3 Former San Antonio Spurs who would have been helpful this year
By Ethan Farina
These three former San Antonio Spurs all would have been able to help the team if they had still been on the roster this year
The saying “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” has never rung as true as it does now. With all of our lives disrupted by stay at home orders and everything else, I’ve found myself longing for things that used to be part of my day to day routine. I miss my commute to and from work, I miss just being able to go out and grab a bite with friends, and I miss the San Antonio Spurs.
As basketball fans, we often take role players for granted. They can be overlooked and underappreciated, we sometimes assume that whoever comes after them will be able to do the same job as well, if not better.
As the Spurs struggled this year their difficulties were amplified by the success that other former Spurs were having around the league. As an organization, the Spurs have been raided by opposing front offices and ownership groups seeking to slice off a bit of the success that they have had over the past twenty years.
None of the players we’re about to look at would be considered stars. They were all third options at best on their teams but having any one of them on the team this year would have gone a long way towards helping the Spurs fortunes.
Next: Pop's favorite player
A little backstory here, for a while George Hill was my favorite player on the Spurs. When he took over for Tony Parker while Parker battled injuries during the 2009-10 season there was something about him that just stood out. I wasn’t alone, Gregg Popovich has been very open about how fond he was of Hill.
As he told Johnathan Abrams with Bleacher Report Pop was scared of trading away a player he was high on for an unproven rookie. But the promise that Kawhi Leonard showed was too much and the Spurs had to include Hill in the deal with the Indiana Pacers that would land them the future Finals MVP.
After he left the Spurs, Hill has bounced around the league making stops in Indiana, Utah, Sacramento, Cleveland, and now Milwaukee. The same traits that made him a favorite of Gregg Popovich have helped him maintain his place as a starting guard or key reserve throughout his career.
Early in his tenure with the Spurs, Bruce Bowen made it clear to Hill that he needed to develop his 3-point shot. Hill took that advice to heart. He’s connected on 38.5 percent of his three’s throughout his career and was leading the league at 48 percent from deep before the season was suspended.
Like all Spurs, playing defense was necessary before Hill would be allowed to see the floor. That’s stayed with him and he helped the Bucks weather injuries to their backcourt and still have the best defensive rating in the NBA.
His two-way impact would have done wonders for a San Antonio Spurs team that struggled with 3-point shooting and perimeter defenses all season.
Next: A versatile big man
Among other strange NBA storylines that happened this year, the Phoenix Suns started the year 5-2 and there was real talk that they could be a dark horse playoff contender. As they were having success while their former number one overall pick Deandre Ayton was suspended it didn’t take long before questions like “Are the Suns better off with Aron Baynes than Deandre Ayton?” started popping up. Yes, it got that weird.
I would contend that while the Suns are certainly not better with Baynes than they are with Ayton, almost every team in the NBA would be better off with a guy like Baynes on their team. He does all of the things that you could ask from a big man, and then some.
After helping the Spurs capture their most recent title back in 2014, Baynes played one more season in Texas before heading north to sign with the Detroit Pistons. Since he left San Antonio he has improved as a passer and added an outside shot to his game.
Baynes shot 35 percent from deep this year and joined James Harden as the only players to record 35 points, 15+ rebounds, and 9 3-pointers in a single game. If you had told someone back in 2014 that Tom Brady would be playing in Tampa Bay, a man named Joe Exotic had captured the nation’s attention, and Aron Baynes was hitting step-back three’s they would think you were crazy. But here we are.
The Spurs lacked any floor-spacing big men until LaMarcus Aldridge started letting it go from deep in mid-December. Baynes could have brought that aspect of the game, as well as being a powerful inside presence, from the very start.
Next: A long-range marksman
Say it with me Spurs fans: “I am not going to get overly emotional that the Spurs traded away one of the best 3-point shooters in the league to bring in a guy who played 135 minutes for them before eventually being bought out and signing with our in-state rivals.” Okay, now that that’s out of the way, holy cow I miss Davis Bertans.
Even when he was with the San Antonio Spurs, Bertans was known as a lights-out 3-point shooter. Even as the Spurs were near the bottom of the league in 3-point attempts last year they were still able to overcome that because they were the most accurate 3-point shooting team in the league. Bertans dead-eye marksmanship from deep was a huge part of that.
In his first season with the Washington Wizards, Bertans went from a guy that Spurs fans and die-hard NBA junkies knew of to a player who was known on the national stage for his 3-point shooting. He nearly doubled the amount of thee’s he was taking per game, and almost doubled his scoring average as well, without sacrificing any accuracy.
The bungling of the Marcus Morris and DeMarre Carroll situations is painful enough on its face but that it cost the Spurs one of the best 3-point shooters in the league takes it from painful to flat out embarrassing. For a front office that has rarely whiffed on such an extreme level, this was a harsh splash of reality.
The good news is that Bertans will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The San Antonio Spurs will have a chance to bring him back if they want. The bad news, after a breakout season and garnering as much attention as he did it’ll cost the Spurs a hefty sum to bring Bertans back to where his career started.
Everyone makes mistakes and everyone lets good things slip away. Some of these players left of their own accord and some were the cost of doing business but all could have had significant impacts on the San Antonio Spurs season had they still been with the team.