Why, EXACTLY, is it assumed that the Spurs have to have a back-up small forward? Let's look at the questions I've been hearing about both sides of the court and see whether a BUSF is a necessity, or a luxury, for this Spurs team.
Who can provide defensive pressure on the perimeter when Kawhi Leonard isn't on the floor?
I think Danny Green and Boris Diaw answered that question for us with their stellar performances against LeBron James during the Finals. Also, now that Marco Belinelli has brought his talents to Riverwalk City, Green can more easily slide over to the 3 spot in a situation where Kawhi needs to take some time off. BellyNelly also played a bit of small forward for his old Hornets team, and could man the position in a very small lineup or an emergency, though that isn't ideal for him.
So, it sure would be nice to have a Bruce Bowen backing up Kawhi, Green can do just fine taking the other team's top wing scorer when the KLeon is out, and we have big enough guards like Manu and Marco to not have to go small ball when Danny does that. Now, if Danny gets hurt too, we bring up Hollis Thompson and hope for the best.
What about a guy that can score against big, strong wing defenders like LeBron, Kirilenko, and our very own Kawhi?
First of all, no Spur will need to score against Kawhi in games. But I see your point. Manu showed real signs of mental and physical wear last season. Now if he has the kind of a Duncan-esque comeback Tim had last year, wonderful. Then he can score on anyone at anytime when he wants to. If he doesn't, which is far more likely, he'll need help in drawing defenders away from him and not having to match up against bigger, stronger defenders every time he's on the floor.
Green has shown he can shoot from deep, but he can't put the ball on the floor consistently and create his own shot. It will be interesting to see what Marco Polo/Belinelli (I'm so excited about the endless possibilities for fun his name brings) does in a Spurs uni, but we won't really know what he's capable of contributing until we're a couple of months into the new season. Though I would buy on his offensive production as opposed to selling. But can he be a legit wing creator against the Andre Iguodalas, Kevin Durants, and Tayshaun Princes of the fearsome Western Conference? That's a prop you may want to sell on.
But wait. Wait wait wait. Enter DeShaun Thomas. I think he could score against The Incredible Hulk. I'm not sure about that, but I'd enjoy watching him try. It's like the guy can magnetically place the ball in the orange circle. If he can hang through the preseason, he's got a chance to average some Gary Neal-esque ppg. People on this blog have proposed that he'd be ok if he was simply able to provide Neal's level of defensive
prowess effort. Pop ran Neal out there, as defensively limited as he was, so I see that point. I also think DeShaun is a much more natural scorer, from more spots on the court, than even Nails was. Plus, the real point here is that he has the size to handle himself against big, strong guys; even if those guys would likely score just as well against him, and make his overall playing time a net zero in those situations.
After that exercise, I think it's safe to say that a back-up small forward would be a luxury. I don't know about you, but that soothes my stress and allays my fears. No DeMarre Carroll riding our bench? That's ok. This is the Spurs here. They don't do anything traditionally anyway, especially positions, and they definitely don't go grab veteran bodies just for the sake of having them. They go to their minor leagues and find gemstones there.
What do you say? Does this make you feel better about the current roster, or are you still pining for a BUSF to call our very own?