At the beginning of last season the only legit SF on the Spurs roster was Richard Jefferson. I don't have to tell anyone how the story of that season ends. Since then, the Spurs have added 2 small forwards and draft-and-stashed another. I wonder if Richard gets the message?
Part of what makes it hard to win a championship in the NBA, is that its pretty hard to get exactly the player you want, usually you have to make do with the most talented players you have even if their skills can get redundant. When a team accumulates more talent at a position then they have room for, a logjam occurs with not enough positional min to go around. The way to alleviate this is ultimately to trade away the excess talent at a position to fill other needs, but its not always possible or a good idea to do this right away. And so what ends up happening, and what happened to the Spurs last year, is the excess player play out of position to fill the holes. Thus, Manu and Anderson end up seeing min at the 3 to free up the logjam.
With the George Hill trade opening up mins at the 2 and bringing in new talent for the 3, a new logjam is emerging and it couldn't be clearer that RJ is the odd man out. Why so clear? I present the new SF rotation now and later 2 years out.
6'7" 230lb 19yr old SF-SG: Jack-of-all-trades, he was the "the man" at SDSU. A work-a-holic, in a defensive stoppers body. Character guy.
6'7" 230lb 23yr old SF-PF: Did a little of everything being "the man" at WV, has a chip on his shoulder and has proven be very tough mentally. Probably more offensively inclined but will hustle on defense. Character guy.
These guys couldn't be two more prototypical Spurs prospects. Kawhi is being considered the steal of the draft, has an impeccable work ethic, and really seems to pay attention to his defensive game. Butler stayed in college until he got his degree and speaks like he's got a BA too. If he wasn't humble before his injury, the road back certainly has humbled him - check out this Outside the Lines piece about his injury and rehab, you really get the impression of a guy with Bowen like determination to make it in this league.
Both of these guys were projected lottery picks that managed to make their way to us, by trade with Kawhi and due to injury with Butler (he says hes completely better, check out this interview with Jeff Garcia on the WV Sports Nation Page). They both should be ready to play as soon as the season happens, and potentially could both make the rotation this year.
So what happens to RJ? Obviously we want to trade him, but presumably can't do it for anything reasonable. So we keep him? Does he still get the bulk of min or even keep starting? Hell, could viable replacements on the roster actually motivate him to make it work? I turn these questions to you PTR, but first, there's one more twist that bears on the RJ situation.
6'10" 210lbs and growing 18yr SF
Ya, we drafted another Euro considered to have a very high ceiling, but this time we mean it. This guy already does enough well that few people doubt he will make it to the NBA eventually - I hear estimates of 2 years thrown around a lot. If we do end up keeping RJ for the next year or two, the eventual arrival of Bertans hopefully around 2013 may be the last straw before we trade him away for a pack of gum, or pressure him to exercise his player option by putting him as the 4th guy back on the SF depth chart. Or we may be stuck with him, or keep him as insurance in case Butler or Leonard doesn't work out. Thoughts?