 2  (from Coach Nick,  BBall Breakdown):

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

–  What Steve Clifford Says Erik Spoelstra Is Doing That Other Teams Aren’t  (from Manny Navarro, Miami Herald):

Read it here:  http://blogs.herald.com/miami_heat/2016/04/what-hornets-coach-steve-clifford-says-erik-spoelstra-is-doing-with-the-heat-that-other-teams-arent.html

–  The Whiteside Problem And Solution For The Hornets  (from Zach Harper,  CBS Sports):

Read and view it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25560654/the-hassan-whiteside-problem-and-solution-for-the-charlotte-hornets

–  Celtics’ Bizarro Game 1 Shooting  (from Matt Moore,  CBS Sports):

Read and view it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25560155/the-maddening-case-of-the-celtics-bizarro-game-1-shooting-vs-atlanta

–  The Celtics’ Synergy Can’t Handle Losing Avery Bradley  (from Zach Lowe, ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/15278135/the-celtics-out-loss-avery-bradley

–  Celtics Made Horrendous Decisions Defending Korver In Game 2  (from Zach Harper,  CBS Sports):

Read and view it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25560601/celtics-made-horrendous-decisions-defending-kyle-korver-in-game-2

–  Hawks Shut Down Isaiah Thomas By Ignoring The Other Celtics  (from Yaron Weitzman, SBNation):

Read it here:  http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2016/4/20/11465440/isaiah-thomas-hawks-defense-shut-down

–  Isaiah Thomas:  The Best Players Figure It Out  (from Chris Forsberg,  ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/celtics/post/_/id/4722872/isaiah-thomas-the-best-players-figure-it-out

–  Blazers’ Game 2 Plan  (from Jason Quick,  csnnw.com):

Read it here:  http://www.csnnw.com/blazers/how-trail-blazers-game-2-plan-might-have-formed-bus-ride-back-hotel

–  Time For Pistons To Counter  (from Shawn Windsor,  Detroit Free Press):

Read it here:  http://www.freep.com/story/sports/nba/pistons/2016/04/20/detroit-pistons-cleveland-cavaliers-tweaks/83257640/

–   Grizzlies’ Grit And Grind: For Better And Worse  (from Kevin Arnovitz,  ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/15234297/how-grit-n-grind-defines-grizzlies-better-worse

–  Statistical Playoff Notes:  Teague, Harden, Raptors’ Rotations  (from Ian Levy,  Nylon Calculus):

Read it here:  http://nyloncalculus.com/2016/04/19/nylon-notebook-jeff-teague-james-harden-and-more-playoff-notes/

–  Curry’s Foot  (from Marcus Thompson IOI,  mercurynews):

Read it here:  http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_29786600/thompson-warriors-curry-not-worried-about-foot-injury

–  5 Things To Watch On Wednesday  (from Kurt Helin, NBC Sports):

Read it here:  http://nba.nbcsports.com/2016/04/20/five-things-to-watch-in-playoff-wednesday-kevin-love-at-center-clippers-trapping-damian-lillard/

 The Thunder’s Organizational Evolution  (from Ben Cohen, Wall Street Journal):

Read it here:  http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-the-oklahoma-city-thunders-kids-grew-up-1461107114

Additional Player Notes, Updates, Profiles:



Kobe Bryant  (from Ramona Shelburne,  ESPN):   http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/15232286/former-lakers-star-kobe-bryant-left-nba-just-getting-started

Ramon Sessions  (from Jorge Castillo,  Washington Post):   https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wizards-insider/wp/2016/04/19/ramon-sessions-enters-free-agency-hoping-for-a-chance-as-starting-point-guard/

–  Trey Lyles  (from Mike Sorensen, Deseret News):  http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865652532/After-slow-start-Trey-Lyles-made-huge-improvement-in-rookie-season-for-Jazz.html


Today’s Best NBA Reporting And Analysis 4/18/16


Recapping Sunday’s Games  (from Tim Cato/Liam Boylan-Pett, SBNation):

Read and view it here:  http://www.sbnation.com/2016/4/18/11448948/2016-nba-playoff-scores-cavaliers-pistons-playoffs-game-1-lebron-james-kyrie-irving

–  Heat/Hornets Game 1: Seven Things To Know  (from James Herbert,  CBS Sports):

Read it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25558304/heat-annihilate-hornets-in-game-1-seven-things-to-know

