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A look at which Spurs fill emotional roles

The NBA has official roles, but also some unofficial ones that have little to do with on-court impact and a lot to do with vibes. Let’s see which of the more esoteric roles the Spurs have already filled.

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Building a team is not easy. Front offices and coaches need to find and develop players who fit different but important roles. You needs stars, role players and specialists of different types who are not only good at their jobs, but also complement the whole roster.

Beyond those traditional, well-established roles, there are some more esoteric ones that often have big impacts. The most well-known include The Enforcer and The Glue Guy, but there are others. So let’s take a look at which of these important and not at all completely made-up roles the Spurs have already filled and which they will need to going forward.

The Emotional Guy

The Emotional Guy is the one who gets everyone hyped and injects some energy to the team by not being afraid to show his excitement after big plays. He could be a star or a role player, but he needs to be well-liked by teammates, or his antics could be seen as self-serving instead of inspiring.

A great example of how important an Emotional Guy can be to a team is Bobby Portis. Portis didn’t play a huge part in a lot of Milwaukee’s run to the title in 2021, but when he did, he made sure to leave his mark on the game by being loud and demonstrative, getting his teammates excited and the crowd involved. An example of a superstar who was also an Emotional Guy was Kevin Garnett, whose intensity teammates loved while everyone else found it mostly annoying, but normally Emotional Guys are role players.

Do the Spurs have one?

They most definitely do. Keldon Johnson is still on his rookie contract, but he’s already an elite Emotional Guy. His teammates seem to love him, so they actually seem excited whenever he screams after doing something good. It will be amazing to see him take his talent to a new level in a playoffs atmosphere. He might legitimately blow out his vocal cords after his first postseason dunk, and it will be worth it.

The Hype Man

The Hype man is a bench player, preferably a third stringer, who goes nuts every time something exciting happens. A Hype Man pretends to faint after a big dunk, does the Euro step move after a particularly vicious one and is in general always ready to celebrate someone’s else achievements.

The Spurs had a Hall-of-Fame Hype Man not long ago in Patty Mills, before he actually became a rotation player. His towel-waving was legendary. More recently, Drew Eubanks was showing some strong promise as a potentially great Hype Man, but alas, he was traded away. An example from a different team is Robert Sacre, who I’m convinced only lasted as long as he did in the NBA because of his elite cheer-leading.

Do the Spurs have one?

Not anymore. With Eubanks gone, there is now a hole to fill. I’ve seen Jock Landale get up to celebrate a random second-quarter three, which shows good initiative, but the excessive excitement needed to be a truly great Hype Man just isn’t there. Keldon could be a great one, but he simply plays too much. This is something the Spurs will have to address through the draft or free agency, because it’s sad to look to the bench and not seeing someone go completely crazy when something interesting happens.

The Cool Guy

The Cool Guy is there to bring some swagger to a team, basically. He’s fun to have around and brings some mystique with him, but the wrong Cool Guy can actually be a liability to a contending team, because his essence is predicated on making the hard seem effortless and generally looking like he’s bored with the team’s or his own greatness. It’s sometimes hard to tell if a Cool Guy actually doesn’t really care instead of just looking like he doesn’t, which is a little scary.

Stars that are also Cool Guys are rare. Allen Iverson was definitely one of them. Ja Morant is on his way to being one. There are some who consider the aggressively uncool Klay Thompson to be one, but they are obviously wrong. More often than not, role players are the ones who fill the Cool Guy role, like Lou Williams and Will Barton. The last Cool Guy the Spurs had was probably Jonathon Simmons, who would occasionally do fun things but looked perpetually unimpressed by everything.

Do the Spurs have one?

They do not. Lonnie Walker IV had potential, but his struggles over the years made him a little too self-aware to actually be a Cool Guy. Fortunately, the Spurs drafted a player with insane Cool Guy upside in Josh Primo. I have never seen Primo look excited about anything, not even when the incredibly risky things he occasionally tries work out. And he’s only a rookie! He could be a generational Cool Guy talent.

The Pest

While the rest of these archetypes only have a direct effect on the vibes of the team, The Pest can have an impact on the floor on the defensive end. The best among them do, at least. We are talking about the most annoying players to face in the league, guys that pick people up full court or play as physically as possible in every possession, while also not being above the occasional dirty play.

The king of the Pests for the past few years in the NBA has been Patrick Beverley. No one has gotten into opponents’ head as much as he has in his time in the NBA by being annoying in every conceivable way. The Spurs had one of the best Pests ever in Bruce Bowen, who didn’t talk as much as Beverley does, but hounded stars on defense, making life miserable for them by not giving them an inch, while also being no stranger to the dark arts.

Do the Spurs have one?

Not really. Dejounte Murray is uncomfortable to face, because his long arms make every pass in his vicinity a gamble, but he’s not someone who takes it upon himself to rile people up. Derrick White was closer to being a pest in the same way Manu Ginobili was, since every charge he drew infuriated the person called for them, but he’s in Boston now. The Spurs’ culture is not a fit for most trash-talkers, and obviously no one likes dirty players, but adding someone with an edge might help San Antonio in the future.

What other unofficial roles are there in the NBA? Do you think the Spurs have the two most common ones, The Enforcer and The Glue Guy, already locked down, or are those spots still up for grabs? Let us know in the comments.