The 104-86 victory that the San Antonio Spurs earned over the Minnesota Timberwolves last night was not much of a shocker to anyone. The real story was the unsuspected production of the Spurs bench that has piqued the attention of upcoming opponents. With Manu Ginobili still tending to a hamstring injury and Tiago Splitter out with a sore shoulder, who will Gregg Popovich look to on his bench to solidify the sixth man role?
After the Spurs’ bench demolished the Timberwolves with their unselfish ball movement and shooting accuracy, it becomes more apparent that Popovich has a few more options to choose from in his offensive arsenal. Danny Green was recently the first option off the bench and worked his way back into the starting lineup, until a hand injury against the Wolves temporarily sidelined him. Now, the minutes are there for someone to take.
In the win over the Wolves, Matt Bonner stated his case for the sixth man role by sinking four buckets from beyond the arc and finishing with 14 points on the night. In his second stint with the Spurs, Bonner’s current 3.4 points per game is not an improvement from the 6.6 points averaged last season. His only strength is his shooting ability and his biggest liability is on the defensive end, which does not make “the red rocket” a strong candidate coming off the bench.
Jeff Ayres has recently earned more minutes in the post due to Splitter’s absence, but his lack of experience is very evident in his tentative play. He is a big body that can be used to clog up the paint and cause players to alter their shots, but he is not a skilled shot blocker. His lack of consistent growth any one area makes him a doubtful choice as the sixth man.
The player with the best chance of earning extended minutes for Pop and the Spurs is Patty Mills. Despite only finishing last night’s game with seven points in 19 minutes, Mills has shown his ability to get the ball moving in the offensive scheme. He possesses the unconscious trigger and has an aggressive mindset on both ends of the floor in pressure situations.
Even in his collegiate days at Saint Mary’s, Mills’ willingness to take big-time shots drew attention from the basketball world. The type of energy that he brings into the game makes him an obvious option to fill the void due to injuries.