Welcome to the 2017-18 season player reviews, where we will be rehashing the performance of all 15 Spurs from this season (excluding two-way players Darrun Hilliard and Matt Costello) and looking towards the future. Up next:
2017-18 stats: 2.3 points, 1.1 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 9.0 minutes
2017-18 salary: $815,615
Contract: 1 year, $1.38 million remaining (non-guaranteed until August 1)
Undrafted in 2013, Paul spent the last four years globetrotting between the G-League, Russia, Spain and Turkey before finally getting the call he’d been dreaming of from the Spurs following an impressive showing for the Mavs and Cavs in the 2017 Summer League. Known for his hustle, 6’10” wing span and outside shot, Paul had a good shot at cracking the Spurs rotation and possibly soaking up some minutes left by Jonathon Simmons.
While the effort and defense was there, Paul struggled with scoring, especially away from the basket (.600 inside 10 feet, .273 from three) and eventually found himself outside of the main rotation. On a squad that severely struggled to score this season but wasn’t lacking in the defensive department, there just wasn’t much room for him when every other wing (SG/SF) on the team outperformed him from distance.
Similar to Derrick White, Paul was a rookie who didn’t come in with the highest of expectations, but the two-way player couldn’t quite give the Spurs the half of his game they needed the most. Despite appearing in 55 contests, it’s arguable he could have gotten even more of a chance as the entire team struggled down the stretch, but it’s also hard to imagine he would have made enough of a difference by himself to fix the Spurs’ woes, particularly on the road.
While he didn’t quite turn out to be the secret weapon the Spurs had hoped for — at least not this year, hopefully he will get another chance. It’s not that unusual to see a rookie struggle in the Spurs’ system before everything clicks the second year.
If it wasn’t clear already, Paul will have to find his outside shooting stroke if he wants to make an impact. Once again the guard positions are entirely in flux this summer, so the opportunity should be there — if he’s still on the roster. At 27-years-old, it’s hard to say if he will participate in his fourth Summer League, but if he does that could be his main chance to convince the Spurs he’s worth keeping before they have to make a decision whether or not to guarantee his contract by August 1.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, it’s easy to see him making the cut and getting another chance to prove he’s an NBA player, Bryn Forbes-style, even if he doesn’t play in Vegas. However, there’s still plenty of room for improvement if he wants to make the top-ten of the rotation, and the best way to do that is become the two-way player he was signed to be.
Nov. 11 vs. Bulls: 15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal
(I tried to find highlights from his season-high performance of 18 points in a 108-94 loss at Boston on October 30, mainly because that was the game where Tim Duncan made Sean Elliott refer to Paul’s shot as “so smooth, so chocolaty” in reference to their H-E-B commercial. Unfortunately I had no luck.)
Final Grade: C-
Up next: Kawhi Leonard