San Antonio Spurs: 15 best scorers in franchise history
By Jerran Anderson
The San Antonio Spurs have a rich history of titles and some of the top scorers in the league. Here’s a look at the 15 best scorers in franchise history.
The San Antonio Spurs had a down year by their own standards in 2017-18, finishing with a 47-35 record, but they still made the playoffs. They’ve brought a lot to the table as a franchise. They have won five NBA championships dating all the way back to 1999 with players with a variety of scoring options leading the charge.
The Spurs haven’t missed the postseason in the last 21 years and that shouldn’t change with head coach Gregg Popovich at the helm. Popovich has coached top big men in the NBA along with others with some international flavor to their game. Under his system, players have thrived with big-time scoring roles, off-court issues aside.
Most of them are sure to be hall of famers if they haven’t been inducted already. Even before Popovich’s arrival, San Antonio thrived on the likes of George “The Iceman” Gervin and David Robinson.
In their existence as a franchise, the Spurs have missed the playoffs just five times and have never missed one in back-to-back seasons. That’s thanks to some consistent scorers including some who revolutionized their own go-to moves. Here’s a look at the 15 best scorers in franchise history.
What better player than shooting guard Danny Green to set the tone for this list. Green currently ranks second in franchise history in 3-pointers made (959) despite averaging 9.1 points per game through eight seasons.
Green’s coming out party came prior to their 2014 title run. During the 2013 NBA Finals, he averaged 14.0 points while shooting 55.1 percent from 3-point range. His 7-of-9 performance from behind the arc sparked a Game 3 victory over the Miami Heat and set the record for most 3-pointers made in a series.
The next season, the Spurs won the 2014 NBA Finals in a rematch against the Heat. Green didn’t have quite the impact he did the year prior, but he was still 45 percent from 3-point land while averaging 9.2 points per game.
It’s taken Green a while to find his niche and it might even need some adjusting as his scoring numbers have dropped in the previous seasons. He put up 8.6 points per game in 2017-18 while shooting 36.3 percent from 3. During the 2013-14 NBA season, Green was shooting 41.5 percent from 3-point range.
He’ll need to find his scoring mojo soon, especially since it looks like their scoring leader Kawhi Leonard is on his way out. Things changed for Green as he developed his 3-point shooting prowess but still, he’s one of the best 3-pointer shooters in team history.
Next: No. 14
Forward Terry Cummings was quite the decorated player when he arrived via trade to the Spurs. He won the Rookie of the Year award with the San Diego Clippers and made two All-Star appearances with the Milwaukee Bucks. He was traded by the Bucks prior to the 1989-90 season for guard Alvin Robertson. On the Spurs roster to begin that year were rookies Sean Elliott and David Robinson, two familiar names to the avid basketball fan.
Cummings put up 22.4 points and 8.4 rebounds in his first season with the Spurs alongside the rookie duo. In the postseason, he averaged 24.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game as San Antonio made it all the way to the Western Conference Semifinals.
He posted three games with over 30 points against the Portland Trail Blazers trio of Clyde Drexler, Jerome Kersey and Terry Porter. It still wasn’t enough as the Spurs fell in seven games.
The following two seasons, Cummings proved useful in the scoring department, averaging 17.6 and 17.3 points per contests respectively. He brought a nice combination of mid-range and post moves to the table. His career took a turn for the worst when he tore his ACL in a summer pickup game in 1992.
He remains as one of only six players in Spurs history to score over 50 points in a regular season game. Cummings put up 52 points back on Jan. 31, 1990 in a 129-95 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
He averaged 14.4 points per game in six seasons with the Spurs. Currently, he ranks 19th all-time on the franchise scoring list with 5,181 points.
Next: No. 13
Alvin Robertson made his impact felt as a member of the Spurs the moment he arrived in 1984. He was selected seventh overall by San Antonio in the 1984 NBA Draft out of the University of Arkansas.
By his second season, he was a regular starter, averaging 17.0 points per game. That wasn’t all he could do either, as he proved to be one of the top defensive players in the NBA. He took home both the Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player awards in 1985-86.
