The D-League has always been a big part of how the Spurs develop players and that won't change anytime soon. So while we wait for the NBA season to begin, let's see how the Spurs' affiliate is doing and try to figure out whether spending time there could help Kyle Anderson. But before getting into that...
The Toros are dead, long live the Toros!
After nine years with that name, the Austin Toros are no more. From now on, the San Antonio Spurs D-League affiliate will be known as the Austin Spurs. Here's their new logo.
I don't particularly like the change but a rose by any other name, I guess. The Austin Spurs join the Santa Cruz Warriors and the Westchester Knicks as the three teams in the D-League named after their parent club.
I hope you like Austin, Kyle Anderson
Kyle Anderson is the only Spur that can be sent down to the Toros without his express consent. The rest of the fringe rotation players (Aron Baynes, Austin Daye, Jeff Ayres) would have to agree to be sent down, since they have more than two years of NBA experience. Austin Daye agreed to go to Austin for a game last season but it's doubtful any of those guys would be amenable to be sent down. That means Slowmo almost certainly will.
The Spurs have 15 player under contract. The maximum allowed to be active are 13. Patty Mills is out for a while, so that leaves 14 players for 13 spots. The Spurs could have someone wear a suit in order to have Anderson on the bench but it would make little sense to do so once the D-League season begins. The best for everyone would be for Anderson to be in Austin getting minutes, just like Cory Joseph before him.
It's not an indictment on Anderson. He could probably get minutes on a handful of teams right away. But the way the roster is constructed pretty much forces the Spurs' hand. And considering he needs to work on his body and on getting used to playing against better athletes, I truly believe getting consistent minutes in Austin would be the best for him. If there are injuries (and there will be), he can be called up and get some minutes with the big team.
How will the Spurs use the D-League this year?
Last season the Spurs had a established rotation in place and a bunch of players under contract that were set to return for the 2014/15 season. So they had NBA veterans like Flip Murray and Josh Howard on their D-League roster alongside D-League mainstays like Squeaky Johnson and Courtney Fells. Perhaps the only viable young NBA prospect was Myck Kabongo.
This season the Spurs have a full roster but a few of the players on the fringes are on the last year of their contracts. Matt Bonner, Jeff Ayres, Austin Daye, Aron Baynes and Cory Joseph will become free agents next season. So will Danny Green and Marco Belinelli. So do the Austin Spurs go for a high-upside young guy on the draft to complement their likely three allocated players (Bryce Cotton, JaMychal Green and Josh Davis)? If they can develop guys who know the system, they could have cheap back-up plans to fill up the roster next season if the veterans leave.
On the other hand, if Anderson is in fact going to spend time in Austin, it might be better to surround him with NBA veterans who can pass on their knowledge of the game or D-League veterans who won't have a problem deferring to the guy the team has money invested on already. Having a bunch of young guys competing with Anderson for touches and the attention of the coaching staff could defeat the purpose of sending him down. So it's possible the Spurs err on the side of caution and field a team with players that don't have much upside but are coachable.
It will be interesting to see which direction the Spurs lean towards, as it could tell us a little about their plans for Anderson and for next season.
Building the roster
Here's how the Spurs can build their D-League team:
The Austin Spurs will hold open tryouts this Sunday. From their site:
Austin Spurs Announced their final tryout before the 2014-15 season will be held Sunday, October 19th at P.A.C. in Leander. Check in will begin at 8 a.m. and the tryout is expected to run until 12:30p.m. Participant will be asked to fill out the forms provided below as well as bring a $100 entry fee. Be sure to get there early as the number of candidates will be limited to 100 people. The PAC, or Premier Athletic Complex, is located at 8220 183A Toll Rd, Leander, TX 78641. The Austin Spurs looked forward to seeing you there.
Follow that link for more details.
The D-League draft will take place on November 1st. The Spurs have the third overall pick.
The draft is only one way to fill the roster. Teams can also have allocated players (local players or players who attended university in the area, the last three cuts of training camp), assigned players (guys on NBA contracts who are sent down), returning players and players that make it out of tryouts.
We still don't know how the Austin Spurs' roster is going to look like. But I'm sure the front office will have Anderson in mind when they build it.
The D-League regular season will begin on November 14th with the Austin Spurs playing the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (Rockets affiliate).