On the second official day of voting, we covered San Antonio Spurs wings who left their mark on the storied franchise including some divisive players.
The first round of our Role Player Bracket Challenge continued on Sunday as fans voted on the greatest role-playing wings in San Antonio Spurs history. Another 16 players faced off with two underdogs – Marco Belinelli and Chuck Person – upsetting as 10th and ninth seeds respectively.
Belinelli was matched up against small forward Richard Jefferson in what I’d consider one of the more peculiar face-offs of the first-round. Jefferson is a divisive figure in Spurs history because of his sharp tongue and various clashes with head coach Gregg Popovich.
San Antonio moved off of some beloved players in one of our winners, Bruce Bowen, and Fabricio Oberto to bring Jefferson along. He never really meshed with San Antonio’s playstyle and has since been cheeky at any chance he can when speaking about the team. He was a better player than Belinelli ever was, but he couldn’t align with Spurs culture and fans will never let that go.
Marco himself has been a target for the Spurs community—particularly because he blocks fans on social media at the drop of a hat. In his most recent stint with San Antonio, Belinelli’s play has significantly declined and Coach Pop continues giving him playing time over younger players. Even so, Belinelli has averaged 9.6 points per game on 38.8 percent three-point shooting.
Only two players – shooting guard Danny Green and Bowen – won with at least 90 percent of votes while the closest matchup finished by a margin of 10.4 percent. The second-closest matchup finished with a 41.6 percent margin between the sixth and 11th seeds.
Before we discuss the biggest winners of the round, we need to talk about the players who’ve been eliminated before ever getting a chance to compete for the crown.
Next: Popularity runs the show
Popular players come up big in Wings bracket
Seeding was difficult because a certain conglomerate of players never had a fair shot in the bracket. The last three players in the bracket were forward Kyle Anderson, wing Jonathon Simmons and sophomore Lonnie Walker IV, who’ve all left their marks on the team throughout the last five seasons.
Walker, in particular, gained some traction as a 16th seed with 14.1 percent of votes. Even though Spurs fans expect him to be a big part of what’s to come, Walker has only just begun as a full-time member of the team’s rotation. He’s currently playing a role, though he has star potential, and may have put up a much better fight had he been slotted with a higher seed.
Though Simmons is a valued member of recent Spurs history, his story was better than his actual value to the team. Paying to try out for the Austin Spurs and working his way up the rotation, Simmons spent two years in the silver and black before pursuing a greater payout with the Orlando Magic in the summer of 2017.
He was someone fans rallied behind, as was Anderson, but they each moved on in favor of a greater role and lacked the time needed to advance in the bracket.
One of the most underrated players in Spurs history is Willie Anderson, who averaged 13.2 points and 4.2 assists per game across seven seasons in San Antonio. He played in the Alamo City from 1988-95 with his best season coming in his first year in the league. Anderson’s role grew lighter once franchise star David Robinson left the Navy and began playing for San Antonio, but he did a great job of filling the stat sheet while he was on the team.
Shooting guard Vinny Del Negro also spent a large portion of his career alongside Robinson, averaging 11.2 points and 3.6 assists on 48.2 percent from the floor in his Spurs career and slotted as the 11th seed against Brent Barry. Even though Barry’s time in San Antonio wasn’t as long as Del Negro’s, he left more of a lasting impression on many of the fans while Del Negro was a solid role player and not much more.
Both Roger Mason and Mario Elie spent two years off the bench in San Antonio, putting up moderate stat lines before moving on to different stages of their careers. Mason didn’t stand much of a chance against Stephen Jackson, but Elie put up a solid battle against Michael Finley.
Next: Legitimate contenders reveal themselves
Serious contenders separate themselves from the pack
This isn’t meant to discredit the other role players at different positions, but the Wings section of the bracket has some real serious contenders. The No. 1 seed, Sean Elliott, has two different reasons for being at the top of the bracket with the first being that he spent all but one season of his 11-year playing career in the Alamo City. The second, however, is that he’s been one of the most noteworthy voices in Spurs basketball for over 10 years as the color commentator for games on Fox Sports Southwest.
Elliott tallied 85.9 percent of votes against Walker, giving him the third-highest win margin of any player in this section of the bracket. The runner-up, Bowen, was the crucial wing standing in the middle of three championship lineups in 2003, 2005 and 2006. He was an eight-time All-Defensive selection and one of the greatest perimeter defenders the game has ever known.
However, the No. 1 vote-getter was the man who’s No. 3 on the Spurs’ all-time three-point shooting list. Danny Green’s best season with the Spurs was in the 2014-15 season when he averaged 11.7 points, 4.2 boards, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. He’s the only non-big man in the Spurs’ top 10 all-time block leaders, clocking in at No. 8.
Like Bowen before him, Jackson brought the toughness to Spurs teams across two stints for four total seasons. His best year in the silver and black was the 2003 championship season, during which he averaged 11.8 points, 3.6 boards and an impressive 1.6 steals in 28 minutes per game. Jax is a hardnosed player whose legacy in San Antonio will always be characterized by his grit.
After killing the Spurs while playing for the interstate rival Dallas Mavericks, Michael Finley spent five years in San Antonio with a role reduced from what he was used to. Even so, he did it with grace and swagger as a supreme three-point shooter and underrated athlete. He posted the highest effective field goal percentage of his career (53.2 percent) in San Antonio in the 2008-09 season.
Similarly to Finley, Brent Barry is remembered for being a marksman and a stellar dunker. He was on two Spurs championship teams and shot 40.3 percent from three in his four years in San Antonio. He finished his career with one last season in Houston but returned to the Spurs as vice president of basketball operations last year.
Next: Moving on to the guards
Rattling off Spurs guards in the next section of the bracket
Now that we’ve covered the first-round of San Antonio Spurs wings, we’re tallying votes on the greatest role-playing guards in franchise history. We’ve published the poll on our Twitter account, which is where all of our voting is taking place by fans for fans.
There are some tough matchups in this one including a handful of modern Spurs players like the guard combo of the future, Dejounte Murray and Derrick White. However, they’ve got plenty of time to go before climbing into the top-five of Spurs point guards in confined roles. Like Walker, these players could be more than just role players, but they have to go out and prove that before making their way off this list.
The matchups are as follows:
6. Dejounte Murray vs. 11. Gary Neal
7. Derrick White vs. 10, Johnny Dawkins
More from Air Alamo
- San Antonio Spurs: White’s return to form skyrockets Spurs potential
- San Antonio Spurs: Four trade partners to watch for as deadline nears
- Predicting Spurs’ week 9 results, featuring trap games abound
- San Antonio Spurs: Jakob Poeltl reasserting himself as a defensive force
- San Antonio Spurs: Trading for John Collins still a longshot for Spurs
The final matchup between Hill and Kerr is going to be like pulling teeth for a lot of Spurs fans. Head coach Gregg Popovich personally attests to both of these players’ work ethics and basketball IQs. There are some lesser-known players from the olden days who’re going to be overlooked.
This is the portion of the bracket with the most current-day Spurs. There are four players currently on the team who’ve crept into the guard matchup which makes sense since the Spurs’ roster is skewed so far in that direction roster-wise. Rookies like Keldon Johnson, Luka Samanic and Quinndary Weatherspoon don’t qualify since their futures with the team aren’t established yet.
I highly encourage you to get out there and vote on this round! The greater the voter turnout, the more accurate our results will be!
We’ll be back with results and the next round of polling, which is the Centers portion of the bracket. That’ll conclude the first round, and I’ll update the official bracket at that point.