On Feb. 18, 1986, he notched a quadruple-double (20 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals) against the Phoenix Suns. The Spurs won the game, 120-114. Robertson is one of only four players in the history of the NBA to achieve a quadruple-double in the game. It’s a feat that’s never been accomplished more than once.
Despite his impact, San Antonio only made the postseason twice in Robertson’s tenure. They never made it out of the first round of postseason play. He put up 23.3 points, 9.3 assists and 4.0 steals per game during the 1988 NBA Playoffs. The Spurs fell in that series in three games to Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers, eventual NBA champions that year.
In five seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, Robertson put up 6,285 points (16.2 points per game). He was a coveted starter all the way up until he was dealt to the Milwaukee Bucks with Greg Anderson and a 1989 second-round draft pick for Terry Cummings.
Next: No. 12
Artis Gilmore is another player who shined as a two-way star for the Spurs alongside George Gervin. Gilmore was the next biggest thing to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar back in his days as both an ABA and NBA star.
Prior to the Spurs, he played five seasons in the ABA with the Kentucky Colonels (1971-76) winning the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in 1971-72.
He was drafted to the NBA by the Chicago Bulls in 1976 where spent seven seasons until the 1982 offseason. Gilmore was traded to the Spurs for Dave Corzine, Mark Olberding and cash considerations.
Gilmore’s impact on the Spurs was felt immediately as he made an All-Star appearance in 1982-83, his second in a row, averaging 18.0 points and 12.0 rebounds per game. He led the league in field goal percentage (62.6) some he did for the past two seasons for the Bulls.
In the 1983 playoffs, he averaged 19.8 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks up as San Antonio lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games in the Western Conference Finals.
Gilmore averaged a double-double in three of the five seasons and made two All-Star appearances as a member of the Spurs. He is the current franchise leader in field goal percentage (62 percent) and produced 6,127 points in his time as a Spur.
In 2011, Gilmore was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame for his contributions to the game of basketball. The 7-foot-2 big man certainly made an impact as one of the top players in the league.
Next: No. 11
Point guard Avery Johnson played a pivotal role in his 10 seasons with the Spurs. After all, he was a member of the first Spurs’ team to win an NBA championship.
Johnson played for San Antonio on two separate occasions during his 16 years as an NBA pro. He played for them as a reserve from 1990-92 before returning prior to the 1994-95 season as a free agent.
He became the starting point guard as entered the prime of his career at 29 years old. There were some roadblocks in the early going, particularly in the playoffs, but Johnson and company figured it out in the end.
Alongside Tim Duncan and David Robinson, Johnson was indispensable as the floor general en route to the Spurs first NBA title in 1999. Johnson’s 21 points and 10 assists to open the first round against the Minnesota Timberwolves set the tone for San Antonio’s run.
After losing Game 2, Johnson was an efficient 12-of-15 (80 percent) with 24 points, six assists and five rebounds as San Antonio would go on to win 12 games in the postseason on their way to the championship.
It was the only title Avery Johnson won with an NBA team. He suited up for five other franchises outside of the Spurs. He made the most impact though with San Antonio, averaging a career-best 10.1 points and 6.9 assists per game in 10 seasons. Johnson currently ranks 11th all-time on the franchise career scoring list (6,486 points).
Next: No. 10
Kawhi Leonard is just reaching the prime of his career with the Spurs. After battling a leg injury this past season, it looks like Leonard is now on the way out.
Leonard has enjoyed a successful and decorated career so far since being drafted 15th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. It took him a while to grow into his role as a primary scoring option but he blossomed as a two-way starter.
He took home the Defensive Player of the Year award during the 2014-15 NBA season, the same year San Antonio won their fifth title in franchise history. Leonard fittingly took home the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award after putting up 17.8 points per game against LeBron James and the Miami Heat in five games.
He shot 61.2 percent from the field and 57.9 percent from 3-point range in the series. Efficiency has been the name of the game for Leonard in crunch time and it’s shown as career’s progressed.
Leonard put up a career-high 25.5 points in the 2016-17 season. With no Tim Duncan on the floor, volume became the name of the game for Kawhi and it carried them at least to the Western Conference Finals. Leonard was knocked out in Game 1 of that series against Golden State Warriors due to injury.
