San Antonio Spurs News

San Antonio Spurs: What to expect from Brandon Paul

By Rob Wolkenbrod
SANTA CRUZ - JANUARY 17: Brandon Paul #33 of the Canton Charge reacts while playing against the Austin Spurs during the 2015 NBA D-League Showcase presented by SAMSUNG on January 17, 2015 at Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images)
SANTA CRUZ - JANUARY 17: Brandon Paul #33 of the Canton Charge reacts while playing against the Austin Spurs during the 2015 NBA D-League Showcase presented by SAMSUNG on January 17, 2015 at Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The San Antonio Spurs gave Brandon Paul a guaranteed contract for the 2017-18 season, someone who went undrafted in 2013 and never played a regular season NBA game.

When the San Antonio Spurs lost Jonathon Simmons to the Orlando Magic, it was the loss of a key bench piece that had top-end perimeter defense and the athleticism to make a play on offense when needed. This spiked when Kawhi Leonard went down in the Western Conference Finals, as Simmons averaged 15 points per game in this series.

Looking at the Spurs’ offseason moves, it doesn’t look like there’s a clear-cut replacement for Simmons. However, the organization gave a guard, named Brandon Paul a two-year contract that’s fully guaranteed for the first season. He’s an unknown talent in the NBA, given he’s never played a regular season game. This is the answer to Simmons, though.

Paul’s college stats won’t bring much to light. He attended Illinois from 2009-13, averaging 12 points per game, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists. His shooting percentage crossed 40 percent just once (2012-13), so it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

These stats didn’t lead to Paul getting selected in the 2013 NBA Draft. He went to the D-League for two games on the Canton Charge and played 12 in the 2013-14 Eurocup for Nizhny Novgorod. They’re still too small of sample sizes, so his best look needs to begin in the 2014-15 season.

Paul played another 43 games for Canton and saw numbers that exceeded anything he did in college. From shooting percent to 3-point percentage and everything else, across the board, was improved.

Brandon Paul stats in the D-League pic.twitter.com/3DuBFmfACx

— Rob Wolkenbrod (@RealRobWolkey) August 26, 2017

Paul’s Usage Percentage was 25.4, which barely put him on the outside of the top-10 in the 2014-15 D-League season. He didn’t place near the top in any one main or advanced offensive statistic, but was used often and made the most of it as one of the D-League’s best shooters.

Then, there’s the defensive side of the ball. Paul had 2.1 Offensive Win Shares, but matched that at 2.1 Defensive Win Shares. This barely placed him outside the top-10 of the D-League. By NBA standards, it’s not elite, but far from bad. It marks about above-average defense. That’s potentially where his 6-foot-10 wingspan at 6-foot-4 comes into play.

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After 2014-15, Paul went back to Europe. He played for Liga ACB and had a similar defensive presence, but the offensive numbers slipped. The Gurnee, IL native shot just 38 percent from the field, but kept a cool 35 percent from behind the arc for 13.2 points.

Paul stayed in the Euroleague for the 2016-17 season. This time, he played for Anadolu Efes and had his playing time reduced to 17.3 minutes per game. However, he still averaged one steal per game and shot 41.5 percent from 3-point range, well above his 38 percent from the field for the season. It came at just 34 percent inside two-point range, though.

Then came the 2017 Summer League (he also played in 2016). Paul looked for another opportunity at the NBA and made the most of it. He averaged 14.3 points on 47.1 percent shooting for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ squad, along with 2.3 steals. The 31 percent from long distance was lower than usual (only three games played), but the performance earned plenty of praise.

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Paul looks like a 3-and-D player for the Spurs. His career numbers have mostly stayed consistent from the D-League to the Euroleague, which indicate a solid stroke from behind the arc, with a potentially low overall percentage, in general. He’s been able to use his above-average wingspan for his size, too, that gives him an advantage against smaller guards and some ability to be flexible against taller wing players.

This doesn’t mean Paul will be Simmons, but there are some similarities. They’ll be matches on the defensive end, with the latter’s 2.1 Defensive Win Shares from the 2016-17 season. Paul will have a sharper shooting stroke to begin his NBA career, which will be the difference when looking at how these players contrast.

Simmons’ offensive stroke also came around with more playing time. It’s unknown if that will stay the same in Orlando and get a bigger opportunity, but will be worth monitoring to determine if this former diamond in the rough was properly let go for who the Spurs think will be the next of this kind.

Next: Top 25 players in Spurs history

Paul is the Spurs’ biggest unknown of the 2017-18 roster, but one they’re confident enough in to give a guaranteed deal. Will the minimal risk create a high reward?

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