If you missed game six of the San Antonio-Houston playoff series, you missed a clinic.
Final score at Houston: Spurs 114, Rockets 75.
San Antonio won the series-clinching without two of its stars. All-star forward Kawhi Leonard missed game six after rolling his ankle in game five. Point guard Tony Parker is out for the rest of the playoffs after tearing a quadriceps tendon earlier in the series.
Yet, the Spurs won big.
San Antonio succeeded thanks to huge contributions from players who are neither high priced or high first round draft choices.
As the New Orleans Pelicans prepare for the draft and the offseason as a whole with an eye toward throwing a big money contract extension at center DeMarcus Cousins, here’s some food for thought from their Southwest Division rivals who continue to make all the parts fit.
In the game six triumph over Houston, the Spurs received 18 points from Jonathan Simmons an undrafted free agent who played at two junior colleges and one year at the University of Houston. He bounced around the NBA Developmental League before he finally stuck with the Spurs. This season, Simmons earned a paltry $874,636.
Sharp-shooting guard Patty Mills had 14 points and seven assists to finish off the Rockets. Mills was a second round pick, No. 55 overall out of St. Mary’s by Portland in 2009. He earned $3.2 million this season.
Guard Dejounte Murray, the 29th pick by the Spurs in the 2016 first round, had 11 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Murray earned $1,180,080 this season.
For the three players, their game six total is 43 points for a cost of just over $5 million (in the biggest game of the year).
That is not only winning basketball, but winning salary cap basketball.
San Antonio did get 34 points and 12 rebounds from LaMarcus Aldridge, who earned $20,575,005 this season. So, its important to add superstars, as the Pelicans did in the February trade for Cousins.
However, it is equally important to add the complimentary pieces and have a consistent philosophy. In a matter of hours with one trade, the Pelicans went from a team that wanted to run up and down the floor to a team with two star post players.
Going forward, New Orleans clearly needs outside shooting to loosen up the middle for Cousins and Anthony Davis. They will attempt to sign guard Jrue Holiday to a contract extension.
But, even if they Holiday is signed, there is no guarantee they will make a huge move forward in the deep Western Conference. Getting quality play from the four through 10 spots on the roster is critical.
Finding those players is the job of general manager Dell Demps and his staff.
The Spurs, the model franchise in the NBA, once again are the leaders in finding inexpensive but talented labor.
It is an organizational philosophy in San Antonio, one that paid off in a smack down of the potent Houston Rockets when it counted most.