Speaking of injuries, the latest injury Leonard has suffered has seemed to leave a bit of sour taste in the mouth of both sides. After playing just nine games in 2017-18, Leonard looks ready to move on and the Spurs will abide by trading him only to the Eastern Conference.
Next: No. 9
Larry Kenon aka Special K was a nice change of pace on the wing alongside George Gervin back in his time with the Spurs. Kenon got his start in the ABA and eventually went along with the merger with the NBA when San Antonio became a franchise.
Kenon averaged 20.7 points and 10.3 rebounds as a member of the Spurs. His efficiency from the field earned him back-to-back All-Star nods during the 1977-78 and 1978-79 seasons.
During the 1978-79 season, he averaged a career-high 22.1 points per game while shooting 50.4 percent from the floor. At 6-foot-9, Special K was able to show off his versatility in a variety of ways back then. He put up a career-high 51 points, the lone 50-point game of his career, against the Detroit Pistons that season.
His stellar play carried over into the 1979 NBA Playoffs where he averaged 21.1 points and 11.4 rebounds. 4.1 of the rebounds were of the offensive variety.
Whether on the glass, on the break or in the paint, Kenon made his presence felt as a scorer despite playing just five seasons for the Spurs. His value eventually outweighed his contributions when he was let go to the Chicago Bulls for future draft picks.
Kenon would go onto play for the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers before his career came to an end in the 1982-83 season. He produced 8,248 points as a member of the Spurs franchise while shooting 49.1 percent from the floor throughout his career.
Next: No. 8
Small forward Mike Mitchell never made an All-Star appearance in his tenure with the Spurs, but that didn’t deter him from producing as a scorer. He was a staple in the Spurs starting rotation from his arrival all the way up until he retired after the 1987-88 season.
In seven seasons with San Antonio, Mitchell racked up 9,799 points, nearly eclipsing the 10,000 point mark with the franchise. He averaged 20.1 points on 49.3 percent shooting with volume being the name of the game. He attempted 17.3 field goals per contest through 488 games.
Mitchell attempted the most field goals of his career against the Phoenix Suns on Dec. 15, 1984, when he went 17-of-35 from the field. Fittingly, he finished with 38 points and the Spurs won the game 120-111.
Mostly known for his mid-range jumper, Mitchell was a solid small forward with a 6-foot-7, 215-pound frame. It was effective as he shot over 50 percent in his first two seasons with the Spurs.
Mitchell is one of those players just outside the 10,000-point plateau in career points. Six players have surpassed the 10,000-point mark, while three others have surpassed the 20,000-point mark.
Unfortunately, Mitchell’s scoring prowess faltered as time went on in postseason play. In his postseason debut, he averaged 24.8 points per game. Despite getting swept by the Lakers, Mitchell managed to average 25.8 points per contest. In his final postseason, his point production tapered off to 10.3 points per game.
Next: No. 7
Sean Elliott is another member of the Spurs first NBA title team. He played a pivotal role alongside their core of David Robinson and Tim Duncan, winning his first ring at the age of 30.
It took a lot of postseasons, six to be exact before Elliott reached the elusive NBA championship in 1999. He averaged 11.2 points during the regular season but turned things up a notch in the postseason.
He averaged 12.0 points in the first round against the Timberwolves and 13.8 points against the Lakers in the Conference Semifinals. In the Conference Finals, he put up 15.0 points on 47.4 percent shooting from 3-point range as the Spurs swept the Portland Trail Blazers. The Memorial Day Miracle was highlighted by Elliott’s sixth 3-pointer to lift the Spurs to an 86-85 victory in Game 2.
By the time the Finals arrived, their duo of Tim Duncan and David Robinson was pretty much unstoppable, making Elliot’s job even easier as a scorer.
As his career progressed, he became quite the 3-point marksman, making a career-high 22 3-pointers on 40 percent shooting from 3-point range during the 1999 NBA Playoffs.
Elliott currently ranks fifth all-time in 3-pointers made (563) and eighth in career points (9,659) in Spurs franchise history. He put up 14.4 points per game in 11 seasons with the team. He made two All-Star appearances as well in the 1992-93 and 1995-96 seasons.
