Given the purported changes the roster will undergo this season, it seems like a good time to get in a few nostalgic words about a team that Spurs fans became attached to throughout the thrilling 89 game ride. It was a year plagued with inconsistencies, which makes for a an interesting and unpredictable list. Jamychal Green and Reggie Williams are both excluded from the list due to a lack of minutes played.
Next: Kyle Anderson
15. Kyle Anderson
Oct 16, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Kyle Anderson (1) looks up the court in the game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
The former UCLA standout was being sold as a young, slender small forward with a Boris Diaw like skill set coming into the season, but never really got enough touches to shine with the strong roster around him. Confidence was a problem from him early on in the year. He actually had a pretty respectable December, averaging 4.4 points and 3.2 rebounds in just 16 minutes per game. He was sent to the D-League not long after that, but look for him to have a bigger role on next years team. The Spurs seem to be starting the process of gradually molding him into a good role player as they did with Corey Joseph.
Next: Austin Daye
14. Austin Daye
Nov 21, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Austin Daye (23) shoots against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the fourth quarter at Target Center. The Spurs win 121-92. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
The veteran 6 foot 11 forward’s field goal percentage of 34% was slim enough to match his scrawny build. The Spurs probably acquired Austin Daye with hopes of adding another stretch four to the roster, but what they got instead was a guy who’s PER was dangerously close to being countable on one hand. The Gonzaga graduate was upset upon learning that the Spurs had released him mid-season, claiming he had done “everything he could.” He ended his season with the Hawks, who took advantage of the similarities between Popovic’s and Budenholzer’s system and used him as a filler player in the wake of injuries.
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Next: Matt Bonner
13. Matt Bonner
Jan 20, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Matt Bonner (15) commits an offensive foul against Denver Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic (23) during the first half at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Among San Antonio’s many victims of aging, fan favorite Matt Bonner’s career is all but over. The “Red Rocket” made the unfortunate and seemingly inexplicable transition from a giant 3 point marksman completely lacking in athleticism, to a washed up giant that’s completely lacking in athleticism and can only somewhat hit the long-ball. Bonner shot just 36% from beyond the arc this year, despite being wide open on about every one of them. He still stretches the floor a little, and it’s kind of fun to watch that floater he hardly ever gets to use, but it’s really doubtful that the 2015-16 Spurs have a spot waiting for Matt Bonner.
Next: Jeff Ayres
12. Jeff Ayres
Dec 10, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; New York Knicks center Samuel Dalembert (11) is defended by San Antonio Spurs power forward Jeff Ayres (11) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Dunks. Some lay-ups. This is how Jeff Ayres was able to make 57% of his shots this season, which was actually a team high for the Spurs. Mid-range jump shots. Attempting post moves. That is how Jeff Ayres missed the remaining 43 percent. Jeff’s biggest flaw is his ineptitude on help defense, where while he has the body and physical abilities to protect the rim, he often looks discombobulated out there. Ayres is not only essentially a small time role player, he’s also inconsistent. While he has some desirable qualities as a player that will find him a place somewhere in the league, there aren’t any real enticing reasons for the Spurs to bring him back.
Next: Aron Baynes
11. Aron Baynes
Apr 1, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Aron Baynes (16) drives to the basket against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. San Antonio Spurs defeated the Orlando Magic 103-91. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Aron Baynes was making some serious strides this year before Blake Griffin dunked him out of the Spurs playoffs rotation. His mid-range shot was respectable this season, and he’s truly turned into very solid finisher around the rim. He doesn’t have the athleticism or defensive prowess of Tiago Splitter, but he has an excellent knowledge of low post floor spacing and is able to draw the double teams off of Duncan when the two play together. He’s a steadily improving Blake Griffin poster (cough, cough) I mean player, so the Spurs might benefit from keeping him around.
