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Spurs/Thunder Series Player Rankings: Steadying in San Antonio’s Favor

Spurs/Thunder Series Player Rankings: Steadying in San Antonio’s Favor

Game 3 was another tight one, and these rankings are stabilizing along with the scoring margins. Without further ado:

1. LaMarcus Aldridge(+0 from previous ranking)

He finally came down to earth, but still had 24 and 8 on some really tough shot-making. The strength of his first two games keeps him up top.

2. Kawhi Leonard(+1)

Leonard is making a case to redefine Hero Ball. His 31 and 11 on 53%/75% shooting from the floor/three is impressive enough, but his nose for the ball in the clutch is what stood out the most—he iced the game with an offensive rebound. Leonard also continued to lock down Russell Westbrook when assigned there on defense, and played more aggressively than Kevin Durant—Kawhi took a whopping 14 free throws on the road, dwarfing Durant’s 6.

3. Kevin Durant(+1)

The good: KD was highly engaged on defense, and maintained his form on offense (26 points on 10-18 shooting).

The bad: Most of the negative fallout from Game 3 is centering on the disparity in shots between KD and Russell Westbrook (18 vs. 31, respectively), but that’s not at all the whole story. While Westbrook’s usage rate was an impossible 46.1%, Durant’s was still at a healthy 29.5%. That’s in line with his regular season and playoffs rate (he’s averaged the highest usage rate in the playoffs of any non-point guard playing over 15 minutes a game). Durant plays more, and more with the backups; his inability to get open for an entry pass or break cleanly around screens is a deterrent to his opportunities, not just a shot-happy teammate. Durant had 5 mostly-crippling turnovers as well.

One more thing: when Durant ends up with so few free throws, it feels like he isn’t getting calls. But Durant was actually just getting whatever he wanted inside. He shot 8-10 within 14 feet from the basket. Those are not the numbers of a player getting hacked, and the ease with which he was scoring close makes his 3 attempts in the restricted area look glaringly small.

4. Serge Ibaka(+2)

Ibaka played nearly identical defense on Aldridge in Game 3, and continued to knock down shots. It might be more alarming that there were just 3 total shots in the second half for the dude shooting 5-6 from three than KD’s relative lack of touches.

5. Russell Westbrook(-3)

Westbrook wasn’t just chucking the whole game; he got to the rim for 16 attempts, but just struggled to finish. He never challenged Duncan, but Aldridge again played him smartly inside, and both Leonard and Danny Green held him in check in close and in transition.

But those three-pointers are unforgiveable, as was his lackadaisical defense that came and went all the way to the finish. Even with some junk threes swishing home, he finished 3-10 from distance, the exact outcome a 30% three-point shooter should expect. Some of the early threes were in rhythm or wide open, but he was clearly settling as the game wore on and his downhill attacks kept coming up short. In a close game that the Thunder desperately needed, Westbrook pissed away an awful lot of possessions on both ends. His shot selection and lazy pick-and-roll defense could cost them the series.

6. Steven Adams(-1)

Adams wasn’t involved offensively, but continued to anchor the Thunder’s defense. Aldridge shot 1-7 when Adams was his primary defender in the halfcourt, versus 5-10 with Ibaka as his primary defender. Aldridge picked up 6 free throws in those Ibaka possessions to just 2 in possessions facing Adams. Some of that was luck–Adams more regularly abandons Aldridge in the pick and pop, and was fortunate that the scoring machine had cooled off enough to clank a few wide-open shots. Still, Billy Donovan should consider giving Adams more minutes against LMA.

7. Tony Parker(+7)

He (or Westbrook’s choice to ignore him) forced my hand. I can’t keep the joke alive by moving Parker down to #20. Throwback game from Tony.

8. Danny Green(-1)

The strip king. It’s a little inconsiderate of Green to play the role the Thunder wish Andre Roberson could, when the younger Roberson is at least a couple years away from peak 3-and-D.

9. Andre Roberson(+-1)

He wasn’t as effective slowing Leonard down, but he’s become a necessity against the cornrowed one. He played his series-high in minutes (over 26) in Game 3, and scored his first four points of the series as well. 1.3 points per game, baby!

10. Tim Duncan(+0)

I’m not sure what to make of Duncan at the moment. He can’t make layups anymore, and appears to be in the rotation almost as a formality. But the Aldridge/Duncan pairing is still performing wayyy better than any other San Antonio frontcourt option. Could it be that Gregg Popovich is using Duncan the exact right amount and getting every ounce of productivity out of him that most observers can’t appreciate? My money’s probably on that.

11. Dion Waiters(-2)

Good defense, meh offense.

12. Enes Kanter(-1)

13. David West(+2)

He’s eclipsing Duncan in minutes, I guess for his spryness.

14. Patty Mills(+2)

15. Manu Ginobili(-3)

16. Cameron Payne(+1)

Still not great, but signs of life in Game 3. I think it’s worth rolling him out one more time at home to see if he’s found his sea legs. If not, it’s time to play Westbrook 42+ minutes the rest of the way.

17. Anthony Morrow(+1)

Donovan literally only subbed Morrow in when the Thunder went 7 minutes without scoring a point. The Thunder made a few buckets (Morrow didn’t), and he was yanked right back out. SMH.

18. Boris Diaw(-5)

I don’t know if it was a truce or one coach imposing their will, but there were exactly 0 minutes of small ball between the Spurs and Thunder in Game 3. The Spurs often played smaller with Diaw at the 4, but haven’t been very effective doing that all series. Some cat-and-mouse might be on the horizon to try and drag out smaller/bigger lineups from either coach, but I don’t think you want Donovan playing chess against Popovich much to begin with, let alone when he’s not using Morrow in his smaller units.

19. Kyle Anderson(+0)

Kyle Anderson played the small forward for 3 minutes. Over that time, Anderson shot it once, Durant zero. The Spurs hemorrhaged points regardless.

20. Boban Marjanovic(+0)

This list is too long. Barring blowouts, Boban isn’t gonna play anymore, and neither will the regulars in the (dis)honorable mentions. Fade ’em.