His best point average came during 1995-96 when he averaged 20.0 points on 46.6 percent shooting from the floor and 41.1 percent from 3-point range. In his final season with San Antonio in 2000-01, he shot a career-high 42.6 percent from 3-point range.
Next: No. 6
6-foot-2 guard James Silas got his start in the NBA a bit late and it took some adjusting. By the time his career was over with, though, Silas became as lethal of a scoring guard as George Gervin.
In the ABA, Silas came into his own, especially in 1975-76, when he averaged 23.8 points per contest. He shot 51.9 percent from the field as he made his second straight All-Star appearance with the Spurs of the ABA. He achieved 2,000 total points during the regular season for the only time in his career during that season.
When the Spurs merged with the NBA, Silas numbers dipped in the first two seasons, but by the third season, he found his stride again. He averaged 16.0 points per game in 1978-79 and 17.7 points from 1979-81.
Silas scored a career-high 35 points against the Washington Wizards on Nov. 23, 1979, showing off his ability to not only score, but also get to the free throw line. Despite his short stature, Silas currently ranks sixth all-time in free throws made (2,926) in franchise history. He shot 85.5 percent from the free throw line in his career with San Antonio.
Silas went 17-of-19 from the free throw line, a career-high, on Feb. 16, 1979, against the Trail Blazers as the team won by a point, 121-120, in overtime. So it’s a good thing he also had accuracy with his knack for getting to the free throw stripe.
Next: No. 5
Manu Ginobili is one of the most decorated Spurs to play the game of basketball. He’s a four-time NBA champion, 2007-08 Sixth Man of the Year and two-time All-Star whose time with the Spurs will be remembered for years to come.
Ginobili made his presence felt on the FIBA circuit with Argentina’s national squad, as they pioneered an upset of Team USA during the summer of 2002. Three seasons later, he was named to his first All-Star game during the 2004-05 season.
He averaged 16.0 points per game while shooting 47.1 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from 3-point range. During the 2007-08 season, he averaged a career-high 19.5 points inexplicably off the bench, so it’s no wonder he was named the Sixth Man of the Year.
Impressively enough, he’s withstood the test of time and won a ring 11 seasons apart from his first one as a rookie. His impact changed of course; by the last championship, he averaged 14.3 points per game. As a rookie, he averaged 9.4 points in the playoffs.
Ginobili brought a slick combination of ball fakes, 3-pointers and the well-known Euro-step to the forefront. He’s put up 40+ performances on six different occasions as a Spur. He is the current leader in 3-point field goals made (1,495) and fifth all-time in field goals made (4,584).
At 40, Manu has put in a quality 16 seasons of work into his Spurs’ legacy. He’ll have a decision to make this summer if he’ll return for his 17th season. He’s got 14,043 points under his belt if he doesn’t return, so let see how this offseason plays out.
Next: No. 4
Point guard Tony Parker is another player who has been part of the last four Spurs championships. Parker is another international player who has brought his own contributions to the table.
The French national earned the 2007 NBA Finals MVP award for his performance in a 4-0 sweep against the Cavaliers and a young LeBron James. He averaged a team-high 24.5 points as the Spurs cruised to an easy sweep. Parker shot 56.8 percent from the floor in the series.
His efficiency has come on tough buckets in the paint. He hasn’t attempted over 90 3-pointers since the 2004-05 season. Still, Parker currently ranks third all-time in field goals made (7,564) in franchise history.
Outside of his Finals MVP award, he also has six All-Star appearances under his belt for his play. He’s a member of the Spurs’ 50-point club as well. He put up a career-high 55 points on 22-of-36 shooting against the Timberwolves back on Nov. 5, 2008.
Parker also put up 40 points or more in four games throughout his Spurs tenure. Though his most recent 40-point game came on April 25, 2009, when he scored 43 points in a 99-90 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the postseason.
As Parker is 36 years old and counting, the San Antonio Spurs look to be in a turning point as a franchise. After all, Parker did move to a reserve role in 2017-18 behind Dejounte Murray. It will be interesting to see how he fares in 2018-19 as a full-time reserve.
