The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet
The Spurs have remained a dominant force at the top of the league each season, but their identity has quietly changed a lot along the way. From the plodding twin towers of Tim Duncan and David Robinson to 2014’s beautiful, influential pace-and-space attack, Gregg Popovich has proven willing to push the boundary in terms of adapting the team’s style. Matt Moore digs into the 2015-16 Spurs newfound grinding style, which is predictably working wonders. While the rest of the NBA follows Golden State’s downsized lead, the Spurs are emphasizing two-point shots and outplaying every team that doesn’t have Stephen Curry. It’s going to be fascinating watching those two teams match up down the line, presumably in the conference finals.
Of course, to win big going against the grain of the entire league, the Spurs must be executing well on multiple levels. Adam Mares points out five facets of the game that San Antonio has mastered in order to exert its will on opponents. A crucial part of their ability to score inside the arc is the skilled plethora of playmakers the Spurs have operating at the elbows. Furthermore, their slow pace hasn’t hindered San Antonio from strong ball movement and purposeful offensive sets. They start their actions quickly and keep the ball moving around the court constantly. Lastly, San Antonio’s big lineups have excelled at protecting the rim and securing rebounds. If you’re going to play big, you have to clean up in those areas.
Kevin Love was a near-MVP candidate in Minnesota and a disappointing stretch big in his first year in Cleveland. After re-upping with the Cavaliers, David Blatt and Love have come back with a far better gameplan to utilize his detailed skillset. J.M. Poulard breaks down the changes Love has made this season to greatly increase his effectiveness on both ends of the floor. Instead of sticking him in the corner, the Cavs are running post-ups for Kevin Love and allowing him to spend more time operating around the basket, where he’s killing it. He’s also picked up his rebounding rates and has done a far better job using size and positioning to make a defensive impact. The return of Kyrie Irving threatens to hamper Love’s offensive role, but Cleveland is clearly figuring out how to utilize its All-Star big man.
Jonathan Tjarks gets into Kristaps Porzingis’s thrilling skill set, impressive start and rare flexibility for future lineup building. Porzingis is easily the biggest player on the court every night, allowing him to use his 7’3″ height to make up for mistakes on either end of the floor. He can shoot over the top of any defender and is already hitting threes at a near-league average rate. Defensively, he can protect the rim like crazy, but is mobile and long enough to step out and recover. Tjarks points out that while the conventional wisdom says to play Porzingis as a stretch 5, there’s merit to the idea of pairing him with a more traditional big and beating up teams with size. His ability to stretch the floor makes him an ideal fit next to most big men.
Perhaps the loudest criticism of former Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was centered around his dangerous reliance on star players and the heavy minutes they would tally under him. Bringing in Fred Hoiberg was supposed to change that, but Jimmy Butler is third in the NBA in minutes per game, and according to Vincent Goodwill, playing through an undisclosed leg injury. Butler told Goodwill that he wasn’t even sure exactly what was wrong or if he needed to get an MRI. The Bulls need to get their house in order, as things are looking all too familiar to the Thibodeau Era.