As the 2017-18 NBA season nears, let’s take a closer look at the San Antonio Spurs roster.
It’s almost time for the 2017-18 NBA season, which starts in the middle of October. All teams, including the San Antonio Spurs, will target the Golden State Warriors, who won the 2017 NBA Finals. The Spurs were the next-closest Western Conference team to making the Finals, but lost to the Warriors in the playoffs.
For the upcoming year, the Spurs have a full roster set to contend for the NBA championship. It starts with a Summer League standout and ends with one of the league’s best players.
If the roster was ranked, how would all 15 players be lined up? Are any of them in risk of not making the Opening Night squad?
Let’s look at every player on the Spurs’ roster and rank them. This doesn’t include two-way players and London Perrantes.
15. Bryn Forbes
Bryn Forbes’ roster spot might not be guaranteed, as he owns one of the San Antonio Spurs’ cheapest contracts. He’s the 15th man here (if the injured Tony Parker counts), too, which puts him on the roster bubble if the Spurs decide to make a roster change. That, or if someone gets sent down to the G-League (more on that soon).
Forbes lit up the 2017 Summer League, which likely gave him better breathing room for the Opening Night roster. His 30-point performances were one of the biggest highlights of the summer, which opened eyes to his potential as a scorer.
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Finding space for Forbes will be difficult, however. Derrick White, Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Brandon Paul, and Dejounte Murray all have the ability to play shooting guard, the position the Michigan State product is likely limited to, given his 6-foot-3 stature.
If Forbes doesn’t make the Opening Night roster and gets sent to the G-League, he should return to the main roster in short order. If not, there are other teams that can use his shooting ability off the bench.
The upside is there for the 24-year-old to be a successful pro, but there are roadblocks ahead. Will he find his way into the rotation?
Next: Derrick White
14. Derrick White
Derrick White was the San Antonio Spurs’ first-round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. For the second straight year, the organization selected a point guard at No. 29 overall (Dejounte Murray in 2016). However, White is a different player from Murray and could provide help in other areas.
If the Colorado product makes the Opening Night roster, he can play point and shooting guard for the Spurs. His ability to distribute is there, as seen in school, along with a sharp stroke from 3-point range, that can help spread the floor. With the way this roster looks, it will be all about taking long-distance shots and creating space, so the fit is appropriate.
White is no guarantee to make the roster, however. With 15 players in place, it might make him the odd man out. That means a trip to the G-League where Murray spent much of the 2016-17 season. So, it wouldn’t be against the norm for him to spend time in Austin, while receiving full playing time.
White’s impact might not happen until his sophomore season when the Spurs likely have a different roster (a lot of players are up for free agency in 2018). If anything, how Gregg Popovich uses Murray will be indicative of what’s in store for White in 2018, depending on his development.
Next: Brandon Paul
13. Brandon Paul
Brandon Paul is another unknown for the San Antonio Spurs, perhaps the biggest of all. He flashed upside in the 2017 Summer League, which made the Spurs give him a fully guaranteed contract for the 2017-18 season. Enough potential must have been seen, as Paul hasn’t played a single regular season minute.
Early on, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Paul listed as “DNP-COACH’S DECISION,” at least for the first few months of the season. That won’t mean he sits on the bench, every game, for two months. It’s small doses of playing time that lets the staff figure what they have in him, before taking the training wheels off for a bigger role.
Paul will need to fight his way in for minutes. He’ll be against Forbes, White, Dejounte Murray and Manu Ginobili, all of whom can back up Danny Green at shooting guard. However, if Forbes or White go to the G-League and Murray becomes the primary backup point guard, that might leave an immediate opening for playing time. Ginobili getting a “DNP-REST” or “DNP-OLD,” on occasion, is something to watch for, as well.
The guaranteed deal helps Paul’s case for playing time. He should make an impact in 2017-18, and be the latest 3-and-D player in the Black and Silver.
Next: Kyle Anderson
12. Kyle Anderson
Like many San Antonio Spurs, Kyle Anderson will enter his contract year in 2017-18. So, it’s potentially time to look ahead with him and see if this season is the end of his time in the Alamo City.
