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Spurs Roster Needs and Speculation Thread

This guy could help the Spurs.  Maybe the guy defending, too.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
This guy could help the Spurs. Maybe the guy defending, too. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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In the weeks since our beloved silver and black were unforgivingly bounced from the playoffs, there's been some talk about what should come next for our heroes of the hardwood. I will admit to being entranced by the playoff matches played since the Spurs were bounced, especially as it has become clear that we are witnessing an upheaval of the established NBA order. This, at least in part, is what has kept me from seriously thinking about what lies ahead for the Spurs. The other part of that is, well... I really just didn't want to think about it.

But one thing that is clear is that Tony Parker was right: the championship window is closed... for the moment.

Does that mean it can't be pried open again with some good personnel changes? Absolutely not. But the team as it stands right now has no shot at winning a championship. And really, it's hard to envision realistic moves that would pry that window back open. With all that said, the Spurs front office would be foolish not to attempt one last run with the big three. And I do mean ONE last run, because as good as the Spurs front office is, they've had [A] too many years without a lottery pick in the draft to develop young stars into a force to be reckoned with; and [B] not enough profitability for the owners to authorize going deep into luxury tax territory for several years in a row as some of the other championship contenders have done. [Side note: For the purposes of this post, I'm going to assume that the new CBA will be similar to the current one. A lot could change, but this is my operating assumption.]

So, what are the team's biggest needs, and what can they do to fill them? Let's figure out the needs and prospects at each position, and perhaps we'll get some idea of what the team's front office is thinking.

The most obvious problem for the Spurs, that has been talked about endlessly for at least the last two seasons, is the lack of size and defense in the frontcourt. Assuming the retirement of Antonio McDyess(we'll miss ya, big guy), the only two big men on the team with defensive chops are Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, and Duncan may be following McDyess into retirement next summer. Both Tim and Tiago are best suited to play the 5, but can play the 4 if necessary. If both of them start, which is probably best at this point, you're left with no defense on your front line when you turn to your bench. Matt Bonner and DeJuan Blair - yikes.




A lot of people have said that we need a true 7-footer to clog up the paint at the C position. Timmy has been locking down this position for the last 6 years, and I don't see that changing. Tiago is an excellent backup, but as mentioned above, he may just be good enough to move Timmy back to his old position at PF. If this happens, the Spurs will need another guy that can play the position. Of course, Pop might also give Timmy the occasional night off, especially if there is a compressed season due to the lockout, so it might be advisable to go out and get a third center anyway. Add in the possibility of Duncan's retirement after next season, and it definitely seems like a good idea to shore up the position.

I'm going to be using ShamSports' 2011 free agent list throughout this post. Sham really knows his stuff, and that site is an excellent resource for roster and salary information. Here's a list of centers:

Name, Status
Marc Gasol, Restricted
Nene, Early termination option
Yao Ming, Unrestricted
Samuel Dalembert, Unrestricted
Greg Oden, Restricted
Tyson Chandler, Unrestricted
Joel Przybilla, Unrestricted
Jeff Foster, Unrestricted
Nazr Mohammed, Unrestricted
Shaquille O'Neal, Player option
Ronny Turiaf, Player option
Nenad Krstic, Unrestricted
Spencer Hawes, Restricted
Kwame Brown, Unrestricted
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Player option
Ryan Hollins, Player option
DeAndre Jordan, Restricted
David Andersen, Partially guaranteed
Hamed Haddadi, Restricted
Erick Dampier, Unrestricted
Dan Gadzuric, Unrestricted
Shelden Williams, Unrestricted
Aaron Gray, Player option
Jamaal Magloire, Unrestricted
Kurt Thomas, Unrestricted
Joey Dorsey, Restricted
Jason Smith, Restricted
Alexis Ajinca, Unrestricted
DJ Mbenga, Unrestricted
Dexter Pittman, Unguaranteed
Theo Ratliff, Unrestricted
Kyrylo Fesenko, Unrestricted
Etan Thomas, Unrestricted
Garret Siler, Unguaranteed
Francisco Elson, Unrestricted
Tony Battie, Unrestricted
Melvin Ely, Unrestricted
Samardo Samuels, Unguaranteed
Hamady Ndiaye, Restricted
Jason Collins, Unrestricted
Marcus Cousin, Unguaranteed
Hilton Armstrong, Unrestricted
Earl Barron, Unguaranteed

