Before the San Antonio Spurs released their training camp roster earlier this week, Sam Young and Corey Maggette were invited to camp. And there were a few additional unknown names: Marcus Cousin, Courtney Fells and Dan Nwaelele, but the name that really stuck out is former University of Texas point guard Myck Kabongo.
Kabongo left Texas after a sophomore season that was a bit of a disaster. He started the season as a potential lottery pick, but was then suspended 23 games after a NCAA investigation found that agent Rich Paul paid for a trip to Cleveland for him. That suspension really hurt Kabongo's draft status as well as Texas' season. He returned for the final 11 games of the season, averaging 14.6 points, 5.5 assists and five rebounds a game. Still, Texas was not able to get in to the NCAA Tournament, which cost Kabongo at least one high profile game to impress scouts and general managers. It's not like scouts weren't watching the previous 11 games, but a good tournament game can really act as a springboard for a player's draft stock as they enter individual workouts.
Kabongo then went undrafted and signed with the Miami Heat's Summer League team. There he was unimpressive and failed to get a free agent contract from the Heat or any other team, which allowed him to at least temporarily fall into the Spurs' grasp.
The Pros of Kabongo at point guard
Currently the Spurs have four point guards on their roster. What could Kabongo possibly bring to the Spurs that Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo and Patty Mills can't. The short answer is potential. Kabongo came in to the 2012-2013 college basketball season as a player with lottery pick potential. The suspension and an otherwise underwhelming season at Texas followed. Still, here's Chad Ford's breakdown of Kabongo's game on his ESPN Draft Card from last spring.
Positives:Pure point guard
Excellent floor vision/leadership
Makes very few mistakes
Good athlete with quick first step
Great first step to the basket
Good shooter with range out to the 3-point line
Negatives: A bit undersized
Sat out most of the year because of NCAA sanctions
Here's specifically what I like about Kabongo's game as it relates to the Spurs' offense. He's a point guard that can get to the rim and has excellent court vision. This means he should be able to find the plethora of shooters the Spurs would trot out with him and if they're all covered he's athletic enough to get to the rim and either finish or find a shooter when the help comes. Kabongo's Team Canada teammate Cory Joseph seems to have a very good grasp on the Spurs system but his ability to get to the basket is still a work in progress. We'll see how De Colo develops in his second season and Mills feels like a gunner (which is fine by me, he's a lot of fun to watch). Long term, Kabongo could be someone better suited to back up Tony Parker (long term is the key part of that sentence).
The Cons of Kabongo at point guard
"Dude. NO. MORE. POINT. GUARDS." - Fellow Pounder Matt Tynan
That's the general point. Do the Spurs really need another point guard? Even if he spends a whole year in Austin (and you'd have to expect that he would), Kabongo would be the fifth point guard on a 15 man roster, six if you count Marco Bellinelli, who is going to spend plenty of time running point with the second unit. Seems like if the Spurs are going to add anyone between now and the start of the season, it's likely to be someone who can spell Kawhi Leonard for 8-10 minutes a night.
This is both a positive and a negative, but Kabongo is a pure point guard. He's not a two guard in a point guard's body and he's not a scoring point guard. This is good because he has a defined position, but also bad because it means you can't play Kabongo next to Parker or Ginobili -- not that he'd be getting time next to them this season anyways. Kabongo's shooting also wasn't as good in college as his scouting report suggests it should've been. Last season, Kabongo shot 41 percent from the field and 29 percent from three. So we'll call his shot a work in progress, but that's probably something the Spurs can fix as long as he's willing to work on it.
This last critique may be a little unfair, but it needs to be brought up. Kabongo got a raw deal from the NCAA on his suspension. He got another raw deal from having Rick Barnes as his head coach (come at me Longhorn fans, it's true). However, he could've erased all his 2012-2013 season problems by having great workouts and getting his name called on Draft night. Didn't happen. Then, he could've earned a roster spot with the Miami Heat's Summer League squad and that didn't happen. If Kabongo's as talented as we've been led to believe, shouldn't he have an NBA contract already? Again, this is probably a little unfair. There could be a lot of reasons he's not on a roster already, but it needed to be mentioned.
The Third and Most Likely Option
Even if Kabongo somehow makes the Spurs regular season roster, it's highly likely he would spend 100 percent of this season in Austin. Call it the Cory Joseph experiment. Kabongo would be comfortable in Austin since he spent the last two years there and he'd get plenty of time to learn to run the Spurs offense. How does this happen? First option is the easiest. Sign him to the 15th spot, keep his exclusive rights to call him up as they see fit. All of the other options are a bit more tricky. He could enter the D-League draft and the Toros would have to hope he's there when they pick. He could also sign a D-League contract once the draft is over and wait tlll the Toros are at the top of the waiver wire so they can claim him. Like I said, it gets tricky, but it's possible.
Overall, I'm in the "no more point guards" camp, but on the eve of the Spurs' first preseason game, I'll simply say let's keep an open mind when it comes to Kabongo. He could be pretty good.