Without Tony Parker, could the San Antonio Spurs pursue a backup point guard in free agency or stay in-house?
For the first time since the 2000-01 season, the San Antonio Spurs will not roster Tony Parker, who signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets. No one from the “Big 3” era had departed the Silver and Black for another NBA team, as Tim Duncan stayed with the organization for all 19 years and Manu Ginobili has played 16 years in the Alamo City.
Without Parker, the Spurs must replace him in the rotation. Dejounte Murray is the starting point guard, but who will back him up like Parker did in the second half of the season?
The Spurs have in-house and out-of-house options to pursue at backup point guard. Who could replace the Frenchman?
3. Patty Mills
Tony Parker’s potential replacements start with Patty Mills, a seven-year member of the San Antonio Spurs; his 6-foot size and stature profile as a point guard, but skill-wise, he trends towards an undersized shooting guard.
Entering the 2017-18 season, Mills seemed in-line to become the temporary starter when Parker missed time with injury rehab. He remained on the bench, though, in the instant offense role of years past, but soon replaced Dejounte Murray in the starting lineup and racked up a handful of starts.
Mills has shown some ability to as a distributor, with a career mark of 2.3 assists per game, but he plays best as a scorer that supplements the ball handler. That’s given his career-high 5 three-pointers per game in 2017-18 and 2.8 assists in 25.7 minutes.
However, if the Spurs do not sign anyone in free agency, the backup spot is open for Mills. He would provide a different look than Murray, as a score-first guard rather than the pass-and-defense-first starter. It’s San Antonio’s safest best to replace Parker’s role.
Next: Free agency
2. Free agency
“Free agency” is general, but as of July 7, no reports have linked the San Antonio Spurs to free-agent point guards. That can change, of course, so who remains as options to become a backup to the starter?
Shabazz Napier is among the best available guards. It took a fourth season, but he finally broke through as a solid backup to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum with the Portland Trail Blazers, shooting 37.6 percent from 3-point range in a career-high 20.7 minutes per game.
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Shane Larkin comes as another inexpensive option at point guard. He stands at just 5-foot-11, but found a niche as a second or third-string player in a rotation and can stretch the floor.
If the Spurs want to replace a season veteran with another, Devin Harris sits on the open market. He’s hardly as decorated as Tony Parker, but stayed productive as a 35 year old, shooting nearly 35 percent on 3-pointers and playing in 71 games.
Jarrett Jack has a similar profile to Harris, except instead of better shooting he appeared in more of a playmaking role. The veteran’s minimum should work here.
The backup point guard options are not standout players in free agency, but San Antonio can still find someone for cheap. Will they seek out someone from the open market?
Next: Derrick White
1. Derrick White
The San Antonio Spurs own other in-house options and can explore free agency, but no Tony Parker should mean Derrick White receives the opportunity at playing time. Based on his three Summer League games, there’s no reason to think otherwise.
As of July 7, through three Summer League performances, White has averaged 23 points, 6.7 rebounds and an eye-opening 7 assists per game. It’s on 4 turnovers, a high number, but playmaking ability at least exists in the Colorado product’s game.
White’s G League stats show this was no anomaly, either, with 20.1 points, 5 rebounds and 3.3 assists on 45.2 percent shooting in 24 games. So the scoring upside is there against different levels of talent. Spurs fans have yet to see him in extended NBA time, however.
A change of the guard in San Antonio calls for a longer look at less experienced players. It’s not a rebuild (yet), but as players leave, prepare to depart and retire, this allows those with smaller roles to step up and become mainstays in the rotation.
The Spurs can take a chance of their scoring combo guard, to see how he performs as a playmaker. It’s, again, a supplement to Dejounte Murray’s work, and could make for an interesting, young point-guard pairing in the Alamo City.