Yesterday, I wrote a fun little story about what would be my all-time best Spurs lineup. And lo, there was much complaining. Among the constructive feedback I received (besides the story itself being stupid of course) was that it was biased, self-serving and a vanity project.
I plead guilty on all three counts. It was biased toward my reality, just as I encouraged all of you to be in the comments. It was self-serving in that if I don't post articles every so often, my superiors will gladly find someone else who will, so it's in my best interests to write. And it was vain because every time I offend one of you, the lady in the mirror says I'm the fairest queen of them all.
Most of the complaints were about not having George Gervin on there, even though I had a disclaimer about my selection process only being from 1989 onward. Only on an internet forum can people get furious at you for admitting that you have a limited range of expertise and demand that you just offer opinions from your nether regions instead. I like to think of it like that Edie Brickell song: I'm not aware of too many things, but I know what I know, if you know what I mean.
So if you want credit for being more knowledgeable about the pre-1989 Spurs than I am, I bow to your expertise. But that means you have to give me the benefit of the doubt for anything that happened these past 25 years, because odds are I've been more obsessive about it than you've been. Deal?
The irony in all this is back in April I was called out for being too differential to the legends when I argued that Tim Duncan can't be any higher than seventh on the list of all-time greats, behind Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
The lesson, as always, is you can't win on the internet. But you can sure win a whole bunch of ballgames with the all-time Spurs bench. So let's get to it.
(Again, I'm working only from 1989 on, I can't use anyone twice and the player had to have been a reserve in the majority of the games from the year I'm including him, but you can break any of these rules in the comments. Okay?)
Center: Tiago Splitter ('11-12) Our beloved Sparkles started just twice in 59 appearances in the lockout-shortened season but he was fourth on the club in Win Shares (4.6), second in WS/48 (.197) and posted a 20.5 PER. Unfortunately, our lasting memories of him for that season is of him missing some hack-a-Tiago free throws in the Western Conference Finals against the Thunder, but Splitter was incredible all season long as a tag-team partner for Manu Ginobili on the pick-and-roll. Splitter shot a career-high 61.8 percent from the field and averaged 17.6 points per-36 minutes, his most as a Spur by some margin.
Honorable mentions: DeJuan Blair ('09-10), Aaron Baynes ('14-15). Oh man, remember how excited we all were about Blair as a rookie? I was psyched. Little did we know that was going to be as good as it was ever going to get. Also, before Splitter came along, PATFO had almost a pathological obsession with undersized backup centers. Baynes meanwhile blossomed in his third year in San Antonio playing quite a bit in Splitter's absence and earned himself a nice contract with the Pistons.
Power Forward: Robert Horry ('04-05) This was the only season where Horry averaged even six points for the Spurs and in typical "Big Shot Bob" fashion he hibernated for most of the regular season. (Remember though, Malik Rose played quite a bit for the first 50 games before being traded for Nazr Mohammed.) Horry gets the nod here because he was sooooo good in the playoffs. Obviously, you know about Game 5 of the Finals against Detroit, but how about this: for the postseason by some advanced metrics he was second only to Ginobili (and thus, ahead of Duncan) in value. He spaced the floor offensively, could screen and pass and guard three positions expertly on defense. His net rating was +24! Horry was a monster those playoffs.
Honorable mentions: Boris Diaw ('13-14), Malik Rose ('98-99). Diaw was notably more aggressive as a shooter in 2014 than the year before, but not necessarily all that much better in the big picture. He was fantastic in the last three games of the Finals, but maybe not as good overall in that postseason as you might think. He kind of got better as it went along. Rose was a youngster who had to earn Gregg Popovich's trust on a veteran-laden roster, but by the finish line he was the team's seventh man, ahead of people like Jerome Kersey, Will Perdue and Antonio Daniels.
Small Forward: Chuck Person ('95-96): Admittedly this has been somewhat of a shallow position for the Spurs over the years. Person still shot over 40 percent from three at a time when such a thing was a big deal and put up a career-high 5.5 Win Shares, even though he had several seasons as a starter with the Pacers where he played significantly more. He was also really, really good in the playoffs that year.
Honorable mentions: Marco Belinelli ('13-14), Dominique Wilkins ('96-97). Belinelli easily had the best season of his career in almost every respect upon joining the Spurs and along with Duncan, Diaw and Patty Mills he helped keep the team afloat for a couple of months when there was an injury epidemic. He didn't do much in the playoffs, but did hit a couple of huge shots against OKC and Miami to squash their runs. Wilkins was 37 and way out-of-shape in his one season as a Spur, but he was still oddly fun to watch on that tanktastic squad. Did he care about playing defense? To quote a famous Canadian poet of our time, "Not even a little bit." But he sure turned the "flips given" meter from 0 to 100 when it was time to score. He led the club with a 19.6 PER and finished second to Will Perdue in Win Shares.
Shooting Guard: Manu Ginobili ('07-08): Look, '04-05 had more dunks, it was more fun and had a way better ending, but Ginobili was truly at the height of his powers in '07-08 as the full-fledged number one option. It was a joke he didn't make the All-Star team. Ginobili was an absolute assassin as a scorer this season and clutch as can be. Also, for what it's worth, he averaged more minutes per game as a reserve than he did in 2005 as a starter.
Honorable mentions: Manu Ginobili ('09-10), Manu Ginobili ('11-12). With all due respect to Brent Barry, the top nine spots on this list would've gone to various Ginobili campaigns. The final couple months of the '09-10 season was probably the longest sustained stretch of him at his peak, while '11-12 was just this goofy, anomaly of a season that will fascinate me as long as I live. He barely played (only 34 games) and barely shot the ball, but he simply would not miss and was a grand-master on the floor during his limited time. It was ridiculous.
Point Guard: Terry Porter ('99-00): Yeah, this surprised me too. Porter was 36 at the time but he made 43.5 percent of his threes and pretty much had the third-best season of anyone on the team after Robinson and Duncan. It wasn't a very high bar to clear. I gave him the nod over Mills because he was more of a point guard.
Honorable mentions: Patty Mills ('13-14), Antonio Daniels ('98-99). No, for real though, Mills was insanely good in 2014, even as a point guard in name only. Daniels probably should've had more playing time than "The Li'l General" but I guess it worked out anyway.
Fifth Big: Will Perdue ('97-98): Not his most prolific season for the Spurs, but Perdue was really strong defensively that year and averaged a career-high 19.4 rebounds-per-100 possessions. The Spurs really had the three towers back then and nothing.
Honorable mentions: Matt Bonner ('10-11), Matt Bonner ('11-12). Rocket led the league in three-point percentage in 2011 and stroked it at a 42 percent clip the following year, while putting up monster net ratings both years. I thought about '92-93 Antoine Carr, but he started too many games.
Fifth Guard: Brent Barry ('06-07): Most of my memories of Barry as a Spur come from 2005, but he was way better two years later. Just, um, not so much in the playoffs. Still, he could play either guard spot and was long, and a deadly three-point shooter most of the time.
Honorable mentions: Cory Joseph ('14-15), Steve Kerr ('02-03). If you thought I wouldn't find a way to sneak Joseph in somehow, you haven't been paying attention. And Kerr, who wasn't very good at all in his final season, still managed a 22.7 PER, a .331 WS/48 and a 62 net rating in the playoffs. Sample size may have been a factor, but you can't go wrong with Kerr on your team.