Jeff Ayres was often the forgotten man on the San Antonio Spurs bench last season, posting averages of 3.3 points and 3.5 rebounds on 58% shooting. This season figures to much of the same for Ayres with the depth down low on the Spurs team, but, is it possible for Ayres to break into the rotation this season?
We take a look at the numbers today to see if Jeff Ayres could be in for a more productive season his second go-around with San Antonio!
Jeff Ayres as a Spurs Player Project
The San Antonio Spurs have had many player projects over the last few years, the most notable and successful being Patty Mills, Boris Diaw, and Danny Green.
The question here lies as to whether Jeff Ayres could be another on of those player projects.
Ayres actually played solid last season, putting up solid numbers per 36 minutes of 9.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. Those numbers were right on pace with another San Antonio Spurs big man, Aron Baynes, who could be in line for a breakout season following an excellent performance at the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
Although per 36 numbers usually decrease with additional minutes, Aron Baynes’ excellent performance this summer shows theat the Spurs organization does have strong player development.
This is great for Ayres because he still has a lot of growing to do as a player.
What’s even more important to note here is that it is okay that Jeff Ayres did not break into the rotation this year. Both Patty Mills and Danny Green spent significant time riding the pine in San Antonio before turning into productive role players.
Jeff Ayres actually even has an advantage over the two aforementioned players. Ayres played 73 games this season for the Spurs which is nearly equal to the amount of games, 82, played by Green and Mills during their first San Antonio seasons combined.
If Ayres can utilize the Spurs system effectively and play within the team, he can break into the rotation this season.
Jeff Ayres and Opportunity
Jeff Ayres has a huge opportunity awaiting him this season. Sure the San Antonio Spurs frontcourt is stacked, but, one of its key members, Matt Bonner, is aging and on the decline.
While Bonner is still an excellent marksman from deep, the stretch forward is 34 years and only getting older. The Red Mamba saw drop offs in minutes and points this last season which could spell trouble for his career in the rotation, especially with Gregg Popovich’s handling of minutes and other younger prospects available to take his role.
Jeff Ayres may not posses a 3-point shot but that doesn’t mean he cannot take out some more of Matt Bonner’s minutes. If Ayres can get off to a strong start in the preseason, Pop could give some of Bonner’s minutes to Ayres.
Although the opportunity exists, there is also a downturn that could await Ayres if he does not seize this chance.
San Antonio brought in many forwards into training camp this year and even though all of them are on unguaranteed contracts, that does not mean the Spurs will drop them. If one of them has an excellent showing in preseason and training camp, it could open up the door for them to potentially take Ayres’ roster spot.
Ayres is on the books for about $1.8 million but I am sure the Spurs would not mind eating that if one of the training camp invites put on a stellar performance before the season.
This possibility has another layer of interest when you consider Ayres is an undersized power forward at only 6-foot-9.
The Spurs are definitely not in need of size with Duncan (6-foot-11), Splitter (6-foot-11), and Baynes (6-foot-10) and if the right candidate were to come along, it is entirely possible that they could snag Ayres’ spot.
Jeff Ayres has a huge opportunity in front of him to become a rotational player for the San Antonio Spurs. He is in one of the best organizations in the league and has aging veterans in front of him on the depth chart.
If Ayres can take advantage of those two situations the former Arizona State product has a chance to crack the Spurs rotation.
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Jeff Ayres will have to work hard if he wants to do so though. Like all other San Antonio Spurs breakouts before him, he will have to play within the system and let the game come to him.
What do you think of Jeff Ayres’ chances to crack the San Antonio Spurs rotation this season? Let us know in the comments!
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