When the whole is better than the sum of the parts.
In case you missed it, the Sacramento Kings got taken to the woodshed by the NBA’s best team on Friday night. The game was over before the first quarter expired as the 42-8 Spurs toyed with the Kings on their home floor for the rest of the game.
Sure-fire Hall of Fame power forward Tim Duncan played less than thirteen minutes as Coach Popovich was able to rest his stars after a tough win the night before in Los Angeles against the Lakers. It was at this point that I started thinking -
How are the Spurs, as a whole, so much better than the sum of their parts?
I don’t want to come off as disrespectful toward a group of players who are winning at an alarming clip, but I don’t get it. The Spurs have three high quality players, but are any of the three elite? Do the Spurs defy all NBA logic? Let’s look at the three key pieces.
Tim Duncan, who turns 35 in April, is averaging career lows in minutes, points, rebounds and shooting percentage, just to name a few stats. Sure, playing only 29 minutes a game hurts the numbers, but his per 36 minute splits aren’t impressive either. An All-Star? Historically, and in name, yes. In functionality? No way is Duncan still an All-Star or even an elite player statistically.
Tony Parker isn’t an All-Star either, not in the Western Conference at least. He might be a top ten NBA point guard, but he isn’t an elite NBA player like a Chris Paul or a Daron Williams. Parker is solid both offensively and defensively and he has somehow been able to keep his public divorce from actress Eva Longoria from becoming a major distraction.
Manu Ginobili is an All-Star this season for the second time in his career at age 33. Like Duncan and Parker, he is a very good NBA player at this point in his career, but not a superstar. If the Spurs didn’t have 42 wins before the break or if Brandon Roy was healthy, Manu probably would not have been given the All-Star nod.
In a league that is seeing its star players join forces to create super teams, the Spurs are proving that there is another way. And they are doing it with players like DeJuan Blair, Richard Jefferson, George Hill, Antonio McDyess, Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal.
Since this a Sacramento Kings blog, I will now attempt to tie this back to the home team. If the Spurs are so obviously a case of the whole being better than the sum of its parts, are the Kings a case of the sum of the parts being better than the whole?
I’m not going to make this an indictment of the players, the coaching staff or the front office, because when a team is 12-35, it has enough blame to spread around. When I watched the San Antonio Spurs play, I had a tough time not wondering how specific Kings players might look on the Spurs.
Could the Spurs use a defensive-minded center to pair with Tim Duncan, like Samuel Dalembert? Could the Spurs use a young offensive understudy to learn from the great Tim Duncan, like DeMarcus Cousins? Would Carl Landry help the Spurs’ bench unit by providing post scoring? Would Jason Thompson start over Blair at the center position? Isn’t Omri Casspi a player the Spurs would drool over? I think I could keep going.
So I will ask the question again, are the sum of the Kings’ parts better than the whole?
I think the answer is clearly, yes. So what is missing? Experience? Time together? Maturity? Leadership? A combination of all of these things and more? I’m not sure, but if the Kings want to take the next step and the one after that, they need to figure it out.
Realizing that the whole is so much more important than the sum of its parts would be a good start, so thanks Spurs for pointing that out. The Kings now have 35 games for these players to forget that they are individual pieces to the puzzle and get down to the business of putting the puzzle together and making the whole better, or more changes are coming.