Next: No. 3
Big man David Robinson set the tone for all 7-foot-1 guys across the league with his bruiser scoring on the interior. As a rookie, he made waves averaging 24.3 points and 12.3 rebounds along with 3.9 blocks per game in 1989-90. He took home the Rookie of the Year that season while making his first of seven straight All-Star appearances.
In 1990-91, Robinson set the bar rebounding by averaging a career-high 13.0 per contest and ending up as the season’s rebounding champion. In 1991-92, he set the bar with blocks averaging a career-high 4.5 per contest, ending up as the season’s block champion.
During the 1993-94 season, he took home the NBA’s scoring title, averaging a career-high 29.8 points per game. He scored a franchise record 71 points in a game that season against the Los Angeles Clippers on April 24, 1994. He was 26-of-41 (63.4 percent) from the field and 18-of-25 (72 percent) from the free throw line in the game.
In the Spurs’ first quest to an NBA title, Robinson played one-half of the Twin Towers alongside rising star Tim Duncan. Next, to Duncan, Robinson averaged 16.6 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in the 1999 NBA Finals. At 33 years old, Robinson understood his role as a paint presence and complement to Duncan and thrived in the role.
His second trip to the NBA Finals came during the 2003 NBA Playoffs. At 37 years old, he was able to average 10.8 points per contest against the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals.
After averaging 21.1 points and accumulating 20,790 points across 14 seasons, he went out with a championship under his belt and touted as one of the best centers in the league. Fittingly, Robinson went out with a bang, retiring after the 2002-03 season. He was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2009.
Next: No. 2
Tim Duncan is one of the top scorers on this list for a lot of reasons; the biggest reason being he was a member of all five Spurs’ teams that won an NBA title. Duncan won NBA titles in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014 making his induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame all but inevitable.
Duncan revolutionized the traditional big man with his mix of hook and bank shots in the post. As a rookie in 1997-98, he shot 54.9 percent from the field while scoring 21.1 points per game. He took home the Rookie of the Year award for his performance.
Duncan took home Finals MVP in the 1999, 2003 and 2005 NBA Playoffs along with the NBA’s MVP award during the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons. He averaged 23.3 points that season a year after averaging a career-high 25.5 points the season prior, taking home back-to-back MVP awards, a first for a San Antonio Spur.
During the 2001-02 season, he put up a career-high 53 points on 19-of-28 (67.9 percent) shooting. His efficiency in the paint was unmatched and when he found his rhythm, which was often, the Spurs found success.
Duncan’s time as a member of the Spurs saw him selected to 15 All-Star games, an All-Star MVP award and 15 appearances on both the All-NBA and All-Defensive teams. He averaged 19.0 points through 19 seasons with the Spurs and ranks first all-time in career points with 26,496.
Next: No. 1
“The Iceman” George Gervin is second all-time on the franchise scoring list, but he ranks first in career points per game with 26.3 points per contest. Gervin spent just 12 seasons with the Spurs, making sky-high layups and incredible shots the norm, given his nickname, The Iceman.
The Iceman scored in a plethora of ways en route to winning four NBA scoring titles in three consecutive seasons in a row from 1977-80. He averaged a career-high 33.1 points on 52.8 percent shooting from the field during the 1979-80 campaign.
He doesn’t hold the single-game scoring record, but he came close on April 9, 1978 against the New Orleans Jazz. Gervin put up a career-high 63 points on 23-of-49 shooting from the floor, although the team fell 153-132 in the final game of the regular season.
He was quite the scoring specialist as he produced four games with 50 points or more and 63 games with over 40 points or more during his time with San Antonio. To put that in perspective, David Robinson had just 23 games with 40 points or more in his career. Tim Duncan had just five games with over 40 points or more.
Despite his scoring ability, Gervin and the Spurs couldn’t find a way to win a championship. They did make it to the Conference Finals on two separate occasions but couldn’t get past the Lakers or the Bullets in the postseason.
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Still, Gervin made his mark on the game with his smooth game and teardrop layups. He was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1996 for his play and remains one of the most efficient scorers in franchise history.