Basketball Prospectus is taking a look at the NBA division by division and suggesting ways each team should tackle the forthcoming trade deadline, starting Tuesday with a look at the Pacific Division. Wednesday, we continue with the Southwest Division.
The NBA's trade deadline drops at 3 p.m. EST on March 15, and while all eyes remain on Orlando's Dwight Howard, every team in the league will be trying to improve its position. For some teams, it's the immediate future that is the biggest concern, and they will be looking to fill holes for a springtime playoff run. Others are looking more at the big picture, and they'll be looking for young talent, salary-cap flexibility and other franchise-building assets.
The primary statistic you'll encounter will be wins above replacement player (WARP). We're presenting WARP for each feature player in two flavors, separated by a slash. The first number measures a player's WARP value based on his productivity for this season to date, prorated to 82 games. The second projects his combined WARP value for the next two seasons. This will give you a quick glimpse of both short- and long-term value.
The problem: The Spurs looked like a team primed to make yet another run for the Western Conference title with an 11-game winning streak before the All-Star break. Make no mistake, these old Spurs aren't the old Spurs. San Antonio is winning with offense, ranking fifth in efficiency on that end versus just 16th on the defensive end.
Don't expect the Spurs to swing any major deals in an attempt to shore up the defense. During the Gregg Popovich era, San Antonio has steered clear of splashy deadline maneuvers. During his 16 seasons, the only significant pieces the Spurs have added via in-season trades have been Steve Kerr, Nazr Mohammed and Kurt Thomas. The Spurs typically prefer to fill in the gaps by scouting out a Mario Elie here or a Matt Carroll there from the free-talent market.
The fix: With nine players earning at least 1.0 WARP, depth has been the Spurs' calling card so far this season. They've built the second-best record in the West despite getting just nine games out of Manu Ginobili, who comes out of the break battling an oblique injury that reportedly isn't as bad as initially thought. Getting Ginobili back to full strength is the biggest boost the Spurs can get as the season moves into March.
If a playable shot-blocker pops up on the buyout market, San Antonio could use him. In the meantime, Popovich might want to swing the DeJuan Blair/Tiago Splitter playing-time pendulum a little more in the big Brazilian's favor. Splitter has been ultra-efficient on the offensive end, and San Antonio has been better defensively with him on the floor. Of course, Pop is smarter than we are and he's rarely put Tim Duncan and Splitter on the floor at the same time. Based on what we've seen from Popovich, the roster and the rotation you see in San Antonio are probably what you're going to get.
Ginobili WARP: 3.2 (this season)/10.6 (next two seasons)