Basketball columnist extraordinaire Jesus Gomez had an interesting post the other day about how David West, who may well be a bargain next season considering his veterans-minimum salary, doesn't seem to be the best roster fit for the Spurs given his strengths and weaknesses and those of his teammates. I wrote a while back that the most logical way around those issues would be to play him exclusively with either Tim Duncan or LaMarcus Aldridge (preferably the former) instead of, say, Boris Diaw.
It got me thinking about who would be a better fit than West on this roster and I racked my brain thinking of former Spurs. So naturally I started tinkering about what an all-time best Spurs team would look like.
First, let's establish some ground rules:
1) You can only use a player in the same specific role they were in the year we're culling them from. For example, you can't use 1989-90 Terry Cummings as your backup four or 1994-95 Sean Elliott as your backup three. They were starters on their teams so they're out.
2) You can't use a player twice, even if they were a starter some years and a reserve other years (i.e. "The Manu Ginobili Rule.")
3.) I only used players from 1989 onward. Yes, George Gervin, James Silas and Larry Kenon were great, but I was too young to watch them play. If you want to sing the praises of anyone before my arbitrary cut-off date, you can do so in the comments.
4.) You can't pick two players from the same year. Okay, that's silly and not really a rule. It just happened to work out that way for my 12-man roster, but feel free to ignore it for yours.
Without further ado, here's the squad:
Center: David Robinson (1993-94): A no-brainer, obviously. Robinson won the MVP in 1994-95, but he was actually a bit better the year before, and had to take on more of a burden without Elliott and a lesser bench. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is the greatest regular season any Spur has ever had or is likely to have in any of our lifetimes. A 30.7 PER, 20.0 Win Shares and .296 WS/48. Yes, Robinson was a beast.
Honorable mentions: David Robinson 1994-95, David Robinson 1990-91. "The Admiral" didn't have a full offensive repertoire in his second season, but he was a complete freak of nature and it was probably the most fun season to watch just from a highlight standpoint.
Power-Forward: Tim Duncan (2002-03): I promise these will get more suspenseful later on. The Golden God picked up the second of his two MVP trophies this season, and while he was better in almost every respect in 2001-02, I give him the edge here for two reasons. One, Robinson was still a huge asset in '01-02. But in his last year, he was clearly spent and Duncan had to drag that team to the finish line. Second, Duncan sustained his level of play through 24 playoff games in addition to his stellar regular season. In all, he clocked over 4,000 minutes that year.
Honorable mentions: Tim Duncan 2001-02, Tim Duncan 2003-04. Duncan's prayer over Shaq in Game 5 of the West semis would be remembered as one of the all-time clutch-shots in NBA history if not for a lousy timekeeper.
Small-Forward: Kawhi Leonard (2014-15): This is probably the one we'll have to revise over and over as Leonard continues his ascent. It's fascinating to think about how the addition of LaMarcus Aldridge will alter the course of his development. Leonard may not get to be that ball-dominant wing a la LeBron James or Kobe Bryant until he turns 28 or 29, if ever. He's already skyrocketed to a 22.0 PER by his age 22 season, which is mind-blowing, so I'm not about to put any kind of ceiling on him. I've learned my lesson.
Honorable mentions: Kawhi Leonard 2013-14, Kawhi Leonard 2012-13. With all due respect to Elliott and Bruce Bowen, there's just no debate at all in my mind for the silver and the bronze here.
Shooting Guard: Derek Anderson (2000-01): Controversy at last! There's no way to argue that the best of Anderson is comparable to the best of Ginobili. But ultimately it came down to a) whether Ginobili's best season was as a starter or a sixth-man, and b) whether Anderson as a starter was better than any non-Ginobili backup shooting guard I could come up with. Anderson had a career-year in his one season in San Antonio (playing with Duncan probably helped) but his fateful injury at the hands of Dallas' Juwan Howard changed everything for him, Ginobili and the course of Spurs history. It was one of those fork-in-the-road moments that seemed bad at the time but wound up working out in San Antonio's favor, such as Robinson missing virtually the entire 1996-97 season and Jason Kidd deciding not to sign with the Spurs as a free agent after the 2003 Finals.
Honorable mentions: Danny Green 2014-15, Manu Ginobili 2004-05. It was close, but Anderson just nipped Green because he had a more prominent role in that team's offense. Green has a very good chance of making me do this over in a year or two though. If I went with Ginobili as the starter, his '04-05 season is an easy call. Believe it or not, Manu has only started more than half the games in just three seasons and of those I'm going with the one where he dominated the playoffs.
Point Guard: Tony Parker (2012-2013): When Parker was making a name for himself in the early-aughts, his naysayers took note of how he came into the league as a teenager and dismissed him as a one-dimensional speedster who'd be finished by 30. In 2009-10, his age 27 season, Parker was making his critics look prescient, with a miserable, injury-ravaged year. There were rumors the Spurs were looking to trade him. Thankfully they did not and coincidentally enough Parker had his best season at age 30, looking like a top-3 player for two solid months and carrying the Spurs to a Finals appearance. Few remember it now, thanks to Ray Allen, but Parker very nearly pulled off in Game 6 of the Finals what his idol Michael Jordan did against Utah, with a game-tying basket/steal/go-ahead basket sequence very late in that game.
Honorable mentions: Tony Parker 2008-09, Tony Parker 2006-07. It's still total nonsense by the way that Ginobili didn't get Finals MVP in '04-05 but Parker did in '06-07.
Coming tomorrow, the all-time Spurs bench!