–  Heat Punish The Hornets  (from Chris Barnewall, BBall Breakdown):

Read it here:  http://bballbreakdown.com/2016/04/17/miami-punishes-the-charlotte-hornets/

–  Pistons Show Confidence And Inexperience In Game 1 Loss  (from Zach Harper,  CBS Sports):

Read and view ithere:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25558166/pistons-show-confidence-and-their-inexperience-in-game-1-loss-to-cavs

Impact Of Kevin Love At The Five  (from Aaron McMann,  mlive.com):

Read it here:  http://www.mlive.com/pistons/index.ssf/2016/04/andre_drummond_quieted_then_fo_1.html

–  Trail Blazers Had No Answers  (from Kevin Arnovitz,  ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/blog/nba/post/_/id/17914/trail-blazers-had-no-answers-for-clippers-in-game-1-loss

–  Clippers 115, Blazers 95  (from Jason Quick, csnnw.com):

Read it here:  http://www.csnnw.com/blazers/clippers-score-game-1-knockout-after-blazers-supporting-cast-comes-empty

–  All Eyes On Raptors After Losing Game One   (from Zach Lowe,  ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/15228918/the-raptors-need-shake-first-round-jinx

–  DeMarre Carroll Wants To Guard Paul George: “That’s What I Live For”  (from James Herbert, CBS Sports):

Read it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25558095

–  Rockets’ Offense Picked Clean By Warriors In Game One  (from Jonathan Feigen,  Houston Chronicle):

Read it here:  http://tinyurl.com/gteybd9

–  Rockets’ Solution For Game Two Is To Move  (from Calvin Watkins,  ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/blog/houston-rockets/post/_/id/2448/rockets-solution-for-game-2-is-to-move

–  How The Warriors Kept Harden Off The FT Line  (from Zach Harper,  CBS Sports):

Read it here:  http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25558430/how-the-warriors-kept-james-harden-off-the-free-throw-line-in-game-1

–  Isaiah Thomas’ Sneaky Use Of Flare Screen Out Of Horns  (from Jack Winter/Spencer Lund, dimemag):

Read and view it here:  http://uproxx.com/dimemag/celtics-nba-playoffs-isaiah-thomas-basketball-neat/

–  Celtics’ Target: Find A Marksman  (from Gary Washburn,  Boston Globe):

Read it here:  http://www.basketballinsiders.com/nba-am-larkin-needs-opportunity-stability/

–  Kenny Atkinson Named Nets’ New Head Coach  (from Laura Albanese, Newsday):

Read it here:  http://www.newsday.com/sports/basketball/nets/kenny-atkinson-named-nets-new-head-coach-1.11701401

–  Credit Kenny Atkinson For Jeremy Lin’s Boost With Knicks  (from Frank Isola,  NY Daily News):

Read it here:  http://m.nydailynews.com/sports/basketball/knicks/ny-knicks-assistant-ken-atkinson-helping-jeremy-lin-succeed-article-1.1024232

–  Pistons’ GM Jeff Bower Climbed The Ladder To The NBA  (from Neil Rudel,  Altoona Mirror):

Read it here:  http://www.altoonamirror.com/page/content.detail/id/634727/Bower-climbed-ladder-to-the-NBA.html

Additional Player Notes, Updates, Profiles:



–  Kawhi Leonard  (from Sarah Cilea, BBall Breakdown):   http://bballbreakdown.com/2016/04/17/kawhi-leonard/

 Myles Turner  (from Wheat Hotchkiss, pacers.com):  http://www.nba.com/pacers/news/turner-fights-through-nerves-impress-playoff-debut

–  Kemba Walker/Nic Batum  (from Scott Fowler, Charlotte Observer):  http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/scott-fowler/article72243192.html

–  Dion Waiters  (from Lang Whitaker,  NBA.com):  http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2016/04/17/95577/

 Steph Curry  (from Max Whittle, theguardian.com):  http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/apr/18/steph-curry-golden-state-warriors-nba-pre-game

–  Shane Larkin  (from Alex Kennedy,  Basketball Insiders):  http://www.basketballinsiders.com/nba-am-larkin-needs-opportunity-stability/

–  Quinn Cook (from Brian Rzeppa,  Ridiculous Upside):  http://www.ridiculousupside.com/2016/4/17/11446924/quinn-cook-on-a-tear-for-canton