Curry or Brown — fortunately for the Spurs, it doesn’t really matter

Before we get started, let’s get something straight.

The Spurs’ season is not going to hinge on who they choose to fill their 15th roster spot. (If they choose anyone at all.)

In fact, this sort of decision doesn’t usually matter even on bad teams, let alone one that goes two-deep at pretty much every position, and is hoping to contend for the championship.

The only reason it’s become one of the main story lines of training camp is because, well, there hasn’t been much else to talk about with a veteran team that remains almost untouched from last season, when the Spurs took a 2-0 lead before crumbling against Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals.

That said, on to the battle that head coach Gregg Popovich has whittled down to two players with completely different backgrounds: Eddy Curry, the lottery bust battling to rebuild his once promising career, and Derrick Brown, a second-round journeyman just trying to get his career started.

Their playing styles and utility are equally disparate.

Curry, a classic back-to-the-basket center, still has a gift for putting the ball in the hole, as evidenced by his 68-percent shooting mark in the preseason. His aptitude at pretty much everything else that can be done on a basketball court ranges from adequate to non-existent.

An undersized tweener with a small forward’s body and a power forward’s mentality, the 6-7 Brown offers youth, athleticism and versatility. His 14-minute stint in Sunday’s loss against Orlando, during which he drilled a 3-pointer and a 20-footer, showed he might have even figured out how to hit a jump shot, in which case his value would soar.

If so, it still wouldn’t give him a single skill as discernible as Curry’s scoring ability. Which is probably why Curry dominated a recent Express-News poll about who the Spurs should take for their last roster spot. (He earned 976 votes to just 78 for Brown.)

Neither fills a glaring hole for the Spurs.

It would be one thing if Curry could help slow down the Lakers’ Dwight Howard and/or Pau Gasol. Defense and rebounding, however, have never been his forte. And while it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have another scoring option, it’s not like the Spurs struggled last season without him, leading the league in offensive efficiency and effective field-goal shooting.

It’s even tougher to see where Brown would fit in light of the abundance of bodies at his positions – Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner and DeJuan Blair at power forward, and Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson at small forward. He has more room for growth – but not enough to avoid being let go by lowly Charlotte on two different occasions. (Although judging by the Bobcats’ track record, that might actually be a positive.)

Force me to choose, and I’d probably go with Curry. In addition to giving the Spurs another big body, it would be a hell of a story if he was able to pull himself back from the brink as a contributor with the NBA’s model franchise.

Fortunately for the Spurs, they’re in the position where picking whoever gets to sit on the end of their bench isn’t going to make much of an impact on their season.

Twitter: @danmccarneySAEN

Heat 104, Spurs 101: Green has big shooting day

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Starters Danny Green and Tim Duncan led the Spurs’ offense in a 104-101 preseason loss to the Heat on Saturday afternoon in Miami.

Green was 5-of-8 on 3-pointers and 6-of-10 from the field for a team-high 17 points.

Duncan sat out the fourth quarter after recording 15 points and 6 rebounds in 16 minutes. Gary Neal had 12 points off the bench.

Rashard Lewis led the Heat with 15 points off the bench. Dwyane Wade had 13 points.

The Heat outscored the Spurs 27-16 in the fourth quarter with mostly subs on the floor for both teams.

Fourth quarter: The Spurs lead 97-95 with 2:33 left in the game. For the Spurs it’s Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo, Danny Green, Josh Powell and DeJuan Blair. For the Heat it’s Garrett Temple, Terrel Harris, Mickell Gladness, Rodney Carney and Josh Harrellson.

Jeff McDonald @JMcDonald_SAEN Josh Powell was 9-of-10 for the preseason before today’s game. This is called “regression to the mean.”

Matt Bonner, Derrick Brown and Patty Mills haven’t played today for the Spurs. Mills has been out with an injury.

It’s not a good shooting day for either Manu or Mini-Manu. Ginobili is 1-of-7 from the field. Nando De Colo is 1-of-4.

Danny Green and four subs are on the floor with 7:18 left and the Spurs leading 93-91. Gary Neal is also out there and has 12 points.

Jeff McDonald @JMcDonald_SAEN DeJuan Blair makes his first appearance of the game with 8:07 remaining.

