Wednesday, August 13, 2008 Changing Of The Guard

Changing Of The Guard (A Look At The Southwest Division's Off-Season Moves)


COMING – The Spurs are kind of quietly going about retooling on the fly, letting some veterans critical to their recent title runs go and filling in with youth. Aside from retaining trade-deadline acquisition Kurt Thomas, the key free agent signing to date is Washington’s Roger Mason to back up Manu Ginobili. Mason is a shooter with unlimited range who last year, for the first time, shored up other areas of his game enough to factor as an asset. The Spurs also signed a young big man, Anthony Tolliver, based on a strong Las Vegas Summer League showing. The draft yielded the first round’s biggest surprise, point guard George Hill of IUPUI, and also versatile wing Malik Hairston out of Detroit Renaissance and Oregon. The Spurs are in the mix for a valuable free agent guard, Jannero Pargo.

GOING – The man who probably cost the Pistons the 2005 NBA title, Robert Horry, won’t be back with the Spurs – and maybe not at all. He declined steeply last season and barely factored by the end. The more painful loss will be Brent Barry, who signed with division rival Houston. It’s also unclear whether a third veteran free agent, Michael Finley, will be back or not.

PROJECTED LINEUP – Point guard: Tony Parker (Jacque Vaughn, George Hill); shooting guard: Manu Ginobili (Roger Mason); center: Fabricio Oberto (Kurt Thomas, Ian Mahinmi); power forward: Tim Duncan (Matt Bonner, Anthony Tolliver); small forward: Bruce Bowen (Ime Udoka, Malik Hairston).

BOTTOM LINE – Tony Parker is only 26 and still has room for growth, but Tim Duncan at 32 and Manu Ginobili at 31 – and maybe an old 31, given his reckless style of play – are at the point where they’re going to need a little more help. San Antonio management is deservedly recognized for keen personnel decisions and budget management, but there’s at least some danger that this year the Spurs slip a rung in the unforgiving West.

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