Training camp is here and that means rooting for the unknown guys to shock the world and make the roster. Unfortunately, with the signing of Baynes, the Spurs now have 15 players under guaranteed contracts, which is the maximum allowed once the season starts. That means there won't likely be a Gary Neal story this time around. But let's get to know those hopefuls in partially guaranteed contracts anyway and see if they can do the unthinkable and challenge for a roster spot.
Cotton went undrafted this year after playing four years at Providence but was signed to a training camp make-good contract before Summer League, which hinted at a serious interest by the Spurs. There is no guarantee date on his contract, meaning he could stay with the team as point guard depth while Mills recovers, then be waived. Initially it seemed that if the Spurs had a roster spot open, Cotton was the most likely player to fill it.
Cotton is a scorer, a guy that had a killer jumper in college and flashed some driving ability with the Spurs in Vegas. While he didn't shine in Summer League, his skill set seemed similar enough to Mills' that he continued to be a viable option. The problem with Cotton is he is undersized for the position, measuring generously at 6 feet. He never looked like a long term alternative but as a stopgap he makes some sense.
Green went undrafted at the 2012/13 draft after four seasons of college play in Alabama and signed a D-League contract to play for the Austin Toros. He never received a call-up and the next season he left the States to play in France, where he continued to be a high energy player. He seemed destined to a career overseas but in Europe he added a budding three point shot to his rebounding, making him an intriguing NBA prospect. The Spurs brought him on to their Summer League team where he didn't show off the new-found range on his jumper but impressed with his athleticism and motor.
Green's familiarity with the system, stemming from his days as a Toro, could allow him to adjust quickly during training camp to what the coaching staff wants from him and, while undersized and not supremely skilled at anything, his combination of quickness and jumping ability could be useful on defense.
Davis left college after three seasons, two of which he spent at Tulane and one at San Diego State. He seems like the classic undersized college power forward, standing at 6-feet-8. But to a refined rebounding ability he added a decent face up game in which he took advantage of his quickness to get past bigger defenders. Davis has no perimeter shot to speak of but rebounding usually translates from college to the pros and as long as he moves his feet on defense, he won't be a net negative since very few teams have post-up threat coming off the bench.
Holland was a late addition to the training camp roster and doesn't seem to possess any elite skill that would make up for his average size and athleticism for a wing. But at 25, he's a young veteran with years of experience playing at a high level in Europe and he brings a varied skill set to the table. He's a solid rebounder from the perimeter, a decent defender and competent scorer. In a small, defined role he could see his efficiency as a shooter soar and could become a viable deep bench utility guy at the wing.
Can one of them get a guaranteed deal?
It doesn't seem likely. Camp guys have to really impress to earn a spot under normal circumstances. In this case, they would have to play well enough to motivate the front office into waiving someone to make room or work out a trade, which in all likelihood would have to include cash considerations covering the traded player's contract. Doing that for a 15th man just makes little sense.
Additionally, there is no hole to fill, no weakness that needs addressing. Cotton could provide that depth at guard the Spurs will need for a couple of months and balance out a big man heavy roster. But it's extremely unlikely he is in the long term plans of the team and those garbage time minutes would be better spent by taking a longer look at Joseph and seeing what Kyle Anderson can do as a secondary creator, if he's in uniform.
Holland plays a position the Spurs have well-stocked with four guys whose play merits ample playing time. And while Ginobili is injury-prone and needs his minutes monitored, the other guys are young enough to take a heavier load. Unless the injuries at the wing improbably pile up like last season, there's just no need for another shooting guard. The same applies to a rebounding expert like Davis. Aron Baynes and Jeff Ayres are more than capable in that area and can play center, which is something Davis simply can't do.
As for Green, had he showed that his stroke from outside extended to the NBA's three point line, he would be an intriguing option. As mentioned, he has some experience with the system and he has a nice combination of size and mobility. He has a ways to go on defense but he made up for it with energy in Vegas and having a floor spacer who can also crash the boards and finish inside would be a great luxury for a deep team. Unfortunately, Green only took three three-pointers in Summer League play and missed them all. And his sample size from France is too small to extrapolate into serious potential as a shooter. Without that tool, he's just another energy guy and the Spurs have no pressing need for someone like that.
San Antonio is not an option but Austin might be
For the past few years, the last three players to be cut from a team's training camp could be allocated to their D-League affiliate. This season that number has climbed to four. So these players could use the guaranteed money they get from the Spurs to participate on camp, then sign a D-League contract and stay close to San Antonio and learn the system. If a trade goes down during the season clearing a roster spot, they might have a shot of re-joining the team.
Unfortunately, there are some obstacles to this approach, affecting both parties. For the players, a D-League salary might not be competitive with what they can get overseas. At this point there might not be as many open spots available but guys like Holland and Green, who have European experience under their belt, should be able to find a job, As for the team, the Spurs would not have exclusive rights to these players. They would be playing under a D-League contract and any team can call them up at any time or, if they live up to their potential, snatch them up and sign them to NBA contracts.
So the takeaway here is have fun watching these guys during scrimmages and pre-season games but don't get too attached. Chances are they not only won't make the Spurs' roster but may also not be affiliated with the team in any way in a couple of weeks. Of course, it would be fantastic if someone truly surprises and earns a roster spot. But because of the way the Spurs' roster is comprised right now, the amount of guaranteed contracts in the books and the flawed D-League rules, these prospects will likely only be with us temporarily.