Both teams are heading into the stretch with all their starters on the bench. We’ll get to see how some young guys and bench players perform under pressure. Even though it’s preseason, it really is pressure for the guys trying to make a team.

Danny Green is the only Spurs starter on the floor at the beginning of the fourth quarter. It’s Gary Neal, Green, Manu Ginobili, Stephen Jackson and Joseph Powell — basically three guards, a small forward and a power forward.

Jeff McDonald @JMcDonald_SAEN Nice quarter for Spurs. Behind Duncan’s 11-point quarter, they take an 85-77 lead into final frame.

Spurs 85, Heat 77 – third quarter: Tim Duncan looking steady with 15 points and 6 rebounds in 16 minutes. Gary Neal has 12 points. The Spurs had a 12-0 run in the quarter.

Dan McCarney @danmccarneysaen Gary Neal briefly considers diving for the loose ball. Screw it, it’s the preseason.

Danny Green is 6-of-9 from the field and 5-of-7 on 3-pointers for 17 points. The Spurs lead the Heat 84-74 with 2:57 left in the third quarter.

The Heat’s main guys – not including LeBron James, who is sitting today – are getting a lot of playing time. They have their five starters on the floor together with four minutes left in the third quarter.

The Spurs aren’t using as many crazy combinations as they did the first couple of playoff games, but coach Gregg Popovich is still taking a good look at a few young guys and getting his bench guys playing time.

Jeff McDonald @JMcDonald_SAEN Josh Powell at the table to check in. Interesting no Derrick Brown yet, even tho Pop singled him out pregame as a candidate for 15th spot.

Jeff McDonald @JMcDonald_SAEN Tim Duncan just took a turnover coast-to-coast for and-1. Spoelstra might want to have a talk with his guys about transition defense.

Jeff McDonald @JMcDonald_SAEN After starting the preseason 1 of 10 for 3, Green has made 8 of 12 in last two games. #streakshooter

Jeff McDonald @JMcDonald_SAEN Danny Green is 5-for-7 from 3 today. That’s almost Mike Miller-esque.

Danny Green has five 3-pointers. The Spurs still haven’t slowed down the Heat. It’s 72-72 with 6:39 left in the third quarter.

Nando De Colo starts the second half in place of Tony Parker. It’s De Colo, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Boris Diaw and Tim Duncan.

Heat 62, Spurs 57 – halftime: Both teams are lighting it up. The Heat are 6-of-13 on 3-pointers. Danny Green hit his second 3-pointer for the Spurs late in the half. He has 8 points. Gary Neal, Tiago Splitter and Eddy Curry lead the Spurs with 9 points each off the bench. Dwyane Wade has 13 points for the Heat and Mike Miller has 12.

Jeff McDonald @JMcDonald_SAEN Offensively, Spurs’ execution and ball movement is still a thing of beauty. Giving up 62 points and 57-percent shooting not so much.

Dan McCarney @danmccarneysaen 62 pts on 57% prolly wasn’t what Pop had in mind when he called for better defense at media day.

Dan McCarney @danmccarneysaen Who’s got the best slide dribble, Manu or D-Wade? Tough call.

Dan McCarney @danmccarneysaen Miller, Allen, Neal…got some textbook perfect strokes in this here game today.

Tiago Splitter got off to a good start at the offensive end. He made his first four shots. The Heat lead the Spurs 49-40 with 4:51 left in the second quarter.

Every acted like Mike Miller would retire after Heat won the title. He can still hit 3-pointers. He’s 4-of-4 so far today.

Dan McCarney @danmccarneysaen Pittman does look pretty good. I can see why they let Curry go. They’ve already got their Reformed Fat Guy position covered.

Gary Neal looks like the old shooting guard Gary Neal. He hit 3 of 4 shots and leads the Spurs with 9 points off the bench.

Jeff McDonald @JMcDonald_SAEN A Tiago Splitter sighting! He’s got 8 straight points for the Spurs, dating to end of 1Q. Being the roll man for Manu looks like fun.

Heat 30, Spurs 26 – first quarter: Dwyane Wade scored 11 points in a quarter that saw both teams shoot well. The Spurs hit 52 percent from the field and Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard both made early 3-pointers.

Tim Duncan and Tony Parker were the last two Spurs starters to sub out. They both played more than eight minutes to start the game. Duncan had 4 points and 4 rebounds. Parker had 3 assists.