I like Haddadi, Przybilla, Nazr, Collins and Fesenko(my top choice - his advanced defensive stats are unbelievable), out of the realistic options. Maybe Turiaf, but I think his defensive rep is pretty overrated. The Spurs could also try rolling the dice on Yao or Oden, but their current teams would probably throw more money at them than the Spurs can match. The Grizz might match any offer the Spurs can throw at Haddadi, for that matter, just to keep him away from SA.

Team need? Well, it couldn't hurt.


Power Forward



As much as we've heard about the Spurs needing to upgrade the size of their frontcourt, I'd like to propose that the most effective updgrade would be a speed upgrade. Tim and Tiago have the size to deal with most starting frontcourts, but Tim is not quick on his feet anymore. At all. Having Tiago switch places with him on defense might help, but I'd prefer the Spurs start somebody who is a natural fit at the position. A quicker, athletic PF would enable the Spurs to not have to play either of the two "anchor" guys out of position, and also help matchup with the increasing frequency of smallball lineups in the NBA. As an example, the Heat and Thunder will occasionally put Kevin Durant and Lebron James(respectively) at the 4. I can immediately think of Tyrus Thomas and Taj Gibson as guys that can defend smallball 4's without giving up much in the way of size. Guys like these are hard to come by, but they would be the perfect fit for a Spurs team in desperate need of their skill set.

But, where can the Spurs find someone who fits the mold? That's the hard part. Free agency is the first, most obvious choice that comes to mind. Here's Sham's list of free agent power forwards:

Name - Status
Tim Duncan - Early termination option
David West - Early termination option
Troy Murphy - Unrestricted
Carl Landry - Unrestricted
Boris Diaw - Player option
Kenyon Martin - Unrestricted
DeJuan Blair - Unguaranteed (interesting)
Thaddeus Young - Restricted
Jonas Jerebko - Restricted
Brandan Wright - Restricted
Josh McRoberts - Unrestricted
Antonio McDyess - Unguaranteed
Darius Songaila - Unrestricted
Louis Amundson - Player option
Yi Jianlian - Restricted
Glen Davis - Unrestricted
Chuck Hayes - Unrestricted
Kris Humphries - Unrestricted
Jared Jeffries - Unrestricted
Craig Smith - Unrestricted
Ike Diogu - Unrestricted
Earl Clark - Unrestricted
Chris Wilcox - Unrestricted
Dante Cunningham - Restricted
Josh Powell - Unrestricted
Magnum Rolle - Unguaranteed
Juwan Howard - Unrestricted
Reggie Evans - Unrestricted
Gani Lawal - Unguaranteed
Solomon Jones - Unrestricted
Jeff Adrien - Partially guaranteed
Derrick Caracter - Unguaranteed
Leon Powe - Unrestricted
Darnell Jackson - Restricted
Joe Smith - Unrestricted
Jeremy Evans - Unguaranteed
Malik Allen - Unrestricted
Brian Cook - Player option
Chris Johnson - Unguaranteed
Ian Mahinmi - Unguaranteed
Brian Cardinal - Unrestricted
Brian Scalabrine - Unrestricted

Now we all know Duncan isn't going anywhere, and any restricted fee agents will be difficult to pry away(possible exception: Jason Smith, since the NOOCH will have to pay dearly to retain David West), especially for a financially limited team like the Spurs. So, I'm going to concentrate on the unrestricted FA's. There isn't much to speak of here, but the Spurs' organization has found diamonds in the rough before. I recently asked Tim Varner from 48MoH who he thought the Spurs should go after this offseason - he said Earl Clark(6'9" combo forward). Varner totally called Dorrell Wright as a hidden talent last offseason, so I'll trust his judgement on this one. Or, maybe the Spurs take a chance on Dorsey, Powe, Jeffries or someone similar.

