With five members of the 2013/14 championship team departing this offseason, the front office had a lot of spots to fill in the roster. At the big man positions and at lead guard they managed to get the depth that was needed. At the wing, however, the Spurs lack a proven performer after Marco Belinelli's departure.
Auditioning for that role are three players with markedly different skill sets. Who wins the minutes could tell us a lot about what the Spurs think the bench lacks. So let's examine the strengths and weaknesses of Jimmer Fredette, Jonathon Simmons and Kyle Anderson and whether they complement the rest of the second unit.
Jimmer's elite shooting ability makes him an option
Let's get the obvious out of the way first: Jimmer can shoot. Last season's 19 percent from beyond the arc was an anomaly. He took only 48 shots, which is a ridiculously small sample size. In his first three years in the league Fredette averaged 40 percent on three-pointers on 456 attempts, proving that his shooting ability translated to the NBA.
That makes him a good fit for Belinelli's role, but there are caveats. Unlile Marco, Jimmer likes to have the ball in his hands, preferring to pull up instead of coming off screens. That being said, Belinelli came to San Antonio after running the offense at times in Chicago and transitioned to a new role. Fredette could do the same.
Fredette is a liability on defense against smart opponents
Like it happens with Matt Bonner, opponents think they have a mismatch when Jimmer is on them and force the issue.
You can see Dennis Schroder licking his chops seeing Jimmer in front of him only to be denied not once but twice. Unfortunately, that's not an accurate portrayal of Fredette's defensive acumen in isolation. When opponents get overconfident he can play off of them a little and wait for them to drive but that's one of the few situations in which he can contain dribble penetration.
Fredette gives effort but that's not enough to make up for sub-optimal physical tools. Every team he's been a part of has done significantly better on defense when he was on the bench. At the wing -- a position he has played off and on since entering the league -- and defending a spot up shooter he won't get exposed as much as at the point of attack but it's hard to see him be anything but a poor defender.
If Jimmer play, the Spurs will need their offense to click because their defense will likely struggle.
Simmons' physical tools and driving ability are rare in this roster
Simmons has the physical tools to be an NBA player. He has prototypical size for a wing as well as above average explosiveness. His ability to attack off the dribble was on display during Summer League.
Simmons won't be relied upon to create as much with the Spurs but adding another player who can attack closeouts and keep the defense moving would be a huge plus.
On the defensive end, he appears to be a better option than both Fredette and Kyle Anderson, at least from a physical standpoint. A reduced offensive role should allow him to focus more on locking down his man and be aggressive without worrying about foul trouble.
Simmons is completely unproven
If Simmons three-point shot proves to be reliable, he could make a great addition to the rotation. That's a big if, however. He shot 28 percent from outside in his first year in Austin. In 2014/15 he connected on 39 percent of his shots beyond the arc but only took 2.8 three-pointer per 36 minutes. Boris Diaw attempted outside shots more often than that. In Summer League he went 2-for-11. There's no way of telling if his shot is for real.
The same goes for his playmaking skills and defense. Against inferior competition he's been solid at both. Can that translate to the NBA? Will he adjust to a smaller role that demands consistency? In theory, Simmons could be a solid 3-and-D wing with some off-the-bounce creativity. In reality, he's a 26-year-old undrafted rookie with a lot to prove.
If he's in the rotation a couple of months into the season it will be because he proved his worth or the other options didn't deliver.
Anderson's rebounding and shot creation make the bench even more versatile
The Spurs could use some above average rebounding from the small forward position to make up for Diaw's deficiencies in that area. Anderson has proved to be able to clean up the defensive glass both in college and in the D-League, where he posted an 18 percent defensive rebounds percentage. He was even better with the Spurs in an admittedly small sample size, posting a big man-like 20 percent.
While the rebounding was always expected to translate, the shot creation that made Anderson an intriguing prospect was more of a question mark. His performance in Summer League was good enough to ease most concerns. While he might never be dynamic enough to be a great finisher at the rim, he uses his height extremely well to get shots off in the post and to launch silky floaters that fall more often than not.
With Manu Ginobili's scoring ability declining, having another guy who can get a bucket by himself could prove useful.
Slowmo can't play off the ball
Because he has been the primary ball handler all his life, Anderson never developed a typical wing player's skill set. That's not necessarily a problem. As mentioned, having another ball handler to complement Manu and Diaw would be nice. But not if that player is between useless and detrimental when he's off the ball.
Anderson is not a three-point threat. In 1,679 minutes as a pro (counting D-League, SL and the NBA), he has taken 76 shot from beyond the arc and connected on 24 of them for a 31 percent average. Unlike other non-shooters, he's also not a cutter, as he floats through the court instead of moving with purpose.
Anderson is a great insurance policy in case either Diaw or Ginobili get hurt or disappoint. Playing next to both of them, however, will require him to prove he can shoot.
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There's no ideal replacement that can provide what Belinelli did, at least on offense. The good news is the Spurs have given themselves options as they search for a fourth wing that complements this new iteration of the team. We can even add DeShaun Thomas and Reggie Williams to the possibilities, even if it's hard to imagine either being with the Spurs past training camp.
Corporate knowledge and camaraderie were lost during the offseason but there's still plenty of talent left. Now it's time to figure out who is the best fit to fill one of the few roles still up for grabs.