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Has Manu 2.0 Arrived In San Antonio?

The Spurs have found themselves a crafty Argentine playmaker. Sounds familiar…

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During the San Antonio Spurs’ preseason game against the Miami Heat last week, a crafty Argentine playmaker threaded a slick pass between the legs of a Heat defender, hitting teammate Kyle Anderson for an easy layup. We know what you’re thinking: man, Manu Ginobili is great. But though the move certainly has Manu written all over it—the precision passing ability, the vision, the slight recklessness of it all, a closer inspection reveals that it wasn’t Ginobili at all.

Look closely:

It wasn’t Ginobili, but Nicolas Laprovittola, a Spurs rookie whose playing style—eerily similar to that of his fellow Argentine teammate—is turning heads. After his performance in the Heat game, a headline in the San Antonio Express-News proclaimed that Laprovittola is “showing Ginobili-like tendencies,” and that the 26-year-old has apparently been a protege of Ginobili ever since signing a partially-guaranteed contract with the Spurs in early September.

Laprovittola told the Express-News that growing up in Argentina, “I played all the time thinking I was Manu.” It shows on the court, where Laprovittola, a six-foot-four guard, seems to be replicating Ginobili’s style to the best of his ability. He’s got that scrappy, sneaky ability to get into the paint and finish, never quite at the rim (his athleticism is pretty limited) but always in the general vicinity. And he’s got Ginobili’s trademark flair when facilitating for his teammates.

There are a few key differences between the two (besides the full mop of hair on Laprovittola’s head). Laprovittola is nowhere near as polished as Ginobili was when he came into the league in 2002—just a year younger than Laprovittola—fresh off of back-to-back MVP seasons in the Italian League. And Laprovittola is a few inches shorter than Ginobili, so, considering his lack of elite athleticism, he’ll probably never be as good a finisher, no matter how many crafty moves the veteran teaches him. He would be more of a true point guard in the NBA.

Although Ginobili is a decent distance shooter, his three-pointer is deployed mostly to keep defenders honest. But Laprovittola has historically been a very capable three-point shooter in international competition, a talent that has so far translated to the NBA. In just 54 minutes over five preseason games, Laprovittola has shot 50 percent from beyond the arc, nailing seven three-pointers. His almost scissor-legged shooting form is a little strange, which could cause problems throughout the season. So it’s certainly a stretch to call Laprovittola the “Argentinian Steph Curry,” as one overzealous YouTuber has done. But you can see for yourself that he’s got pretty good range and a lot of confidence:

Laprovittola isn’t the only rookie Argentine on the Spurs. Patricio Garino, a six-foot-six guard signed to a similar partially guaranteed contract after a solid four-year career at George Washington University, is competing against Laprovittola and a few other players for the Spurs’ final roster spot. Both players have impressed veterans and coach Gregg Popovich, but the Express-News seems to think Garino has the edge because he’s younger and more versatile than Laprovittola. Whatever happens when the roster is finalized next week, Laprovittola would still have a long, long way to go before he fulfills any supposed Ginobili Manufest Destiny. So let’s put a cork in the carbon copy talk for now and allow Laprovittola to focus on making the team first. If he survives the cut, then we can all just watch the comparison play out on the court from there, one pass at a time.

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