To kick off this edition of Waiver Wired, we’ll start with a piece about the Spurs I posted in Season Pass on Thursday, as I’m sure guys like Gary Neal, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green are flying under the radar in most leagues. Then we’ll take a look at some five-game week pickups throughout the playoff run, and finally at the rest of the guys who should be given a look simply because they’re playing well or in a good situation, regardless of the schedule.
San Antonio, We Have A Problem
The Spurs have a crazy schedule the rest of the way, as they play five games in six nights starting on Friday, and then venture into April, when they have six sets of back-to-back games, and play 16 times in 26 nights. The only consecutive days off in April come on the 1st and 2nd and the remaining schedule is 3-4-4-5-3. Gregg Popovich watched Tony Parker go down on Wednesday night with a hamstring injury, and probably immediately had visions of the same thing happening to Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
Pop is already famous for benching guys randomly and has said his goal is to get to the playoffs with everyone healthy, regardless of how much time off his old guys are going to need. They already utilize young players as much as any team in the league and those numbers could soon be on the rise given the brutal schedule facing the Spurs.
Gary Neal G
Neal had a nice line on Wednesday, as he filled in for Parker, who didn't return from the injury. Neal finished with 16 points, three assists, four steals and two 3-pointers, hitting 7-of-15 shots in 28 minutes. A lot of this depends on the severity of Parker's injury, which has been called "mild" in the early diagnosis, but there's a decent chance that he's sidelined for the five games in six days stretch. And if it happens, Neal and Manu Ginobili would both take over point guard duties. And when Parker is healthy enough to play again, he might still see limited minutes, which should mean good things for Neal. There's no telling how reliable Neal will be going forward, but given Parker's injury, I think he should be grabbed by any owner in need of a point guard, or any owner who has a player on the roster they've been wanting to cut.
MarShon Brooks and a suddenly cold (and with a bad schedule) Evan Turner seem like guys I would enjoy cutting to pick up Neal right now.
Kawhi Leonard SF
Leonard had 16 points, nine boards, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer in 38 minutes on Wednesday and is averaging 11 points, six boards, two steals and more than a 3-pointer per game in 33 minutes over his last five. Stephen Jackson played well too, also scoring 16 points in 22 minutes, but he's old (34) and Leonard is a rookie. Jackson's arrival is a bit of a concern for Leonard’s value, as is the way the Spurs like to spread the minutes around, but if you crawl into the head of Popovich for a minute, it makes sense for him to run Leonard into the ground the rest of the way, while picking his spots with Jackson from night to night. Leonard's minutes have been steady and should be even more so going forward, unless Pop decides to also start giving his young guys random nights off, too. Stranger things have happened.
Danny Green SG
Green played 29 minutes and had 14 points, seven rebounds and a block Wednesday, and is averaging 13 points, a steal and two 3-pointers over his last five games in 24 minutes. Again, Green is 25 years old and healthy, while Manu Ginobili is almost 35, constantly banged up and got a precautionary game off on Friday, with more likely to come. The Spurs may still not be comfortable with Manu playing in back-to-back games, which means Manu could get every other night off for the foreseeable future. Yes, I would consider dropping Manu, but I also think it makes sense to give Green a close look if you can use the numbers he's averaged over his last five.
Tiago Splitter and DeJuan Blair F/C
Splitter had 11 points, seven boards and five assists on Wednesday, while Blair managed just four points, six rebounds and two steals in 20 minutes. Tim Duncan had a huge night with 21 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block, which means he'll be due for a night off soon. Duncan is almost 36, and has averaged 18 points, 12 boards and two blocks over his last five games, despite playing just 29 minutes per. But he's just as susceptible to a day off as any of his teammates, although Popovich did say recently that Duncan is healthy and in great shape. It doesn't matter, as he's going to get some nights off. I don't trust Splitter or Blair nearly as much as the other young guns mentioned earlier, but if you need a center, both should see pretty solid minutes from here on in.
Maybe I'm reading too much into the Spurs' schedule and overestimating Pop's need to keep the old guys healthy, but it sure looks like Neal, Leonard and Green are guys who should be picked up right now. The Spurs have the second best record in the West, and I'm betting that Pop will take a chance on dropping a few spots in order to keep his guys healthy, rather than go all out and try to get the No. 1 seed.