Next: Marco Belinelli
10. Marco Belinelli
Mar 24, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Marco Belinelli (3) drives to the basket past Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons (25) during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Spurs 101-94. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Belinelli may have had the role player’s version of a magnum opus in the 2013-14 season, where he scored 11 points per game in just 25 minutes and shot 48% from the field (43% from 3 point range). This year, he took a significant dip in production, scoring just 9 points per game and shooting 43% from the field. This isn’t to say he necessarily struggled, but he didn’t live up to the expectations his first season as a Spur set for him. His presence on the roster was still appreciated. There were several games this season where the rest of the bench struggled and Belinelli starred in the midst of their problems. For Marco, we’re talking about a 29 year old who fits well in the Spurs system but can’t really be seen as an irreplaceable guy, either. The Spurs may look to insert a new acquisition at the wing spot, but it’s also likely that the Italian guard will be returning for another year.
Next: Patty Mills?
9. Patty Mills
Apr 19, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills (8) drives to the basket against Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) during the fourth quarter in game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
He’s the Spurs energizer bunny, a full throttle player at all times that sparks energy in the lineup in all of the biggest moments. Mills started the year nursing a shoulder that he injured over the offseason. When he finally returned to the lineup, it felt like he was having to chip away at the rust for way too long, shooting just 38 % from the field. It was unfortunate for a Spurs team that could have definitely used top notch production from him in the wake of Tony Parker‘s struggles, but Mills came out firing when the playoffs came around. He averaged ten points per game on 50 % shooting against the Clippers, and arguably defended Chris Paul better than anybody. There’s no reason, then, to believe the Australian who produced a PER of 18.7 in 2013-14 can’t come back and have a similar season next year. He’s locked up until 2017, so barring a surprising trade, Mills should be wearing the black and silver for a while.
Next: Cory Joseph
8. Cory Joseph
Apr 7, 2015; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) drives to the basket against San Antonio Spurs guard Cory Joseph (5) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
“Cojo” logged some serious minutes this year. He got his chance to shine because of injuries, but earned himself a more permanent spot in the rotation through his superb play. His defense is excellent and not to be undervalued in an NBA that’s becoming a parade of star point guards. Joseph made huge strides as a ball-handler this year and showed the potential to become a more dynamic scorer. He’s a dynamite example of the Spurs taking a low draft pick and developing him into a very special basketball player. Cojo had his best game in December against the Pelicans, when he scored 20 points off of 8 for 9 shooting. With that kind of efficiency, the free agent may be getting some offers this offseason that are hard for the Spurs to match. It all depends on what other deals the Spurs make this summer.
Next: Tiago Splitter
7. Tiago Splitter
Mar 24, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter (22) looks to pass the ball by Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler (6) and forward Chandler Parsons (25) during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Spurs 101-94. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Splitter is a 7 footer that can move around the court pretty well, and is mentored by Tim Duncan. The result? Well, it actually wasn’t quite as good as some were anticipating it to be, but he’s still a valuable part of the team. Splitter doesn’t do anything spectacular; he doesn’t have any kind of jump shot and his post game is relatively limited. But he does do everything that he’s expected to. He’s an excellent rim protector, holds his own in defending the post, runs the pick and roll extremely well, and is one of the better passing big men in the league. He excelled as expected in the regular season, posting the third highest PER on the team (18.6). That brings us to the reason he’s only number 7 on this list: He had an absolute nightmare of a playoffs. Splitter was hampered by injuries, but that doesn’t explain why he missed so many uncontested layups in the Clippers series. With his post-season PER of 6.9, there’s no nice way to put it: the former European player had one of the weakest offensive performances in playoffs history.
Next: Manu Ginobili
Apr 12, 2015; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Manu Ginobili (20) drives against Phoenix Suns forward T.J. Warren (12) during the game at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
Ginobili is still a valuable asset, even objectively. It seems the views around the NBA about Ginobili have become increasingly polarizing, with one guy ranting about how he’s actually hurting the team more than helping and another making the claim that Manu could still dominate the league if given enough minutes. The truth lies somewhere in between. Manu is a skilled finisher, shooter, and passer who can handle the ball securely and initiate movement better than most. He still competes on defense and his hustle plays still plug energy into the AT&T Center in a way that nothing else can quite match. Rumor has it, Ginobili will be back for another year. Make no mistake, that’s a good thing for the Spurs.