The Spurs may already have a long-term solution for the position in mind. But this post isn't about 3-4 years from now, it's about the 2011-12 Spurs roster. The draft this year is also pretty weak, and with the impending lockout, it's most likely that a lot of first-round picks will be playing overseas next year anyway, as the top Euroleague clubs would probably be glad to have most of them.

Or, maybe they swing for the fences and orchestrate a trade in an attempt to bring in some talent at the PF position. The aforementioned Thomas and Gibson come to mind, but they play on teams that place a high value on defense, so they probably aren't going anywhere. Maybe Varejao would help the team, but he doesn't really fit that mold of the quick, rangy forward that solidifies the defense in front of our center. Andray Blatche has the tools, but is kind of a headcase. Josh Smith would be excellent, but the Spurs would probably have to take Joe Johnson's monster contract back as well, and that ain't happening. Perhaps the most willing trade partner would be the Utah Jazz, for Al Jefferson, since they have great draft position, in addition to already having Millsap and Favors. I'm not crazy about the idea, since he's not exactly known for his defense, and because a trade for him would open up holes elsewhere on the roster(SF). But it could work, and would give us another player that can operate in the post, which would be useful.

Team need? Yes, yes, yes. A million times yes.


Small Forward



And now we get to the position of perhaps the most-maligned Spur of the last decade: Richard Jefferson. He improved his shooting this past season, which made him a much better fit for the team on offense. His defense was also improved, but he still had a tendency to get caught out of position or miss rotations, even when the playoffs came. He also has a bad habit of disappearing completely when the team doesn't involve him much in the offense. That trend was much less noticeable during his second season with the team, but manifested itself at the worst possible time - the playoffs. Even though I directed a lot of my anger over the first-round exit at him, I have come back to the belief that Jefferson is still a net positive overall for this team. Another year in the system might help him erase even more of the mental issues that have hindered him as a Spur, but I don't expect any statistical improvement. So, we have a pretty good starting small forward.

However, there was truly nobody else on the team that had the right size, speed and skill makeup to play the position. There is the possibility that Da'Sean Butler plays well enough to be the answer, and James Anderson showed flashes of the talents the Spurs drafted him for, but is still a tad small for the position. Danny Green has been pretty good in the very few minutes he's played, but he's even smaller than Anderson. So who else is available if a suitable backup cannot be found between those three, or if we need to find a starter after trading RJ to shore up another position?

Name, Status
Andrei Kirilenko - Unrestricted
Wilson Chandler - Restricted
Caron Butler - Unrestricted
Tayshaun Prince - Unrestricted
Grant Hill - Unrestricted
Shane Battier - Unrestricted
Peja Stojakovic - Unrestricted
Ersan Ilyasova - Partially guaranteed
Luc Richard Mbah A Moute - Restricted
Jeff Green - Restricted
Mike Dunleavy - Unrestricted
Matt Barnes - Player option
Michael Pietrus - Player option
Vladimir Radmanovic - Unrestricted
Sonny Weems - Restricted
Jason Kapono - Unrestricted
Sam Young - Team option
Al Thornton - Unrestricted
Damien Wilkins - Unrestricted
Chase Budinger - Unguaranteed
Josh Howard - Unrestricted
James Jones - Player option
Carlos Delfino - Unguaranteed
Tracy McGrady - Unrestricted
Rasual Butler - Unrestricted
Jamario Moon - Unrestricted
Steve Novak - Unrestricted
Othyus Jeffers - Restricted
Larry Owens - Restricted
Julian Wright - Restricted
Joey Graham - Unguaranteed
Stephen Graham - Unguaranteed
Sasha Pavlovic - Unrestricted
Dominic McGuire - Unrestricted
Derrick Brown - Restricted
Gary Forbes - Restricted
Marqus Blakely - Unguaranteed
Alonzo Gee - Unguaranteed
Devin Ebanks - Unguaranteed
Patrick Ewing Jr - Unguaranteed
Shawne Williams - Unrestricted
Dajuan Summers - Restricted
Danny Green - Unguaranteed
Da'Sean Butler - Unguaranteed