Anderson hasn’t broken out in his three Spurs season. It doesn’t help he plays behind Kawhi Leonard, one of the NBA’s best players who takes 30-35 minutes per night. That’s left the UCLA product with 10-16 minutes per game over the past three years.
His scoring average hasn’t risen above 4.5, while the rebound hasn’t crossed 3.1. It’s in limited time, but not enough to stand out and earn more on-court time.
What Anderson did improve, however, was his 3-point stroke. He shot a career-high 37 percent from distance in 2016-17. It came in just 40 shots — a small sample size — but enough to show some promise for his development.
It will be tough for Anderson to break through, again. As long as Leonard stays healthy, he’ll be in line for 10-15 minutes per game and have similar averages. That will set up a potential departure in 2018 free agency, which may be beneficial for his future earnings. In the NBA, though, things change on the fly. So, Anderson’s outlook could change at any point.
Next: Manu Ginobili
11. Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili is back for a 16th NBA season. At age 40, he’ll look to earn one more NBA championship, an uneasy task, but attainable if the right cards fall for the San Antonio Spurs.
Ginobili is back for a two-year, $5 million deal. It doesn’t mean he’ll be around for the full two years, but potentially provides him payment if he retires and the Spurs use the Stretch Provision on him.
As for the 2017-18 season, Ginobili should have a similar role to last year, which wasn’t much. He played just 18.7 minutes per game in 69 appearances, starting none of them for the fourth time in five years. Age and keeping him fresh come into play with him.
With younger parts filling up the Spurs’ guard depth, Ginobili could lose more playing time. That’s to players like Paul, White, Murray, and Forbes, if all four remain on the main roster. That means the Argentinian star might be in for 10-15 minutes per game, rather than nearing sixth man-esque numbers.
More than anything, Ginobili will be a veteran presence for these younger players. He’ll play this role for the 2017-18 season, before retirement becomes an option, again. An on-court impact will be there, but nothing more than a player to stretch the floor and provide solid defense.
Next: Tony Parker
10. Tony Parker
It will be difficult to know what the San Antonio Spurs can get out of Tony Parker. He’ll likely be out to start the season, with a torn quad. This was suffered in the 2017 Western Conference Semifinals when the Spurs played the Houston Rockets.
Placing Parker at No. 10 is an aggressive spot, with his status in doubt. It’s more about what the Spurs might get from him when he returns, though, which could be by November, December, January, February or at an unknown time.
While Parker is out, Patty Mills will likely start at point guard. If the Spurs play better with the latter, then it could change the Frenchman’s role for one of the first times ever, as he’s always been the team’s starter at the one spot. The last regular season game he didn’t start came in 2009-10.
It’s also a contract year for the 16-year veteran. He’s owed $15.4 million, something that likely won’t be replicated if he plays past next season. If he shows anything close to his form from 2016-17, which was already in decline, he might make at least half his 2017-18 salary. Will there be an incentive for this? Or will he sit back and play the role handed to him?
Next: Davis Bertans
9. Davis Bertans
With the way the 2017 offseason went, Davis Bertans is in line for a bigger role on the 2017-18 team. He should move from just a shooter to a primary backup at power forward, with the ability to play as a taller small forward.
Bertans is only entering his sophomore season in the NBA, but was selected in the 2011 draft. He came to the Spurs in the Kawhi Leonard-George Hill trade that reshaped the franchise.
For Bertans’ rookie season, he played exclusively like a shooter. With 2.6 3-point attempts per game of the 3.5 total attempts he averaged, it was the long ball or nothing for him. It’s a lot for a player that was in just 12.1 minutes.
If the Spurs want to trust this Latvian-born player to play more minutes, he’ll need to grab a few more rebounds, instead of the 1.5 he averaged last season. If he can do that, look for a significant increase in playing time.
Bertans can get more minutes, but as long as San Antonio doesn’t sign Andrew Bogut. They were rumored to be interested in the former No. 1 overall pick. If Bogut signs, then Bertans might see a similar role to his rookie season, which might not be the worst thing so he’s not pressed into a role he’s not ready for.
