The Austin Spurs (née Toros) have played an important role in bringing along the varsity team's younger players for years. Guys like Cory Joseph, Kyle Anderson and Jonathon Simmons have had their development facilitated by regularly making the trip up I-35 to get as much playing time as possible and work on specific areas of their game.
Heading into training camp, players on non-guaranteed contracts such as Patricio Garino, Ryan Arcidiacono, Nicolás Laprovíttola and Bryn Forbes will obviously want the final roster spot. But barring that, they'll still likely have the opportunity to stay close with the team and play for the Austin squad. As Jesus Gomez noted, at least three of those players' contracts have substantial guaranteed money (between $75,000 and $125,00), making the idea of playing in the D League more appealing than its maximum salary of $26,000.
And they wouldn't be the only familiar players doing so.
Rookie Dejounte Murray is a promising first-round pick, but that doesn't mean he won't be seeing a fair amount of time in an Austin Spurs jersey. The 19-year-old is still raw and surely seen as more of a long-term investment. Playing in the D League will allow him to work on some fundamentals and start working up towards his high ceiling. He might be joined by 2013 draft pick Livio Jean-Charles, whose spent the last four years playing in France and may need some time to establish what kind of role he'll play in San Antonio.
Thanks to venerable PtR commenter Daniel Humm for highlighting the situation in Austin and giving a solid breakdown on what the San Antonio front office may want to do with their younger assets.
If I’m not mistaken, Austin will be losing nearly every player from last season’s roster. A number have signed overseas and a few more with other NBA teams. They had so few players that will be available for the DLeague next season that the two picks in the DLeague Expansion Draft were a player that had played all of 60 minutes and another (Josh Davis) who had left to sign overseas last season. Austin definitely needs to restock, so chances are the 4 players allocated from training camp might all become starters, with competition from a couple of roster players sent there on assignment. Having Laprovittola on the 15 man roster at the start of the season would give them the freedom to assign Murray to Austin without shuffling him back and forth. Livio seems also likely to be a permanent assignee. Arcidiacono and Forbes seem likely allocations. They could certainly use a couple of more bigs that are allocated from training camp cuts. It seems most likely that if they use a roster spot on Laprovittola means cutting Garino and sending him to Austin on an allocation. My own preference would to hold on to Garino, who likely would not object to occasional assignments to Austin, and letting Simmons go. My expectation is that Garino will help solidify a reserve unit that doesn’t seem would play very good defense with Simmons in place of Garino.
Word is Patricio Garino is prepared to take the D-League route to a future NBA role if necessary, which may give PATFO some flexibility in who they offer a roster spot to. I'm not sure the current void in Austin's roster would impact any decisions, but it does underline the yearly challenge of managing a Development League team. Still, Garino's willingness to go there (plus the likelihood of Murray and a few other fringe rotation players needing playing time) should make it a pretty interesting season in Austin, and certainly one to keep an eye on.