Forget the NBA team previews you find in magazines, newspapers, and dozens of websites devoted to covering the NBA. If you want to know about the players on this season’s Spurs roster, ask an NBA scout.
Few know more about the strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, basketball IQs, and quirks of the players than those employed by the 30 teams as advance scouts and player personnel scouts. For years, I have called on my many friends among the NBA scouting fraternity to give me their professional opinion of each of the players on the Spurs roster, guaranteeing anonymity in order to ensure their candor.
Here is one NBA scout’s take on the 19 players who remain on the 2015-16 Spurs roster heading into Friday’s final pre-season game, against the Houston Rockets, at AT&T Center. Players are listed alphabetically.
(Aldridge) had another great year in 2015-16 and seemed to fit in just fine with them. If anything, I see him taking another step up and taking some of the slack from the Tim Duncan retirement, and also from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. He needs to take more initiative to be the guy but I see another very, very good year ahead and see him, again, being a major part of their success. Fitting into their defensive system hasn’t been easy for him but that takes time and there were some issues last year but that seems more a matter of him finding his role. That may be easier this year having Pau (Gasol) next to him. Pau’s length makes a huge difference and will make it easier for LaMarcus as a defender.
He’s at a real crossroads, to be honest. He’s at a point he’s got to perform; step up and be able to fill the shoes of Boris (Diaw) and take up some minutes of the guys who have left. He has to be a bigger piece of what they do and whether he can do that is a big question for them. He is a very good playmaker and facilitator and he’s going to have to do that on a more consistent basis. He also has to show he can shoot more consistently, especially from long range. Plus, he must prove he can guard people despite his lack of foot speed. He has to use angles and smarts to defend and it remains to be seen how well he can do that. With Boris gone he’s going to be one of the main pieces who either helps them sustain or else they may take a step back.
One of those guys I call a “dirt worker,” an intangible guy. He’s a pro’s pro and if he makes the team it will be because they know they can always throw him into a game and he will do the right things: set screens and rebound and box out and always know the defensive coverages. One of those players that is a comfort guy for coaches because they know what he is going to bring. A great locker room guy, one that other players respect.
Undersized and one of those kids you fall in love with because of the intangibles but his game isn’t yet NBA-ready. Needs a few years before we find out if he is an NBA player. If they keep him he will be in Austin most of the year. They have his rights in Austin so he will be there, anyway.
I see him as a perimeter shooting big who can help them out there. He’s a really bouncy kid but is not very strong physically so he is going to struggle learning how to play against NBA bigs. That’s going to be a big challenge for him. It will take him time to adapt to the NBA game, especially on the physical side. He can really shoot the three and is a guy who can help them down the road, but not so much this year unless he can adapt more quickly than a lot of Euros do.
He’s an enigma: Talented enough to be a very solid player who could really help them, but only if he understands what he is. He’s always seen himself as better than he really is and has not always accepted that his role is just to rebound and block shots. Very athletic and could be a great rebounder and shot blocker if he can stay in games consistently at the defensive end. That’s been a problem because he has foul issues. Mainly, he has to accept that he is who he is. The good news: If there is a team that can get him to understand that, it’s the Spurs. Here’s another reason he might see the light: If he does, he can be a $10 million-a-year player. That’s a pretty good incentive.
I don’t know his game very well but I know he’s an overachiever and a terrific shooter. There’s usually a spot for guys like that and I expect he’ll be one of the guys from camp they will want to keep in Austin.
He’s a decent shooter and defender but maybe not ready for the NBA right now. If he makes their team it will be as a defender because he really moves his feet well and has a high basketball IQ. Coaches always love those guys, so he’s got a chance. Another guy who will probably be in Austin.
If you’re looking for a guy to replace Tim Duncan you could not do any better than Pau. Very similar in basketball IQ and what he does for the team on the court. Essentially, Pau is Tim three years ago. He’s kept himself in terrific shape and still plays at a high level. Two summers ago he absolutely dominated EuroBasket and he still has the ability to spread the floor, which is something Tim never really did. The defense has to come out and defend him because of his perimeter shot and he is a great high-low passer. That’s important because LaMarcus is great in the high-low game, too. Pau will block more shots than Tim did last year just because he is so long. He’s learned to stay straight up and stay long and block shots without fouling.
