San Antonio Spurs: 3 free agent options at C, PF to fill the bench
By Rob Wolkenbrod
The San Antonio Spurs are thin at power forward and center depth. Could they sign someone to fill a bench role before or during the season?
The San Antonio Spurs will head into the 2017-18 season with just one signing at power forward and center, not counting Matt Costello who’s on a two-way contract. They brought Joffrey Lauvergne in, with a two-year deal for the veteran’s minimum. He played for the Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls across three NBA seasons.
Davis Bertans is potentially the next man up to be a big-man backup. He stands at 6-foot-10, but is mostly known for his outside shot, rather than the ability to rebound and box out opponents under the rim. However, with the way the roster looks as training camp approaches, the Spurs might be giving him an opportunity to step up.
What if the Spurs are still looking for a low-cost option to fill out the bench at center or power forward? There are a handful of veterans left on the open market that can join on minimum deals, especially for this time of the offseason. Even if it’s David Lee, who San Antonio hasn’t re-signed, after going down with a knee injury.
The Spurs have free-agent options to look at, whether they’re enticing or not. These players can fill a third-string need, rather than someone like Pau Gasol or LaMarcus Aldridge getting injured and the insurance for them being limited.
Who are the best choices for San Antonio in free agency? Let’s take a look at three center options and three at power forward. This factors in a potential roster move (waiving a player, trade, or sending someone to the G-League).
Next: Tiago Splitter and Festus Ezeli
Power forward: Tiago Splitter
Tiago Splitter is an old face that remains a free agent. The San Antonio Spurs made him a core member of their roster in the early 2010’s. He was part of the 2014 NBA championship team, as he played a key role at power forward and center, a spot he had next to Tim Duncan.
Splitter was traded in 2015 when the Spurs needed cap space to sign LaMarcus Aldridge. The Atlanta Hawks were the team to acquire him, but injuries ravaged his time there. Then came a brief stint on the Philadelphia 76ers, where the Brazilian shot more 3-pointers than ever.
If Splitter rejoins the Spurs, it would be for familiarity. He’s an injury risk, but with little-to-no playing time in the works, the organization can at least take a flier.
Center: Festus Ezeli
Festus Ezeli once had the chance to garner a larger deal to be a starting center. His Per 36 Minutes numbers were effective, and playing on the Golden State Warriors didn’t hurt his case, either.
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After the Warriors cleared their bench to sign Kevin Durant, Ezeli left for the Portland Trail Blazers. He signed a multi-year deal that paid him $7 million in the first season. However, the Vanderbilt product never gave the Blazers their money’s worth, as a knee injury sidelined him for the season, until the team waived him in June.
Ezeli is an injury risk, but one the Spurs can nurture and work with minimally to preserve his body. That can open a veteran’s minimum option, as it would be difficult for this organization, or any others, to provide him a lucrative deal, even for one season.
Next: Bass and Hibbert
Power forward: Brandon Bass
Brandon Bass was once a top role player on the competitive Boston Celtics teams of the 2010’s. The same went for his time on the Dallas Mavericks and Orlando Magic, where he averaged around 10 points and five rebounds per game.
While Bass started in Boston, once he left for the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, his role decreased. This happened as the NBA became a stretch-the-floor, shoot-at-any-cost league. Bass has a mid-range shot but just 12 career 3-pointers in 12 seasons.
Is this ideal for the San Antonio Spurs? Maybe not. For an end-of-the-bench piece, though, it’s not the worst risk to take. Bass still shot 55 percent from the field in 2016-17 and had 5.6 points in 11.1 minutes per game. Those aren’t poor by any means, so if the Spurs are willing to lose some floor spacing at the 14th or 15th spot on the roster, then this player is an option. That might not happen until the midway point of the season, as Bass will be in China until the eary winter of 2018.
Center: Roy Hibbert
Roy Hibbert was a feared center with upside. At 7-foot-2, he towered over most of the NBA and had some productive years for the Indiana Pacers. This included two All-Star Game appearances.
Hibbert faces difficulties, though. He never became the rebounding force you’d expect from someone his size. The Pacers also never played him more than 30 minutes per game, as he provided some defensive and mobility liabilities. That went for the 2014 NBA playoffs, too, which he struggled in.
Over the past two seasons, Hibbert bounced from Los Angeles Lakers to the Charlotte Hornets and Denver Nuggets. He didn’t stand out at any destination and, due to this, he remains a free agent.
Hibbert can be a second-string center, but his nonexistent shooting ability limits that on the San Antonio Spurs. If he were willing to take a third-string role for the minimum salary, then he’s a possibility for the bench.
Next: Derrick Williams and Jordan Hill
Power forward: Derrick Williams
Derrick Williams entered the league in the 2011 NBA Draft as the No. 2 overall pick. He arrived with athletic upside at the forward spot, but had the dreaded “tweener” status applied to him. That proved to be true, as he never quite developed the skills teams want from a starting power forward or small forward. Instead, he became a 3-point shooter for the 2016-17 Cleveland Cavaliers.
Shooting and some rebounding are what teams should expect out of Williams at 26-years-old. You know what you’re getting with him, which is a role player that can spell for 10-15 minutes per game.
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The San Antonio Spurs might desire someone taller than Williams and someone who can play center. However, if they’re comfortable with the present team options at the five, then the Arizona product can prodive versatility at the three and four.
Center: Jordan Hill
Jordan Hill will be known for his draft spot in 2009, as it came between Stephen Curry and DeMar DeRozan, who of the top guards in the NBA. While they remained with their respective teams as superstars, Hill bounced around the league, playing for five teams.
At this stage, the former New York Knick is just a third-string player. He played in just seven games in 2016-17, which won’t help his case for a bigger role than that.
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The Spurs can use Hill at the end of the bench, as he provides some versatility at power forward and center. Nothing more, nothing less.