San Antonio Spurs: Five current NBA players that feel like future Spurs
For the San Antonio Spurs, there are specific qualities that the franchise looks for when acquiring talent and these players fit the description.
As recognized by the hardcore NBA fan or hoops junkies residing in the Southwest, the San Antonio Spurs hold their players and personnel to a specific standard of conduct. They look to bring along players who fit certain qualifications and people that bring a level of intelligence and nobility that can uphold their values as an organization. San Antonio doesn’t just want good basketball players—it wants good citizens and unselfish players.
With that in mind, San Antonio’s scouting department has a challenge that far exceeds that of its competitors around the league. Granted, sometimes all it takes is a simple conversation to know whether or not someone has what it takes to be a Spur. And yet, sometimes it takes the foresight of the fans to know that a player has what it takes to don silver and black.
That’s why members of the Spurs online community see the same few names popping up over their years in these circles. Some are realistic and others, not so much, but there’s a good reason for all of these individuals to don silver and black at some point in their careers.
Whether it be for their community efforts off the court, or their intricate play style on it, the Spurs are an entity that holds true to themselves and requires that same methodology from their players. Due to the financial implications and roster construction, it’s not feasible for all of these players to end up in San Antonio.
Still, these players have Spurs written all over them and would make total sense in the long run.
Next: A man amongst boys in the paint
Since he was a rookie, Steven Adams has shown San Antonio Spurs qualities.
From his quirky personality to his commanding presence in the paint, there’s been a quiet admiration between Adams and the Spurs for some time now. The New Zealander wrote in his book, “Steven Adams: My Life, My Fight” that he hoped he’d get drafted by the silver and black back in 2013, citing his hope to play with Tim Duncan and under Gregg Popovich.
His respect for the organization already makes him a good fit because it’s evident that he’s up for the challenge of playing in the River City. Popovich, for as wonderful as he is, can be very demanding and players know what they’re getting into when they join this team. Adams is clearly willing to tackle that task and learn from one of the best organizations in professional sports.
Given his outward longing to be a Spur, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him join the team down the road. Though it’s not the San Antonio team he became accustomed to seeing all those years ago, the team’s values are still in place and it’s a team that would help him achieve new heights in his playing career.
Adams’ $27.5 million payout in the 2020-21 season is the last of the four-year deal that he signed with the Thunder in 2017. It’s pretty obvious that he’s been overplayed for his services up to that point and chances are, the market for a center like himself isn’t going to be robust come next year.
It’s feasible that San Antonio brings him along to fill up center minutes when LaMarcus Aldridge hits unrestricted free agency at the same time.
Next: Three-time Sportsmanship Award winner
The San Antonio Spurs and Mike Conley have always made sense for each other.
Throughout his 12 seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, Mike Conley and the Spurs became quite accustomed to each other. The two franchises dueled on many occasions with each side coming away with a handful of victories, but ultimately, the Grizz played little brother to the storied championship Spurs.
Conley grew a strong admiration for the Spurs in that span and Popovich felt the same way about the veteran point guard. After spending the majority of his career in one city, earning a handful of records along the way, Conley is finally on to the stage of his career where he can entertain new possibilities as he ages out of the NBA.
Playing for the Utah Jazz, Conley struggled to overcome injury and adjustment issues for the majority of this season. He began to come along before the hiatus, but Conley had a hard time playing off the ball with Donovan Mitchell commanding the offense and he repeatedly got benched in favor of alternative lineups.
Even with that being the case, Conley is still putting up solid numbers in a reduced role. His shooting splits wouldn’t suggest it, but he’s done a good job hitting outside jumpers and initiating offense for a team that’s asked him to do very little compared to what he’s used to. This season, he’s averaging 13.8 points, 4.3 assists and 3.2 rebounds in 28.6 minutes per contest while providing the positive veteran guidance that you’d expect from a three-time NBA Sportsmanship Award winner.
Entering the twilight of his career, Conley is going to get his salary reduced massively when he enters free agency next and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Spurs bring him on as a veteran mentor and two-way point guard off the bench.
Next: A borderline All-Star looking for his big break
With help from the San Antonio Spurs, Tobias Harris can reach the next level.
Openly one of the most curious and generous players in the NBA, Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris is an ideal fit for the Spurs both on and off the court. His engagement with the many communities he’s been a part of during his NBA career shows selflessness and care that are necessary for any player looking to build a legacy in silver and black.
Aside from the great person he is off the court, Harris makes sense as a longterm fit on it. He’s only 27 years old and at 6-foot-8 with a stocky frame, he’s capable of playing both forward positions for a team that desperately needs it. Interestingly, the Sixers are much better with him on the floor this year compared with other talented players like Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle.
Harris puts in work on both ends of the floor to fill gaps for his teams. On the Spurs, he could take on off-ball scoring duties while filling up the stat sheet with rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. His scoring would provide a nice punch to supplement the scoring load currently upheld by Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan.
Putting Harris in the consistent development system that the Spurs can offer him would help the borderline All-Star to reach that mark—especially if he’s the leading scorer of the team. His playstyle doesn’t require him to have the ball in his hands all of the time, but he can carry an offensive workload when his team needs that from him. His unselfish approach to the sport is one that many players need to adapt when joining San Antonio’s team and with that coming so innately, it’d only make sense for the Spurs to look at Harris as a fit in the future.
Next: A rookie with signs of something great
Rui Hachimura didn’t fall to the San Antonio Spurs in the draft, but it wouldn’t be surprising for him to land with them some time down the line.
During the leadup to the 2019 NBA Draft, Spurs Twitter was fixated on Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura, whose draft stock rose closer to the June draft date. He ended up getting picked by the Washington Wizards, who don’t have a great track record of success stories with the exceptions of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Hachimura, a 6-foot-8 power forward with a great feel for the game and a versatile, two-way skillset, made perfect sense for the Spurs at 19. He could play solid defense and alleviate some of the pressure from Aldridge as an off-ball scorer and weak-side defender. His speed and athleticism for a player of his size make him an ideal fit in the modern game and with the guidance that the Spurs could offer, he’d be able to tap into some of what made him a top-tier prospect.
Whether he does that in Washington is yet to be seen, though he asserted himself in his rookie season with the Wizards. Hachimura is averaging 13.4 points and six boards in just-under 30 minutes per game but failed to assert himself defensively the way he did in college. It doesn’t help when you’re drafted to the worst defensive team in the NBA, so that’s not totally on him.
Most players are either traded or leave Washington in free agency and it wouldn’t be surprising for Hachimura to fall into that trend. At Gonzaga, a consistent powerhouse in college basketball, he was groomed for success and taught how to use his raw skills and body to fulfill his potentially a basketball player. Still, there’s only so much you can learn in college before heading to the pros, and harboring that kind of developmental environment could help Rui reach for the sky.
Next: One of the league's most underrated intellectuals
Jaylen Brown’s mind and rapport with Coach Pop set him up for longterm success in silver and black.
There’s no denying that Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown is one of the most thoughtful players in the NBA. Studying at the University of California before going third overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, Brown is considered one of the smartest players in the league for his experience speaking at both Harvard and MIT about the importance of education. He led a march in Atlanta, GA most recently to stand up against racial injustice and is noted as having many passions beyond sports themselves.
San Antonio provides players with the resources and backing to support their endeavors beyond basketball. As Brown probably already knows considering his experience playing for Popovich during Team USA this summer, the Spurs harbor player’s intellect and do whatever they can to help their players be better people beyond basketball.
This could be very enticing to someone like Brown, who wants to be more than just an NBA player. He was the youngest player ever to be elected as Vice President of the National Basketball Player’s Association (NBPA)—a role that requires great integrity.
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Off the court, this is a match made in heaven and if the Celtics decide that pairing him with Jayson Tatum isn’t working out, they’ll look to trade Brown before their budding star in an instant.
If that ends up being the case at any point over the next few years, San Antonio should certainly consider throwing together a package. Even if it means sacrificing one of their young pieces and a draft pick, Brown is worth taking a swing at for his amazing two-way effort and athletic ability.
Brown fits perfectly with the young core. Slotting him into the Spurs’ lineup helps Lonnie Walker IV shift back to his natural two-guard position and adds another perimeter defender who can keep up with Dejounte Murray and Derrick White. Defense and athleticism are the two areas where the Spurs need the most improvement right now, so adding someone who can shoot, drive rebound and defend like Brown would put the Spurs back in position to compete for a championship.
He keeps getting better through his four years in the league and the Spurs would be significantly better with him around both on and off the court.