Next: Dejounte Murray
8. Dejounte Murray
Dejounte Murray might receive the biggest upgrade of anyone on the San Antonio Spurs, in terms of role. He should be in line to be the backup point guard, with the potential to start if injuries or poor play arise.
Murray only played in 38 games for the Spurs in his rookie season, but spent time in the G-League, too. Will it be enough experience to make him the backup point guard to Patty Mills?
The Washington product played just 8.5 minutes per game in 2016-17. With a bigger role on the way, he could double that number, or at least increase it by four minutes, in consistent playing time. That should boost his stats across the board, from points per game to assists, rebounds and steals, the latter of which he racked up in the 2017 playoffs.
If Mills gets hurt, Murray will get to step into the biggest role of his career. That’s if Parker is still hurt, something that won’t be known until the situation potentially arises. If it happens, Murray gets to make a case as the starting point guard, while fending off White and moving Mills back to a bench role. That seems unlikely, but strangers things have happened.
Next: Joffrey Lauvergne
7. Joffrey Lauvergne
The second of the San Antonio Spurs’ signings came at center/power forward, with Joffrey Lavuergne. He was given a two-year deal for the minimum salary, which is around $1.5 million for the 2017-18 season.
Lauvergne was the only big man the Spurs signed, while David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon were let go. That means he’s in line for plenty of minutes to open the season and will be an important bench player, probably more than expected. With no other backup big men with him, that could lead to 15-20 minutes per game off the bench (exceeding 17.6 would be a career-high).
In case of injury to Pau Gasol or LaMarcus Aldridge, Lauvergne will be in for starting time, too. That may always go to someone that can play a stretch four role, but if the Spurs choose the classic power forward-center lineup, then the Frenchman fits the mold of a prototypical big man.
Lauvergne will be one of the top role players for the Spurs and should earn every bit of the money he’ll be paid. It won’t be as a shot-blocking force, but to clog the paint and provide scoring from different parts of the floor. How will he fare in his first season in San Antonio?
Next: Rudy Gay
6. Rudy Gay
The biggest outside-the-organization-acquisition came when the San Antonio Spurs signed Rudy Gay. They gave a two-year, $17.2 million deal, with a player option for the second season. It’s a prove-it contract for Gay, who’s entering his age-31 season and coming off a ruptured Achilles. He suffered it in January, while playing for the Sacramento Kings.
Despite the injury concerns, Gay should play a prominent role for the Spurs. Look for him to be the sixth man, taking up 20-25 minutes off the bench. It would be his first time as a full-time pine player, as he started for the Kings, Toronto Raptors, and Memphis Grizzlies since 2006.
It’s almost a super-sub role for the 11-year pro. He’ll fill in for Leonard — a more than adequate replacement — at small forward. There’s also the stretch four role, which Popovich can test with Gay. It’s extra versatility that San Antonio is missing from other players. So, if he’s successfully stretched out, it will provide the lineup with a bevy of options to use.
Of course, it all depends on Gay’s recovery from the Achilles rupture. He might perform like the player that’s been in the NBA since 2006, or take a nosedive in production and athleticism. It will be one of the Spurs’ most intriguing storylines of the season.
Next: Danny Green
5. Danny Green
No. 5, 4 and 3 are interchangeable in their importance to the San Antonio Spurs. Based on statistical production, let’s slide Danny Green before the following players.
Green grew into one of the NBA’s best 3-and-D players, as he’s one of the best 3-point shooters in the league and a premier perimeter defender. The latter won him a spot on the All-NBA Defensive Second Team for 2016-17, arguably the best individual honor he’s received since 2009. It recognized his defensive awareness, despite issues on the offensive end.
Green struggled from inside the 3-point line the past two seasons. It resulted in below-40 percent marks in 2015-16 and 2016-17, along with a reduced point per game total (7.2 and 7.3, respectively).
The same role will be there for the 30-year-old, as he mans the starting shooting guard spot. His defense will keep him there, if it stays consistent. If not, Gay could threaten his spot in the lineup, which would see Leonard move to shooting guard. Green goes to the bench and becomes the sixth man.
It’s also a contract year for the UNC product, who can opt out of his deal in 2018. Will that mean more inspired production before hitting the open market?
