Manu Ginobili: Spurs legend still has something to offer
Many expected Ginobili to retire this off season as he hit 40 years old and posted career lows last year. So why did San Antonio want him back?
Manu Ginobili had the opportunity to retire this offseason. He received a phenomenal send off in the playoffs due to expectations that he would retire. However, Ginobili recently re-signed with the San Antonio Spurs for two years, ensuring he’ll return for at least his 16th NBA season. With the Argentine at the grand old age of 40, the question on most fans’ lips is what can he offer to a Spurs team looking to make a deep playoff run.
Throughout his career, Ginobili has been more of a sixth man than a perennial starter. And at this advanced age, it’s clear his level of involvement will only decrease. For the past two seasons, Ginobili has played less than 20 minutes per game, leading to a career low in both his field goal attempts and points scored per game. A greater indicator of his dwindling ability is that last season he shot a career low 39% from the field, considerably lower than his career average of 45%. His effective field goal percentage has also dropped substantially. Now a year older, it is fair to assume these numbers will fall further this season.
Clearly, the Spurs haven’t re-signed him due to their expectations of his production for the upcoming season. However, Ginobili still managed to shoot a more than respectable 39% from the three-point line – above his career average of 37% – and average 1.2 steals a game. His impact as a floor spacer and defender can still help the Spurs.
Perhaps we are overlooking Ginobili’s main impact on this Spurs team. He is one of the greatest team players in NBA history, showing loyalty to San Antonio and accepting a bench role throughout his prime years when he could have started for another organisation. He has also been coached by Gregg Popovich his entire NBA career and, as such, thoroughly understands the team’s system. He is also a famed clutch player as highlighted by his overtime block on James Harden in Game 5 of the Western Conference semi-finals last season.
Ginobili’s trophy cabinet says it all. He has an incredible record of winning at the highest level, with four NBA championships, an Olympic gold medal and a Euroleague championship. These attributes make him the perfect veteran leader to have. He could have an important impact on the career and mentality of the Spurs’ youngest player Dejounte Murray. Ginobili can teach Murray how to improve as a combo guard and understand his role in San Antonio’s system, thus setting the team up with a worthy successor for years to come. The importance of the Spurs having players who understand their system cannot be stressed enough.
Furthermore, the two-time All-Star proved last season that he saved much of his best basketball for the playoffs, scoring 17, 21 and 15 points against Golden State in the Western Conference finals. If Ginobili can be conserved and protected throughout the regular season, he can still contribute to the team in the playoffs, giving them a greater chance at winning an NBA championship. Many NBA teams look to add veterans with playoff experience like Ginobili towards the end of the year for that very reason.
The future of San Antonio
In today’s market, the move to secure a veteran leader like Ginobili for two years on a $5 million contract is not too bad of a deal, especially when he can still contribute as a three and D player whilst helping shepherd the Spurs into a new direction; a direction in which the Spurs attempt to replace their famous big three with younger stars whilst maintaining the same level of success.
Kawhi Leonard has blossomed into one of the league’s premier players and as he enters his prime he will need veteran leaders like Ginobili to help him succeed and learn more. They want to maintain their ability to contend for as long as possible, and if the likes of Tony Parker, Pau Gasol and Ginobili all retire together, in the process freeing up lots of money for the Spurs, they will have the capability to compete for a big free agent to help Leonard. If Murray has learned how to contribute off of the bench from Ginobili too, the Spurs will have successfully transitioned from their big three era to the Leonard era.
In my opinion, the move to re-sign Ginobili was a good one and the Spurs are an organisation in good hands.
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