Jeff McDonald @JMcDonald_SAEN Miami’s small lineup allows Spurs to go small too: Parker, Neal, Manu, Jack, Duncan.

Young guns Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard each hit an early 3-pointer. They scored five points each in the first six minutes of the game before going to the bench. The Spurs lead the Heat 18-14 with 5:02 left in the first quarter.

Gary Neal and Stephen Jackson are the second and third players off the Spurs’ bench. Gary Neal and Tony Parker are on the floor together, rather than Neal replacing Parker at point.

Manu Ginobili is the first player off the Spurs’ bench. He enters the game at the 6:52 mark of the first quarter. He replaces Danny Green.

Jeff McDonald @JMcDonald_SAEN Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard have combined for Spurs’ first 10 points. What shooting slump(s)?

Today’s game between the Spurs and Heat is underway. Danny Green hits a long jump shot followed by a 3-pointer for the first points of the game.

Spurs starters: Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Boris Diaw and Tim Duncan. For the Heat – no LeBron James today.

Jeff McDonald reports the Spurs go with their usual starting lineup today: Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw.

The Heat announced that LeBron James, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem will not play.

The Spurs play on the road today at 2:30 p.m. (Central) against the Miami Heat.

Join Jeff McDonald and Dan McCarney for a pregame chat (below) from 2 p.m. to 2:35 p.m.

Follow along here for updates throughout the game.

You can also follow the Spurs Nation staff on twitter all season long:
Jeff McDonald at
Dan McCarney at
and Mike Monroe at

Getting offensive: Of Kawhi Leonard and efficiency

Much has been made of the Spurs’ metamorphosis in recent years.

Their surprising transition was completed last season, during which they led the league in offensive production (110.9 points scored per 100 possessions) just six years after suiting up the No. 1 defense (99.6 points allowed per 100 possessions).

Lots of factors went into the shift: The inability to find a suitable replacement for Bruce Bowen, the decline of Tim Duncan, the emergence of Tony Parker, the addition of multiple cheap yet effective offensive role players, rules changes emphasizing perimeter play, etc.

More interesting than rehashing those details is exploring what makes the Spurs so effective on offense, and how their individual players contribute. The results might surprise you.

yesterday, using a formula concocted by At The Hive, that credited rookie small forward Kawhi Leonard as being San Antonio’s second-most productive offensive player last season – behind Manu Ginobili, but ahead of MVP candidate Tony Parker.

I was a bit skeptical of those findings until today in which Leonard edged not only Parker but Ginobili using their preferred metric, offensive wins produced. That jibes with a previous piece in the NBA last season.

Despite two different sites using two different formulas to reach similar conclusions, it seems hard to imagine that a player who averaged only 7.9 points and 1.1 assists per game could be that important.

So why does Leonard rate so highly?


The importance of efficiency in sports has become increasingly apparent ever since Bill James, the father of advanced statistics, began using scientific analysis to examine baseball in the early 1970s during his stint as a night watchman.

It took a while, but the movement finally caught on in the NBA, allowing us to better grasp why players like Leonard and Matt Bonner, despite their limited box-score output (points, rebounds, assists, etc.), are such effective players.

Enter the various studies that have been linked here.

In Leonard’s case, he’s a player who shoots above the league average in all three facets while rarely turning the ball over – qualities that are easily glossed over by his modest production, but rank among the four most important factors in offensive success. (Offensive rebound rate and free throws to field goal attempt ratio being the others.)

As always, caution is suggested with the use of advanced hoop stats. The lack of even a few preferred measures often leads to wildly conflicting results. For example, the Spurs were actually outscored when Leonard was on the floor according to . There’s also the matter of efficiency being naturally inflated by limited minutes and/or roles.

But by keeping things simple and focusing on the four core factors to offensive success, Leonard’s value is obvious.

Indeed, shooting and ball protection are also among the main reasons why the Spurs have been able to reinvent themselves as championship contenders.

They ranked only 12th in 3-point shooting (35.3 percent) and 14th overall (45.2 percent) last season. But adjust for the extra point given on 3-point shots, and the Spurs boasted a league-leading 52.8 effective field goal percentage.

Combined with their third-place finish in turnover percentage at 12.8, and you’ve got a highly efficient team – there’s that word again – that performed far better than the sum of its parts would suggest.