Handicapping the race for the Spurs’ final roster spot


Apr 20, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks small forward Tracy McGrady (1) drives past Boston Celtics center Greg Stiemsma (54) during the first half at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE

Currently, the San Antonio Spurs are looking at a myriad of different options for the final spot — a spot that will require sitting on the bench more often than not and ocassionally filling a role, generally in garbage time, that shouldn’t be conducive to mistakes. Just take the best shot when it’s there, play passable defense and if you play well enough in this limited role maybe, maybe, with the benefit of luck, will a more intensive opportunity open up.

But it is difficult to ascertain who, exactly, will earn the final roster spot. Here are the players the Spurs either will look at or already have looked at in workouts (in no particular order.) These players have an edge over any player that hasn’t worked out for the Spurs brass.

Japeth AguilarFormer No. 1 overall pick of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). He was selected by the defunct Burger King Whoppers, now the Barako Bull Energy Cola, and recently played with the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters this season. This is not a knock on the PBA but Aguilar faces a steep climb to become the first Filipino to play in the NBA. Plus, his agent, Chris McGarry, denied the reports stating that the Spurs looked at him last week.

Tracy McGradyA shell of his former self, McGrady revitalized his game with a steady diet of perimeter shooting. He converted on a career-high 45.5% of his attempts from behind the arc last season — the majority of which were created from his teammates. 65.3% of his attempts were assisted, by far the highest of his career, indicating that McGrady has slowly evolved into a spot-up shooter. Maintaining his 3-point efficiency will compensate for his declining scoring ability.

Derrick BrownBrown posted eerily similar Synergy numbers to Kawhi Leonard last season. The only difference, though, is that Brown isn’t competent enough from the perimeter to highlight his underrated cutting ability. He was actually more effective than Leonard on cuts last season, on a per points per possession basis, but he is not nearly as effective offensively because he is a career 31.7% shooter from behind the arc. Give him credit from refraining from these attempts, as he has attempted 41 3-pointers in three seasons, but that won’t be good enough for Gregg Popovich.

Josh HowardWhile it remains a mystery as to why San Antonio remains interested in Howard, 32, he is still a viable candidate that has experience. He would not be much more than Leonard or Stephen Jackson insurance, get that straight, but he is a nice player to have in the event of an injury. He isn’t a threat at the rim anymore, his mid-range shooting is strikingly below-average for his position and he is a liability from the perimeter. As much as Howard is a trusted commodity, I would prefer Brown if I absolutely had to choose between the two. Jesse Blanchard of 48 Minutes of Hell chimed in on Twitter the other day and he made an excellent point: Signing Howard would be a half decade late. Since when is this a good thing?

Kyrylo FesenkoFesenko is a dawdling 7’1″ center that doesn’t do anything you would not expect from a guy his size. He is tall (obviously) and while not athletically gifted, he is a defensive threat primarily because of his length and girth. For my money, I would sign Fesenko. The final roster spot isn’t going to make a significant impact anyway and by bringing in Fesenko, you have the assurance that he would provide excellent defense in brief stretches.

Josh AkognonI compared Akognon to a smaller, at least very slightly, version of Patty Mills last month and I still feel this description aptly describes my game. (Though others vehemently disagreed on my comparison in the comments.) The Spurs already have Mills. I would not mind having two, of course. But is that really necessary?

Jason KaponoKapono can really shoot the ball — he is a career 43.4% 3-point shooter, after all — but he has not played meaningful basketball since the 2009-10 season. No thanks.

Tyler WilkersonWilkerson is the lone player from San Antonio’s Vegas summer league team to earn a workout with the Spurs. That probably won’t remain the case but this strengthens his chances to make the team as he enters the competition with an inherent advantage. He is undersized, which is not preferable, but he is a rugged rebounder and expounds a ton of energy while he is on the floor. If you thought that sounded a lot like DeJuan Blair, you are correct. Except that Wilkerson already seems to have a more reliable mid-range shot than Blair has ever had.

Brian ButchButch is boring yet effective. He will be the antithesis to excitement but he could be just boring enough to earn consistent minutes this season. Or he could just as easily be too boring which would be saying quite a bit, actually.

Warren CarterHere is what I said about Carter a couple of weeks ago:

“Butch and Carter are the polar opposites, though; Butch is lumbering, slow-footed and his size allows him     to score in the post against the majority of his opponents while Carter is agile and athletic. Carter gives up     two inches to Butch, which hurts his ability to sustain success in the NBA, but he fulfills a role that is     becoming increasingly more important in the NBA.”

Michael A. De Leon of Project Spurs also mentioned that he was once considered a better prospect than Chris Paul so perhaps he could excel with an opportunity.

Reyshawn TerryTerry posted modest averages with North Carolina (four seasons) and in Europe. He hasnt dominated any particular level and that can’t be considered a positive. His shooting has dipped quite a bit since his collegiate days and the only redeeming quality is his athleticism. It is nice to have but if he doesn’t prove to be a capable shooter than that hampers his ability to stick in the NBA and with San Antonio, specifically.