There's not a lot of obtainable talent out there. Maybe Delfino could help as a good two-way player, but he's not very consistent. PtR crushes Battier and Tayshaun would be useful, but have both lost their athleticism, as well as some speed, and will probably want more money than the Spurs can afford to give them. Mbah A Moute has excellent size, athleticism, and b-ball IQ, which makes him an incredible defensive player, but he can't shoot to save his life. Anyone we get in free agency is going to have flaws, so I think the #2 offensive team in the league can afford to sacrifice a bit of their officiency in the pursuit of shoring up a porous defense.

This draft isn't very promising, but I would fully expect the Spurs to take Kyle Singler if he's available at 29. Not for his speed or athleticism, but for his smarts. Plus, I respect the hell out of his decision to stay in school last year. Much better would be if we could get Chris Singleton, as he is similar to Mbah A Moute, but has more potential as an offensive option than does Moute.

Team Need? At least a suitable backup. (if not a better fit in the starting lineup)


Shooting Guard



Let's be honest. The Spurs are absolutely loaded at the 2. The best player on the team starts here, and the fearsome bench tandem of Gary Neal and George Hill both see time here. With Anderson and Green also on the team, there's somewhat of a logjam at the position. In fact, if the Spurs are involved in any trades this offseason, I would expect them to offload somebody that plays SG in favor of some help at another position. There's really no need to discuss this position any further.

Team Need? No, not even close.


Point Guard



Over the last two seasons, the one-two punch of Tony Parker(starter) and George Hill(bench) has overwhelmed most Spurs oppenents, and the backcourt in general is a team strength. However, Hill is not, and probably never will be, a point guard. He does best when either Parker or Manu are on the floor as the primary ball-handler, while he works as a spot-up shooter/slasher. He can't run the pick-and-roll, and by that I mean he treats it as if the pick is the end of what the other player does, and can't seem to ever find the roll man. And while he is an excellent one-on-one defender, the pick-and-roll seems to take him out of the play more often than not at that end of the floor as well. Even though the current situation is workable, getting a backup point guard that can run(and defend) a pick-and-roll properly would be a good pickup.

Name, Status
Aaron Brooks - Restricted
Maurice Williams - Early termination option
Goran Dragic - Team option
Andre Miller - Unguaranteed
Mike Bibby - Unrestricted
Rodney Stuckey - Restricted
Jose Barea - Unrestricted
Delonte West - Unrestricted
T.J. Ford - Unrestricted
Carlos Arroyo - Unrestricted
Mario Chalmers - Restricted
Marcus Banks - Unrestricted
Anthony Carter - Unrestricted
Earl Watson - Unrestricted
Jannero Pargo - Unguaranteed
Sebastian Telfair - Unrestricted
Patty Mills - Restricted
Earl Boykins - Unrestricted
Ronnie Price - Unrestricted
Antonio Daniels - Unrestricted
A.J. Price - Unguaranteed
Chris Quinn - Unrestricted
Jeremy Lin - Unguaranteed
Mustafa Shakur - Restricted
Pooh Jeter - Team option
Royal Ivey - Unguaranteed
John Lucas III - Unguaranteed
Sundiata Gaines - Unguaranteed
Acie Law - Unrestricted
Zabian Dowdell - Unguaranteed
Ish Smith - Unguaranteed
Ben Uzoh - Restricted

Meh. I like Ford and Watson, out of the realistic options.

Team Need? Maybe a backup.


Share Your Thoughts

This post is meant as an overview of what I think the team needs. But, I'd like to hear what the rest of you think. What should take top priority? Who should the Spurs target, whether via free agency, the draft, or in a trade? Comment away, folks. It's going to be a long offseason.