The Spurs are trimming down their roster as we head into the new year. Third string point guard Nicolas Laprovittola has been waived. San Antonio now only has 14 players under contract.
The 26-year-old rookie from Argentina made the roster after getting a training camp invite and did well in his time with the team. He started three games and made an appearance in 15 others, doing a solid job of being a spot up shooter and secondary playmaker.
Laprovittola's departure is not a huge surprise and should not have a big impact on how the Spurs perform going forward. Yet the timing and the question marks at the guard slots make it an interesting decision.
Let's take a closer look the Spurs’ first first roster move of the season.
Releasing Laprovittola now is the best for both parties
Laprovittola made the final roster after training camp, and while his contract wasn't fully guaranteed, it would have been on January 10. So by waiving him now the Spurs will be saving some money. It won't be a substantial amount, as Laprovittola was on a minimum contract, but if he wasn't in the team's long term plans, it makes sense to pull the trigger on the decision right now.
Spurs waive Nico Laprovittola » https://t.co/ZHiw9OFKIM— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 27, 2016
As for Nico, he surely knew this was a possibility all along and was probably ready for it. Shortly before the season started he got Italian citizenship, which means he can ply his trade in Europe as a domestic player. Since spots for foreigners are limited, that's a huge advantage. He should be able to get a contract abroad with relative ease, even though the Euroleague and domestic competitions are already underway.
The short marriage between the Spurs and Laprovittola was beneficial for both parties. Nico got a chance to play at the highest level — something that should look good on his resume — and San Antonio got a decent stopgap option at point guard for two months.
Dejounte Murray will need to grow up, fast
Murray is 20 years old and in his rookie year after he somewhat surprisingly declared for the draft. The main reason why someone as talented as he is dropped to the bottom of the first round is because he's incredibly raw. And now the Spurs are one injury away from him playing minutes that matter. That's obviously not ideal.
Despite displaying occasional flashes of brilliance, Murray has been really bad when he's been on the floor. He had his best game of the season recently when he started against the Trail Blazers, but he still has more turnovers than assists for the year and is shooting 41 percent from the floor. He has looked like a rookie who is a year or two away from being a reliable contributor — because that's what he is.
With Laprovittola gone, Murray moves up in the rotation. He needs to make the most of the situation and show some growth, because he might be called upon to play sooner than many expected.
Fortunately for him, Nico was just an acceptable third stringer. There are no huge shoes to fill. But Murray will need to be steadier going forward or the Spurs could suffer when Patty Mills or Tony Parker miss time.
Don't expect a big addition with the last roster spot
The Spurs now have an open roster spot and there are a few intriguing veteran free agents available. The best among them is Donatas Motiejunas, who failed to secure a deal over the summer and has recently been renounced by the Rockets. Point guards Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole are still out there. Our old friends Gary Neal and DeJuan Blair are still unsigned and, if we want to get weird, so is Lance Stephenson.
The likelihood of any of those guys —or any other recognizable name— ending up in San Antonio doesn't seem high.
Motiejunas held out until now because he’s looking for a big contract. Signing for the minimum to battle David Lee for minutes doesn't seem probable. Cole, Chalmers or any other point guard would have an extremely hard time getting rotation minutes, barring injury to Mills or Parker. Other teams offer better opportunities. All the former Spurs were released for a reason and it's hard to imagine Pop taking a chance on someone like Stephenson or Josh Smith.
The most likely scenario involves the Spurs standing pat with Murray as their third point guard and saving that spot (or spots, if Bryn Forbes has his non guaranteed contract also waived) for January, when teams can start calling up players from the D-League on 10-day contracts.
The rotation seems set for now and taking a look at prospects makes sense, especially with two-way contracts coming in the new CBA.