Like every September, teams are scheduling work outs with undrafted players and journeymen to round out their rosters for training camp. The chances that any of these guys actually makes an impact is minimal, especially on a team like the Spurs. But every once in a while someone breaks through and turns a camp invite into a meaningful role on a team.
Let's take a look at the players the Spurs have worked out and see if there's a Gary Neal in the bunch.
Brian Butch is a 27-year-old, 6-11 center that has spent the last couple of years in the D-League playing for the Baskerfield Jam. He was considered a top prospect coming out of high school, but his potential obviously didn't materialize. He suffered injuries in 2010 and 2011 during Summer League play, which made it impossible for him to showcase his game and earn a contract. This past Summer League, he scored 5.5 points, pulled down 6.5 boards and blocked 1.5 shots in 14 minutes per game. With the Jam, he averaged 16 points, 13 boards and 1.5 blocks playing 32 minutes a game.
What Butch does well and what makes him an interesting prospect is his outside shooting. He can score on pick and pop situations and hit the occasional 3 pointer, as his 37% from deep with the Jam shows. It seems Butch would likely struggle on defense, both on the post and the perimeter. He lacks bulk and strength to bang down low and would likely have a hard time defending in space in the NBA.
For the Spurs, he could be the type of floor spacing big man that would allow Parker to run pick and pops when Tim is resting. The problem for Brian is that the Spurs currently have a better version of him in Matt Bonner. Unless Matt is traded, I doubt Butch gets a contract from the Spurs.
Josh Akognon is a 26- year-old, 5-11 gunner that returned to the D-League last season after playing in Estonia and China. He played with the Kings team in Summer League where his scoring acumen was on full display. In 3 games, he averaged 19.3 points on just 10 shots. Even more impressive? He did that in only 18.3 minutes per game. The guy seems to be a good shooter and scorer, but not much else. On defense, his lack of size would hurt him even if he does have an impressive wingspan. His lack of point guard skill and shoot-first mentality don't seem like the right fit for a Spurs team that has two better specimens of slightly undersized shooters in Neal and Mills.
It wouldn't be unlikely that his previous connection to recently arrived Spurs assistant coach and Nigerian national team teammate Ime Udoka has something to do with his workout. I don't expect him to be signed.
Warren Carter is a 27 year old, 6-9 power forward that has been playing in Europe for years. Just last season he played both in Israel and Belgium. He shared a team with former Spurs second rounder Jack McClinton and Tyler Wilkerson for a couple of games in Hapoel Gilboa Galil. I couldn't find much information on him, but the fact that he has had trouble finding a Euroleague team to call home at 27 suggests that he is not an impact player. He played in the Eurocup in 2011/12 and put up stats of 11.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in almost 30 minutes of playing time. Considering he doesn't seem to bring anything to the table that DeJuan Blair doesn't already provide, I think it's extremely unlikely Carter finds a place with the Spurs this season unless there's a major roster shakeup, and the Spurs can't find a veteran willing to take the minimum to be the 5th big.
Reyshawn Terry is a 28-year-old, 6-8 small forward that spent last season in the Ukranian league. The former North Carolina Tar Heel was selected in the second round by the Magic in the 2007 draft as an über athletic forward without the perimeter skills needed to succeed at the NBA level. He went to Europe, where he played for numerous teams, including traditional clubs like Virtus Bologna and Aris Thessaloniki. Last season with Khimik Yuzhni of the Ukranian league, he averaged 15.6 points and 6 rebounds while shooting 46% from outside. Terry seems to be a capable and willing defender, but doesn't figure to be a stopper. He should be able to guard multiple positions, but with Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson at the wing, it's unlikely he's offered a spot.
If a trade sending a perimeter player away for a big was to happen, signing a player with Terry's qualities (athleticism, defense, outside shooting) makes a lot of sense to round out the roster, but until then, I don't see the Spurs seriously considering him.
Unlike the aforementioned players, Brown has spent his entire career in the NBA. Drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats in the second round in 2009, he barely played his rookie season and was waived in the 2010/11 season. The Knicks claimed him off the waiver wire, but he failed to make an impression and wasn't retained. He returned to Charlotte for the 2011/12 season, where he showed progress by averaging 8 points and 3 boards in 22 minutes per game. What makes Brown an interesting prospect, though, doesn't show in a traditional boxscore.
Opponent small forwards averaged a PER of only 12.3 against Brown while he posted a 15.4, which puts him around the league average. With him on the court, the Bobcats were less historically awful; both the defense and the offense were better when he was playing and 82games' simple rating designates him as the best player on that team.
Brown has elite physical tools to thrive as a versatile defensive stopper. He's an above average athlete and his strength and wingspan allow him to handle the bigger small forwards like Lebron James. With some work and improved fundamentals, Brown could become the type of defensive-minded combo forward off the bench the Spurs need.
That being said, there are some problems with Brown, namely his outside shooting. Brown averages 0.2 3-point attempts per game and hits at a career 31%. Basically, he is not a threat from outside, which would hurt spacing significantly if he was playing at his natural position of small forward.
Considering the Spurs already have two natural SFs on the roster, Brown's skill set would be a little redundant but his athletic tools alone make him an interesting player and his defensive potential is considerable. The Spurs will likely have to go through the Thunder to win the West and having a 6-8, 225lbs small forward with a 7´2´´ wingspan to throw at Kevin Durant can't hurt.
It's very unlikely the Spurs actually sign one of these guys; they are probably just doing their due diligence. The roster stands at 14 players right now, and the Spurs usually like to reserve a roster spot for later in the season. But if they were to offer someone a camp invite and a contract, the obvious choice is Brown. The other players, while clearly capable, seem to be a step below in terms of potential payoff and fit.