What the Spurs mean for fantasy basketball

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - With a victory Monday night, the San Antonio Spurs will move within five wins of their fifth NBA title.

It would be Tim Duncan's fifth championship and the fourth for guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

If a Duncan/Parker/Ginobili trio is the recipe for championship success, how come all three were ignored on fantasy draft day?

Of the three players I just mentioned, on average, only Ginobili landed in the top 50 in most ESPN fantasy drafts. He came into 2011-12 as the league's 40th- ranked fantasy player.

Duncan and Parker weren't taken until picks 68 and 69 on average, putting them behind guys like Nene (ranked 43rd at the start of the season), Luis Scola (65th), JaVale McGee (57th) and even eternally mediocre Washington Wizards forward Andray Blatche (51st).

Throughout their careers, Nene, Scola, McGee and Blatche have combined to play in 78 playoff games, with Nene's 44 appearances with the Denver Nuggets accounting for more than half of them. San Antonio's big three have been on the floor for a combined 472 postseason contests.

As the wise philosophers Justin Timberlake and the Black Eyed Peas once postured, where is the love?

Don't look at me.

If I had to do it all over again, I still wouldn't take any Spurs in the top 25.

I'm not evil. I'm just a cold calculating, businessman who wants to win his fantasy league.

As good as the Spurs are, their game doesn't translate to the fantasy arena. Not one bit.

The Spurs' style of play is extremely admirable. If I ever have kids, I'm going to preach to them the kind of teamwork that has made Gregg Popovich's bunch so incredible over the years.

Nobody cares about stats or who takes the last shot. With San Antonio, it's all about hustle and being fundamentally sound. It's about execution, preparation and mental toughness. It's about not beating yourself, it's about ball movement and it's about using your whole team instead of relying on one or two superstars to carry the load.

It's beautifully crafted basketball. If John Wooden is watching, I'm sure he is smiling down on the Spurs from Heaven.

But if you're playing fantasy hoops, that strategy is a little bit problematic.

Because in fantasy, stats do matter. They matter a whole lot. Really, they're everything.

It seems almost sacrilegious and possibly even mildly irresponsible to condemn the Spurs' "team-first, stats later" approach but it just isn't conducive to good fantasy basketball.

In my own fantasy hoops league, there was a tie for the league championship. Neither of the co-champions had any Spurs on their roster. The third-place team didn't have any either.

Even playing in a league that awarded extra points for double-doubles, which heavily favors low post players, Tim Duncan and his 22 double-doubles was only the 50th-highest scorer in the league. That's hardly the kind of production you'd expect from a future Hall of a Famer.

Parker poured in 42 points on Feb. 4 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was the highest scoring performance by any Spurs player this season. Kobe Bryant dwarfed that accomplishment by averaging 43 ppg during a four-game stretch in mid-January.

Duncan's 19 rebounds against the Thunder on March 16, the highest total by any San Antonio player this season, would probably be slightly more impressive if the Los Angeles Lakers' Andrew Bynum hadn't reached 30 boards in a game only a couple weeks later (that game was actually against Duncan and the Spurs).

No player on the Spurs recorded a triple-double this season. Rajon Rondo had six of them for the Boston Celtics in 2011-12.

Twenty-one NBA scorers finished with a higher average than Parker's team- leading 18.3 ppg. Ginobili's puny 12.9 ppg average wasn't even enough to crack the top 50.

The numbers just don't add up for San Antonio.

Popovich's erratic distribution of minutes throughout the season made the Spurs even tougher for fantasy owners to figure out.

DeJuan Blair started at forward in 62 of San Antonio's 66 regular-season games. Yet, despite being completely healthy, Blair has only been on the court a total of 66 minutes since the playoffs got underway more than a month ago.

Keep in mind Rondo played 53 minutes in one game last Wednesday against the Miami Heat.

Even Ginobili is averaging 26.3 minutes per game during the playoffs. That's less than Boston's Brandon Bass (29.7 mpg), Oklahoma City's Kendrick Perkins (26.5 mpg) and Miami's Shane Battier (31.8 mpg). Sure, the Spurs have the flexibility to do that because of their depth but that's just not enough playing time for Ginobili to be an asset in fantasy.

What's even more maddening about San Antonio is that Popovich has gained a penchant for resting his veteran players seemingly at random. One time this season, a 100-percent healthy Duncan sat out a game simply because he was old. Seriously: Duncan was listed on the injury report as "old."

Predicting a Spurs win is easy. They do it almost every night, and in fact, from April 11 to May 31, they didn't lose a single game. Predicting how they will do it is the hard part.

Patty Mills and Matt Bonner have both led the team in scoring in different games this season. Who could predict that?

The Spurs dilemma makes me start to question what fantasy basketball is all about. Has basketball culture become so enveloped with numbers, records and stats that we can't even appreciate quite possibly the best team of our generation?

By participating in fantasy basketball, are we quietly advocating one-man shows like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James instead of more balanced squads like San Antonio?

Sometimes the line between fantasy hoops and the fundamentals of basketball get blurred together and that's certainly the case here with the team-oriented but statistically insignificant San Antonio Spurs.

As a fantasy connoisseur, I understand the value of big scorers like James and Anthony. But as a fan of the sport I appreciate the Spurs' refreshing team- first approach, too.

So, why can't we just enjoy them both?

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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