What do you say about him? He just keeps on going. Obviously, he’s regressed physically but his tenacity and passion and his love of playing makes him still be a factor at age 39. His role obviously has diminished and he can’t play the same minutes as he once did but he’s still a factor. I see his role very much as it has been but his shooting needs to tick back up a bit if he is going to be as much of a factor as he’d like to be. When he’s on the court the other team has to know where he is because he is always a threat at both ends.
I thought his shooting slump from (long) range would be over but it seems like it has stretched into pre-season. I’m sure they are hoping he comes out of it because that is really important for them to play the way they like to play. They need him to spread the floor so he’d better come around to where he was with that long-range shot and not have another year around 33% (on 3-pointers). He really defends his position and that’s not going away so he’s going to be their starter. But if he doesn’t get back to that 40% (3-point) shooting they’re going to have to find another way to spread the floor.
He has a long road ahead before he can help the Spurs. He’s probably going to spend the bulk of the year in Austin because right now he can’t help them. A lot of us (scouts) were surprised they guaranteed him.
A tough, hard-nosed veteran of Euro basketball who had a terrific Olympics in Rio. A very solid point guard who can shoot the ball and create for his teammates and really gets after it on defense. I expect him to make their opening night roster because he is not afraid to come in and play.
He’s no Tim Duncan but he’s a nice, solid big off the bench. He can still run the floor and rebound and shoot mid-range jumpers and should fit in fairly seamlessly. Obviously, not the high-level guy he once was but will fill a role for them. A smart guy who will run their offense and set screens. Solid is the word.
Simply, he will be competing for MVP this season. Has come a long way in a short time and he’s a guy who plays both ends of the floor at a very high level. Offensively, he can take smaller guys inside and score but has improved his perimeter and 3-point shooting to where you have to stay up on him when he has the ball. And guess what? That makes it easier for him to drive past smaller guys. Has made such great strides already and just gets better year after year. Just a great all-around player, and as good as he is, he still lets the game come to him and never forces anything. Maybe his 3-point percentage comes down a bit this year because he’s being asked to do so much more. He’s a superstar and doesn’t even know it, and they’re going to ask him to take over games more this year and that may not be in his nature. Can he take over a game like LeBron (James) or Steph (Curry)? Maybe not, but do they need that on a team with LaMarcus and Pau and Tony and Manu? Probably not. He just does what he’s good at, which is everything.
(He’s) coming off a tremendous Olympics, where he did what he does best: score the ball. That’s what he’ll do for the Spurs and it’s a free agent year for him, and that’s always a good thing. I think he’ll be better than last year because they need him to be better and do more. I expect to see him play more two (shooting guard) this year because he’s not really a one (point guard), but he can score. He’ll have to have the ball in his hands more because Boris isn’t there to facilitate on that second unit this year. Mainly, they need him to score the way he can score.
I don’t think they’re convinced he’s ready to play point guard in the NBA. He’s got great length as a point guard but needs to add some bulk and strength. (He) has to work on his perimeter shot and get used to the physicality of the NBA, especially when it comes to finishing around the rim. He’ll need to spend some time in Austin.
Obviously, his game is not what it once was but he’s still able to run the team and be a big piece of everything they do. With him on the floor they’re still the San Antonio Spurs machine they’ve always been. He just can’t continue getting to the basket as much as he once did or play as many minutes. But he still makes the right plays and gets them to the right places. Age has caught up to him more on the defensive end than on offense and he no longer leads the league in interior scoring because he can’t get to the rim as often as before. That doesn’t mean he’s not as effective; it just means he’s not the best in the league at getting to the rim.
I really like this kid and think he has a chance to be an important rotation player because of all the changes they’ve made. He will have to step up on his perimeter shooting and from range. He has to improve there to be what they think he can be. He’s a very underrated playmaker and fits well with what the Spurs do because he makes the extra pass and is a very tough defender. He has a chance to make another step in his NBA progress and be a nice rotation player. (He) knows how to play in a team concept and with a year under his belt in their offense I look for him to be better.