There is something that a team does to be competitive year in and year out. For the San Antonio Spurs and their front office, they are doing something right for the franchise that have them rising to the occasion every single year.
When talking with my friends about the off-season, they always ask me, why don’t they go after the big free agents that are out there, they let other teams that they are trying to defeat get better. My response, they [Spurs front office] knows what they are doing and how to evaluate talent that will best benefit the team. You can’t deny the fact that they have done a remarkable job with this.
San Antonio may not have a free-agency transaction that rivals a LeBron-to-Miami-like deal, but four championships are hard to ignore, and each of the following ranked players was a part of a title team.
Many of the Spurs’ top players have come via the draft (David Robinson and Tim Duncan) or trades (George Gervin), but a handful of important role players have been added when the dotted line was signed.
This past season marked the franchises 16th consecutive trip to the playoffs and their fifth trip to the finals. Though they could not capture their fifth title in franchise history, they have started to revamp for next year.
I will now take a look at some of the best free-agent signings in Spurs history.
Outside Looking In – Dominique Wilkins | Before the 1996-1997 season, Dominique Wilkings was playing professionally in Greece before signing a one-year deal with the San Antonio Spurs. Once he came on, he found out that he would be the player that San Antonio would go to most of the time due to the fact that David Robinson would miss many games due to separate injuries.
In his only season with the Spurs, he played in 63 games. He did make the most of his opportunity as he logged 30.9 minutes, 18.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists.
According to Basketball Reference, Wilkins’ PER (player efficiency rating) was 19.6.
What really jumped out about that season, was not the way Wilkins played but how many games the team did win, league-worst 20 games in 1996-97.
We all know what that led to during the draft. A fellow by the name of Tim Duncan was selected number one and as they say, the rest is history.
5. Michael Finley | Finley joined the San Antonio Spurs 2005 after playing eight seasons in Dallas. I admit that even before Finley joined the Spurs, I truly was a fan of his because of what he would do on the floor. He was a scorer. He was the go-to guy for the Mavericks and he did not shy away from that one bit.
Finley was a prolific scorer in Dallas, but he immediately played fewer minutes while settling into a familiar role as a three-point specialist. A highlight of his tenure with the Spurs – the first round of the 2007 playoffs; Finley dropped 26 points and shot 8-for-9 from behind the arc to eliminate the Denver Nuggets.
While with the team from 2005-2009, he managed to hit just under 40% (38.4%) from beyond the arc. In his last full season with San Antonio in 2009, he did shoot a career high from downtown, 41.1%.
4. Malik Rose | I still remember the energy that Malik Rose brought to the team when he was on the floor. This is whom I think about when I saw DeJuan Blair hit the floor. They both have a nose for the ball and did everything they could to put their own stamp on the game once in.
Rose played one season in Charlotte. To many, it was a season for him to forget. He joined the Spurs before the 1997-1998 season. Just what they said about Blair when he came into the league, Rose was also talked about as being to undersized for his position. He though did not let that bother him as he would turn out to play a physical style of game and become one of the teams top rebounders during his eight seasons with the Spurs.
Physical, good rebounder, sounds like another former Spurs right?
During his eight seasons, Rose contributed 15 points and nine rebounds per outing. He is the type of player any coach would love to have on their team because of what he can bring to the table.
Rose was a member of the 1999 and 2003 championship teams, and he averaged 9.3 points and 5.8 rebounds during the latter of the title runs.
3. Robert Horry | “Big Shot Bob”. The name he was dubbed with from the way he stepped up for his teams when they needed him the most. He was not shy from taking the big shot and more importantly, the outcome was always good.
Robert Horry won a staggering seven championships throughout his 16-year NBA career. Acquired in the 2003 offseason, Horry soon cemented his legacy in San Antonio.
Remember game 5 of the 2005 NBA Finals? Horry lived up to his name as being “Big Shot Bob” as he netted 21 points in the final 17:01 of the game, shooting 5-for-6 from behind the arc including thegame-winner with 5.8 seconds remaining.
Truly a player that was a great shooter, defender and overall, a champion. He won his final title with the San Antonio Spurs after they swept LeBron James and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers. No heroics needed.
2. Bruce Bowen | Dirty player, not flashy, defensive stopper. Few words that best described the wonderful Bruce Bowen while with the San Antonio Spurs. A man that the San Antonio Spurs turned to when they needed a defensive stop, when they needed to contain their opponents best player. Bowen did that and then some.
What I liked most about Bowen is that he got underneath a players skin as quick as anyone else. Players whom have played against Bowen stated that he is a dirty player, the throws cheap shots, elbows, tugs on jerseys, steps on feet, anything and everything he could do to become a defensive stopper. One thing is certain though, he never got caught or called for doing any of them.
Outside of Bowen’s defensive ability, he was also a solid shooter. He posted a career 39.3 three-point percentage. He led the league in 2002-03 with a 44.1 percent mark from behind the arc.
If his defense and offensive abilities didn’t stick out. How about this from Bowen. He started 500 consecutive games and was selected to an NBA All-Defensive Team in eight-consecutive seasons. What many players would trade for the world is seeing their number being retired by the team in which you helped lead them to titles.
The Spurs retired Bowen’s number 12 jersey last year.
1. Avery Johnson | “The Little General”. When you think of the point guard position, being a leader or an extension to the coach on the floor is whom you have to have. Avery Johnson was just that. Johnson played for 11 teams throughout his 16-year NBA career. This did include multiple stints with both the Denver Nuggets and the Spurs.
In his third and final tour in San Antonio was certainly a high point of Johnson’s career. In the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, Johnson made the most important shot for the Spurs.
Johnson nailed a jumper from the left corner to cap off what would be the first of four titles for the silver and black.
The “Little General” distributed 7.3 assists per game over his seven-year stretch with the Spurs from 1994-2001, which makes him San Antonio’s All-Time Leader in assists.
In 2007, the franchise as they did with Bruce Bowen, retired his jersey and forever will hang from the rafters.
There you have it. I know that there are some players that I may have missed in the countdown but this is where you can step in and shed some light on those players that could of made the countdown or you would just like to reflect on.