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Time is running out for the Spurs’ role players to prove they are keepers

No one is safe in San Antonio, so guys like Devonte’ Graham and Dominick Barlow will need to prove they are worth keeping around.

NBA: Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs Aaron Meullion-USA TODAY Sports

Dominick Barlow has been getting minutes lately. Do you think the rookie could have a future in San Antonio?

Marilyn Dubinski: I like his potential and could see him maybe getting another year as a two-way player with the Spurs to prove himself more, but his future with them may be more dependent on what happens in the draft than anything. If the Spurs pick anywhere other than second (where Scoot Henderson is the likely choice), most of the other top prospects are forwards (Victor Wembanyama, Brandon Miller, the Thompson twins, etc). Not to mention, they already have Jeremy Sochan, whom I would assume would slide over to starting small forward if they somehow get Wemby, which would require some interesting shuffling of Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson ... and I’ve gone way down the rabbit hole here, but the point is barring a huge leap from Barlow into at least the second string, his future in San Antonio may be out of his control.

Mark Barrington: He’s still pretty raw, so it’s hard to evaluate how good he’ll be. He’s interesting, and he could develop into an undersized energy big, like Montrezl Harrell. It’s really hard for players to develop in the NBA on the bench, so the two-way contract will benefit him, because he needs to play a lot in order to get better.

Bruno Passos: He has some unique traits, including a willingness to put the ball on the floor, and his rawness definitely plays into his favor as far as an untapped ceiling. It’s fun to extrapolate the flashes and lean into his unique path to the NBA. He also seems like a high-character dude. The boring but likely answer is it just depends on how quickly he can round out his game and elevate his floor to make him a viable rotation player, but the smart money would be on that journey continuing elsewhere.

Jesus Gomez: Like a lot of other Spurs, at this point he’s a reliable three-pointer away from being a viable NBA player. The physical tools and the motor is there. He could be a really good defender. The problem is right now he looks more like a severely undersized center than a power forward, which is the position he’ll have to play to actually be a part of the Spurs' future. There’s enough potential in him that it would make sense to bring him back at least for training camp next season, but his career path might be determined by whether he can either learn to shoot or become a monster on defense and the boards to make up for his lack of range.

Devonte’ Graham has shown his ability as a shooter and is averaging four assists to just one turnover. Should the Spurs consider keeping him if possible or try to flip him in the offseason?

Dubinski: His shooting hasn’t been overly consistent, but he is the type of player the Spurs have been missing since Patty Mills left: a sharp-shooting guard off the bench who can go off at any time, plus he has some good leadership qualities. There’s no reason for the Spurs not to listen to any offers, and they probably won’t demand an absurd price for him, but they probably also won’t be actively looking to move him unless he’s part of a bigger trade.

Barrington: I think he’s a kind of player every contending team needs, a guy who can come off the bench and score points without having to warm up or get into the rhythm of the offense. He’s miscast as a starter, but the Spurs have been short on healthy players this year, and they have to play whoever is available. If he sticks with the team, he’ll have a role, but if another team makes a good offer for him, he’ll get moved, because the Spurs won’t be a contending team for a few years and could use high draft picks more than a good role player.

Passos: I’m a sucker for anyone that can pull up from three, a skill the Spurs have shirked in relation to the rest of the league, so I’ve enjoyed seeing him in San Antonio for that reason alone. If he’s at a place in his career where he’s happy to defer some of his role to the Spurs’ long-term development program, then I don’t see why he couldn’t carve out a place in San Antonio alongside Doug McDermott as a veteran voice and guy who can make other players’ lives easier with spacing and decision making. Of course, if the right offer comes along, PATFO should answer the phone.

Gomez: Ideally he’d continue to play well and then be flipped in the offseason, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing to keep him until the next trade deadline. Right now the Spurs need some pull-up shooters who aren’t afraid to let it fly, and Graham has no conscience, which is a good thing. But he’s simply too inconsistent and a little too old to consider him an actual piece of the puzzle going forward.

Are you surprised that Stanley Johnson and Isaiah Roby cleared waivers and don’t have a team yet?

Dubinski: Roby doesn’t surprise me considering his waive was relatively recent, and he hasn’t really done anything to prove himself this season, but Johnson is a surprise. He brought energy, defense and shooting to the Spurs: all things playoff teams would be looking to add in the final push. I also don’t imagine the Spurs would have waived him if he or his agent didn’t think an offer was coming, so something may have fallen through somewhere.

Barrington: I’m a little surprised by Johnson, because he really showed out for most of this season with the Spurs and looked like he was going to a contender. The Lakers probably would have been the best fit, but they were ineligible to pick him up because they traded him to the Jazz in the offseason. There was a lot of player movement at the trade deadline and it was like a game of musical chairs, when the music stopped, Stanley was left standing.

I’m not surprised at Isaiah Roby clearing waivers. He’s just not enough better than the 15th player on any of the 30 NBA teams for them to cut a player in order pick him up. He needs to spend time in the G-League or overseas and develop his craft. He has the physical tools to be an NBA player, but he’s not there mentally yet. If he finds a place where he can be coached hard, he can get there.

Passos: Not really. Playoff teams will be shortening their rotations in the postseason, and neither project as guys that will immediately command a role, while lottery-bound groups can just focus on giving minutes to their own younger players. They’re also probably not difference makers for those in the middle. I’d expect both to get a good look in the summer, though.

Gomez: Roby is still 25 years old and was a passable small-ball center with the Thunder so I’m a little surprised no one has seemed interested, but he really didn’t have a good season with the Spurs and getting waived twice by rebuilding teams doesn’t look great on his resume.

Johnson still being available is a bit of a shocker. It’s completely understandable for a contender to worry about his viability in the playoffs since his shot is questionable, but it’s hard to accept that such a versatile defender, above average rebounder, and good transition player has no place in the league. Even as a 15-minute a game eighth or ninth man he has value. He’s not going to put a team over the top but he’ll compete and sop up minutes guarding good ball handlers so others can rest. Hopefully someone picks him up because he’s worked hard to remain in the league.