Next: Pau Gasol
4. Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol might not be the dominant post player he once was but is still a credible big man. He’ll return to his starting center spot for the San Antonio Spurs, as he hits age 37 and plays under a new contract (three years, $45 million).
In the fewest minutes per game of Gasol’s career (25.4), he put up some of the worst numbers of his career: 12.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks won’t stand out. His Player Efficiency Rating (20.2) was his lowest since 2013-14, but not too far below his marks with the Chicago Bulls.
Despite the decline, Gasol will be a key contributor toward this upcoming Spurs team. He’ll finish as the third or fourth leading scorer, potentially having a similar point per game total that he had last season. That’s if Popovich plays him 25 minutes per game, again, and gives Lauvergne and others playing time, to give the Spaniard extra rest.
Gasol will settle back in this season and next as the starting center. The Spurs paid him like one, so they’ll hope he remains that way. If not, it will be a fair amount of cash for the organization to try to get out of by the summer of 2018.
Next: Patty Mills
3. Patty Mills
From career bench player to starter, Patty Mills is in for the biggest role of his NBA career. It makes him one of the most important San Antonio Spurs for the 2017-18 season, as he takes over the starting point guard role for Tony Parker.
Aside from the 2017 playoffs, Mills started just 18 career games, eight of which came last season. So, he’s in for plenty in the upcoming campaign, which will potentially define him, since he’s never been in line for this role to open a season.
The Aussie will be paid like a starter, too. The Spurs dished out four years, $50 million to him, as free agency opened, on July 1. It’s more than enough money to guarantee him the starting role, not just for when Parker is out, but afterward and in future seasons. That keeps him above Murray, as well, who we previously thought had a chance at this role.
It will be interesting to see just how well Mills plays, now that he’s the likely starter, paid, and set to receive more minutes. Will he become a 15-5 player? Does he have the intangibles to be a top point guard in the Western Conference? Maybe not, but it hasn’t been proven.
Next: LaMarcus Aldridge
2. LaMarcus Aldridge
This season will be a pivotal one for LaMarcus Aldridge. The past two, his first with the San Antonio Spurs, saw a decline from his days with the Portland Trail Blazers. His points per game are down by six, while the rebounds totals are down by three. It’s in just three fewer minutes per game.
If Aldridge wants to opt out of his contract and get one last multi-year deal for big money, he’ll need to return to similar numbers from his Portland era. That might not be likely with Leonard in town, but even toward 19-9 would be trending in the right direction.
Either way, the Dallas, TX native will be the second-best player on the Spurs, even if the margin is wide. It provides him with a more than meaningful role that the team will rely on, maybe more than possible at this stage, though.
If Aldridge can’t boost his numbers, he’ll look like a prototypical No. 3 option, except there’s no one between him and Leonard. It represents how wide the gap is between these players, and a testament to how good the latter is.
This will be Aldridge’s most interesting season in San Antonio, for sure. Will he deliver?
Next: Kawhi Leonard
1. Kawhi Leonard
Then, there’s Kawhi Leonard. Was there ever any doubt he would be the best and most important player on the San Antonio Spurs roster for the 2017-18 NBA season?
Leonard will enter his seventh year in the NBA. It doesn’t seem like he’s been around long, but he’s accomplished plenty: 2014 NBA Finals win to the Finals MVP, multiple All-Star Game appearances, multiple Defensive Player of the Year Awards, and finishing third in the 2016-17 MVP voting. That’s a lot, right?
Last year was Leonard’s best. He had a career-high 25.5 points per game, which put him among the NBA’s elite. Along with this, he took on a larger distributor role, averaging 3.5 assists and having a 31.1 percent Usage. So, the ball was always in his hands as he led the San Antonio offense. Expect the same, if not more of that, this season.
Will Leonard boost his point total, too? He’s done so in every season since entering the NBA. Will that mean he approaches 30? It’s a difficult mark for any player to hit, but with the sizeable difference between him and Aldridge’s abilities, it might be possible. That should get the San Diego State product closer to the MVP.
How should the San Antonio Spurs roster rank before the season starts?