The San Antonio Spurs will start the regular season with only 14 players in their roster after waiving two elements who were still at camp (Courtney Fells and Dan Nwaelele), so now it seems like the perfect time to talk about how the team will look in Opening Night where they will face the Memphis Grizzlies at the AT&T Center.
According to what coach Gregg Popovich did last season, it seems like Tony Parker will be the starting point guard with Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard on the wings. Tim Duncan will play at the fourth and Tiago Splitter will be the big man in the middle.
The Brazilian is an interesting case to say the least. After arriving from Europe as a Euroleague star, he struggled to find his place in the team early on, but took several steps forward this last season that earned him a four-year, $36 million extension. He took major strides on the offensive side of the ball as he emerged as a solid attacking option near the basket, although he still needs to improve his basketball IQ and decision-making in critical situations.
He’s definitively a much better player than when he arrived to the NBA. But is that enough to guarantee him a starting spot in the Spurs’ well-oiled machine?
To start, the team doesn’t have big men on the roster that are capable of starting on a daily basis. Matt Bonner is a one-dimensional player whose only worth is to shoot the long ball and Jeff Ayres is nothing more than a role player, so both can be left out of consideration. The only reliable player that could start next to Duncan is Boris Diaw.
The Frenchman is a gifted passer that can play down low if necessary, although his real worth is being a stretch forward. He’s agile enough to play away from the basket, and he’s gritty so he can also crash some rebounds if needed. The only problem the Spurs would have in starting Diaw is that Duncan would need to be moved out of position to start as a center, where he’s not as effective as he is playing as a power forward.
Diaw can be a valuable piece coming off the bench for the team this season. His ability to play out of position can be a tough matchup for opposing players, and his shooting percentages are always welcomed in the secondary unit. With Splitter paired next to Duncan, the Spurs would also make sure that they have the five players that best fit their mold starting day in and day out.