Next: Boris Diaw
5. Boris Diaw
Apr 12, 2015; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw (33) drives against Phoenix Suns forward T.J. Warren (12) during the game at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
Diaw’s numbers took a slip along with just about all of the rest of the Spurs, but he’s still a hell of a player. The Spurs absolutely love this man. He’s has a well known locker room friendly personality to go along his beautiful passing and tenacious post play, just some of the things that made the Spurs lock him up till 2018. A part of the reason Diaw’s numbers took a hit this year is really just that the team as a whole wasn’t trusting the system as well as they have in years past, and Diaw was forced to create for himself more than usual. He had games where he was absolutely dominant, and games where he was the glue guy for a team that was just barely held together this year. At 32 years old, Diaw may very well be headed towards a decline, but it’s his skill that makes him spectacular. That won’t be diminished.
Next: Tony Parker
4. Tony Parker
Apr 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) is defended by Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) in game five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
It was ultimately a disappointing season for Tony Parker, the four time champion and six time NBA All-Star. His points and assists categories both hit their lowest numbers since his rookie season, and his explosiveness wasn’t seen nearly as consistently throughout the season. His defense was also more a weak point than usual, as he struggled to even hold his own against the more offensively threatening point guards. The important thing for Parker is really staying healthy at this point, because he’s still a very effective scorer when he has his legs under him. Even with having the injuries he did, his Per 36 minutes stats were impressive this season: 18.0 PPG, 6.2 APG. The bright spot for Tony this season was his dramatically improved three point shot, which used to only hit the mark as often as lightning strikes. He shot 42% from beyond the arc this year. If he wants to continue to evolve and remain a top point guard, Parker should look to expand this part of his game next season.
Next: Danny Green
3. Danny Green
Apr 10, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles the ball as San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green (14) defends during the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
When Danny Green, formerly cut by the Cleveland Cavaliers, finds his way into the number three spot on this list, it’s a real sign that the “Big 3” era is officially over. That’s not a knock on Danny Green, though. Green has spent his five years in the NBA going from an absolute nobody to a role player to a very good NBA starter. He can shoot with the absolute best of them, and his perimeter defense simply gets better every year. His only flaw on defense is how easily he is deceived by pump fakes, but his aggressive shot contesting also gets him 1.1 blocks per game. Pretty phenomenal for a shooting guard who doesn’t even play thirty minutes a game. Danny is a great fit for the Spurs system and should be resigned in a heartbeat this offseason.
Next: Tim Duncan
2. Tim Duncan
Apr 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) reacts in the final seconds against the Los Angeles Clippers in game five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. The Spurs defeated the Clippers 111-107 to take a 3-2 lead. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
“The Big Fundamental” is still an exceptional basketball player at age 39. His points average took a dip this season but that wasn’t his fault; he averaged two less shot attempts a game as he consistently tried to create the ball movement that was clearly lacking a bit this year. His PER was 22.6 and his Real-Plus Minus was 5.22, good for thirteenth in the league. Duncan proves every year that it’s possible to play the game of basketball at a remarkably high level even as you get old, and his career is really one that every young player should aspire towards. This year Duncan was probably more frustrated than ever, as the 2014 championship winning team he was a part of came back the next year as a six seed. He’s purportedly returning next year to help make up for that, and he may be getting a new front court teammate to assist him this offseason.
Next: Kawhi Leonard
The future is now. Leonard was drafted as an athletic defender and rebounder, but then the Spurs hired the Monstars from Space Jam to juice him up with Carmelo Anthony‘s mid range game, Scottie Pippen‘s assertive fast break finishes and Ginobili’s clutch ability to rain 3 pointers when it’s most needed. Or something like that happened, anyway. That’s the only way to explain the epic evolution of Kawhi Leonard. He’s now truly one of the NBA’s best players, and not just on one end of the court. This year’s Defensive Player of the Year was also 5th in total Real-Plus Minus and 8th in Wins Above Replacement. “The Claw” has been a rising force for a few years now, and now he’s tearing through the league with the tenacity of the Tasmanian Devil on defense and the calm, suave demeanor of a confident scorer on the other end. The next great San Antonio Spurs player has arrived.
Apr 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) is defended by Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes (22) in game five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. The Spurs defeated the Clippers 111-107 to take a 3-2 lead. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports