I can haz backup? (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Just in case it wasn't made painfully obvious this past season, the Spurs could desperately use a small forward not named Richard Jefferson. That's not really RJ's fault; he's just the only small forward on the team. So, what else is out there? Quite a bit, actually.
Let's take a look.
What to look for
First, what qualities do we need? In my mind, the ideal SF is a guy who plays great defense and knocks down open shots at a good clip. Bruce Bowen was an excellent fit for this team because he provided both (and the defense was way beyond just great). We're not likely to land anyone as good as Bruce, but there are definitely options.
The Spurs Products and Draft Picks
Malik Hairston - Malik's better off sticking to SG, but his length and disgusting athleticism enable him to play the 3 with some success. I doubt Malik's roster spot is in any real danger - he just has to show once again why he earned rotation minutes in the latter half of the season. In fact, I'd like to see him spend the summer working on the corner 3. If he can nail those at a good rate, he's a virtual lock to make the team and be in the rotation.
Marcus Williams - I like Marcus, I really do . . . but he's going to have a tough time (yet again) making the team. His defense leaves a lot to be desired. He might be a good asset to have as an emergency option. Still, he's going to have to look better than the next two guys on this list - both in summer league and training camp - if he wants to land a spot on the Spurs' roster.
Alonzo Gee - I remember watching this guy in summer league last year and thinking that he looked better than some of the players that we've actually drafted. He was also the D-League rookie of the year, so he's definitely caught people's attention. He's athletic and has a knack for putting the ball in the basket, in addition to being a good rebounder for his position. He's probably the second most likely member of this group to be on the team this year behind Malik. He's also better off playing the 2, like Malik . . . but I think he's big enough and good enough for spot minutes.
James Gist - Wherefore art thou, James? He sort of fell off the face of the earth due to an injury, and then only played for about 1/4th of the season for Lokomotiv Kuban over in Russia. His stats weren't very good, but it's impossible to make a judgment with such a small sample size. We'll probably see James in summer league again if the Spurs are still interested.
Romain Sato - Here's a real dark horse. The Spurs drafted this kid a long time ago (he's now 28), and he's since become one of the best defensive players in Europe (according to some accounts I've read) while shooting 43% from three. However, he's definitely undersized at 6'5" (liberal estimate) despite having a huge wingspan.
Viktor Sanikidze - We've had his rights since 2007, and - like Sato - he seems to have had a great season in Italy. it wouldn't hurt to take another look. He's 6'8", and shoots the ball at a very good clip.
Most fans believe (and they're probably right) that the Spurs' best chance at landing a small forward who meets the criteria this off-season lies in the draft. The Spurs currently hold the #20 and #49 picks. Whoever they take with the 49th pick is probably not going to be useful next season, so I'd look for them to go after a foreign player who is already under contract for next season, or possibly even trade the pick for something else. And if Tiago Splitter is on his way, the Spurs can concentrate on getting a SF with that first-round pick. With that in mind, here are some of the names you can expect to be thrown around as possible targets for the Spurs:
(most of these names are taken from the DX Mock Draft)
Damion James - I'll confess to not watching a lot of college b-ball over the last year, but the highlights of James are pretty impressive. Also, he's a Longhorn, which is a very, very good quality. Oh, you want to know about basketball ability? With James, everyone seems to say the same thing: he's one tough customer. That's what I like to hear. It would be sooo nice to get another tough guy out there, especially on defense - we need it. Also, "wingspan" and "athleticism" are never dirty words, no matter what Pop says. I doubt he drops to us, but if he does. . . .
James Anderson - Calm down, CapHill. Anderson seems like more of a 2 than a 3, and we don't need smallish guys continuing to play the 3. Now, if we could somehow land a second first-round pick, I'd love to have this guy. He's one of the best pure scorers in the draft and would be a great option to bring off the bench behind Manu (or start in front of him, depending on how Pop sees it).
Gordon Hayward - Good basketball IQ, which is always a plus for Spurs prospects, but he's not a very good defender, and would be even more exposed against NBA small forwards. DX also says that his 3-point shooting suffered because he was the focal point of the Butler offense, but I still find it suspect. Not the guy I'd like the Spurs to take, but they could do much worse.
Stanley Robinson - This is the guy I want. Look at the list of strengths that DX has for him (BTW, they also have the Spurs drafting him in their mock - sweet). Among those strengths are efficiency, ability to contest shots, ability to defend multiple positions, lateral quickness--this guy is a natural defensive stopper. He's also 6'9" with a large wingspan - think George Hill, but 7 inches taller. Please FSM, let the Spurs land this exquisite defensive specimen.
Paul George - Good size and athleticism, and definitely a talented scorer. Average rebounder, but makes free throws at a 90% clip - not very Spur-like. The Spurs have already invited him and Xavier Henry in for workouts, so they might be feigning interest in him to throw other teams off the trail, or they could actually see him as part of the future. Only Pop and maybe a couple of other people know, and they're not talking.
Quincy Pondexter - A popular name at PtR for the last couple of months, Pondexter does a lot of things decently well, but isn't spectacular at any one thing. He's the quintessential role player, who can be helpful at both ends of the court while not standing out. This has endeared him to many of the Spurs faithful, but he's a bit undersized, which means that he wouldn't be an option as a smallball 4(and we all know there will be smallball).
Luke Babbitt - I should make something clear right off the top here: defense isn't something this guy does well. What he does do, however, is make 50% of his shots(and 42% of his threes). Even though many of us think the Spurs need more defense, do not be surprised if they opt for shooting in the draft and find defensive ability elsewhere. Except Babbitt does more than just shoot - he can drive, he can pass, and he seems to have a high b-ball IQ. Nope, it wouldn't be shocking at all - just not my choice.
Devin Ebanks - Good size, terrible three-point shooter. Also seems to have had some off-court issues, which won't endear him to the Spurs.
Darington Hobson - Little-known player from a relatively unheralded school. Sounds familiar, no? NBADraft.net even has us taking him... in the second round. Since the Spurs sometimes go for guys like this when others overlook them until later, this wouldn't be a shocking pick for me.
Nemanja Bjelica - Dude is 6'10", and currently plays the 2. Not kidding. He'd probably be more of a point-forward type in the NBA, however, so I'll put him here. Ridiculous size, good shooter... it wouldn't be shocking to see this be our second round pick, since getting these guys out of Europe always seems to be tough.
This is the least likely place for us to address the need at SF. Also, most of these guys are known commodities, so I won't bore you with lots of details. But here we go anyhow.
Raja Bell - He's likely to end up in Miami, but he brings everything we need, and has playoff chops, which is more than we can say about any draft pick. Undersized, but good enough defensively to make up for it.
Mike Miller - Likely to command more money than we can offer, but we'd have the MLE if Splitter doesn't come over. Miller would definitely help with our shooting woes.
Kyle Korver - See above.
Matt Barnes - He's not a great 3-point shooter, but he'd be a quality role player.
Michael Finley - tee hee
Linas Kleiza - Denver still holds his rights, but he's been the season MVP for Olympiacos(ahead of Childress, even).
Josh Howard - If the FSM is merciful, Howard will never sniff the home locker room at the AT&T Center.
Dorell Wright - Other than the DUI, seems like a Spurs guy. Good(enough) shooter, good defender.
Ime Udoka - It's out there. Deal with it.
Ronnie Brewer - If he doesn't take the qualifying offer, or if Memphis withdraws it, he'll be restricted. Can't shoot the 3 to save his life.
Travis Outlaw - Not a great defender, but he sure can score. Good shooter, and he would make a good smallball PF.
Josh Childress - Pretty please? Though he's technically still Atlanta property, they may look to sign and trade him, especially if they think they can get Joe Johnson back. If they can't get Johnson back, they may still be amenable to the idea of a sign-and-trade if they can land more scoring. Marvin Williams is an excellent defender in his own right, so Childress is more of a luxury to the Hawks than a necessity. Pick up the phone, RC.
This was going to be a lot longer, with some examples. But I like the idea of opening this up to suggestions for the PtR readership. As stated above, I like the idea of trading for Josh Childress - a lot. Manuwar also recently posted a Fanpost with lots of nice options (even though I find some of them a bit fantastic).
PtR, this is your chance to shine. Find some good trades out there that work financially and actually make sense for both teams. This means no Durant trades. Leave your ideas in the comments, and be sure to tell me how much my ideas up above suck. Thanks.