They are "too dramatic", "too inconsistent", and "too much of a trash talker."
These are some descriptions San Antonio Spurs fans may give the likes of Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, and Kevin Garnett. While KG is the only player still under contract from the group, there have been rumblings that his relationship with Tim Duncan isn't exactly the strongest and that automatically brings sour thoughts to the fan base's minds.
The Spurs will have some extra money for signings this upcoming season, a number that hasn't been seen during the Big 3 era since the signing of Rasho Nesterovic in the 2003 offseason. The team will have significant cap room should they not resign free agent Manu Ginobili's (highly unlikely), let free agent Tiago Splitter walk, and use Matt Bonner's $1 million buyout. Or perhaps go after a lower-tier big like Thomas Robinson.
The first two mentioned were huge disappointments during the playoffs and Bonner wasn't even in Gregg Popovich's rotation when the Finals came along. With Ginobili liking taking a huge paycut from his 2012-2013 salary of $14.1 million after his huge disappointing postseason, the team will have plenty of options with around $20 million (give or take) of free cap space to work in trade deals or sign free agents.
That's where the aforementioned players come in. If you're a Spurs fan and saw Game 7, you realized the Spurs' aging Big 3 took the Heat's prime Big 3 to 7 games with literally a Big 2.5 (the half being Kawhi Leonard's play on both ends of the floor) and little to nothing from everyone else on a consistent basis. A key player alongside Tony Parker and Tim Duncan would've probably been enough, in either offense or defense. As a Silver and Black faithful, you most likely were crushed seeing Duncan's post game presser after the final game.
That should be enough for any Spurs fan to put their feelings aside on ANY player that can come to the team and make a difference, in a positive way. Ginobili is aging and may have a few good games in him, but he's taken a back seat as far as his overall individual production in the Big 3. Kawhi Leonard is still raw and young. He'll be improving, but the Spurs are in a "win now" mentality over waiting for him to develop in the future. With the (likely) significant cap space the team will have, the opportunity to return to the Finals and have a difference finish is entirely realistic with these free agents.
Kevin Garnett: He's not the most well liked guy, unless he's on your team. Remember that phrase, Bruce Bowen and Manu Ginobili fans? One of the biggest trash talkers in the league but still productive at the age of 37 (14ppg, 7rpg this past season). KG's game may not be aggressive in the post like Duncan's, but his competitiveness tends to rub off on his teammates. That's something the Spurs missed when Stephen Jackson was cut and will likely be a good experience for Leonard and Danny Green in the perimeter. He's also an excellent help defender, a factor that was big against the Spurs in the Finals.
With the possibility of signficant cap room, the Spurs could offer some low contracts and take back Garnett's salary easily. Would a Nando De Colo, a draft pick, and (Boston native) Matt Bonner be suffice for the rebuilding Boston Celtics? While that may sound like a horrible deal for Boston, a rebuilding team doesn't want heavy salaries and Bonner's $1 million buyout may entice a team to send their beloved player to contend for a championship in a trade with a team that has no ill feelings in a rivalry. The controversial Duncan-Garnett feud has been widely speculated, but here's just suggesting that there's no basis to it. Maybe you'd think two guys in their mid 30's would "hug it out" anyway?
Josh Smith: The most athletic of the three is Josh Smith and catapult the Spurs' offense to new heights with his addition. Josh is a "tweener" forward who can play both positions and isn't afraid to take the ball to the rim when given the chance. He didn't disappoint in a contract season with 14ppg, 4apg, and 8rpg. His statistics this past season with the Atlanta Hawks are solid, but his shot selection is what worries many. He shot an impressive 70% (245-348) from the restricted area, but it's disappointment after that. He shot 33% (53-163) from the non-restricted paint area, 29% (77-265) from mid-range, 23% (7-30) from the corner 3-point line, and 35% (44-125) from the wing 3-point area. He'd be a perfect pick and roll partner for Tony Parker, but what will happen when he wants to take over the game and tries something other than a point blank shot? The Spurs may try to sign him to a lower contract than other teams since his stock may be low with those statistics, but he'll still be a dream signing for Spurs fans who long for a more athletic big man next to Tim Duncan. He'd be a big coup for the Spurs, but there is a better option.
Dwight Howard: Yes, the "drama queen" as some Spurs fans may refer to him. He'll be a free agent from the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason and may be looking for a new environment. Spurs fans may be against his signing with the team because of his past history, but the most recent incidents (I won't touch the Orlando Magic situation since it's entirely possible he's matured since then) with the Lakers is entirely justifiable. Even in an uncomfortable guard oriented environment with less to no defense, Howard still had an impressive season with 17ppg, 12rpg, and 2bpg. At 27 years old, this defensive big man is exactly what San Antonio needs.
Howard's gripe with Los Angeles is simple: he wants the offense to be centered around him. Egotistical? Probably, but sentiments echoed throughout the basketball world including from retired coach Phil Jackson. The problem? Mike D'Antoni doesn't know how to coach that style. The proof is overwhelming that the only style that has been successful for him was the same style that made him famous with the Phoenix Suns. His system hasn't been tweaked nor does he wish to tweak it (i.e. New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers).
He may switch the roles to make it more effective like when he put Kobe Bryant in Steve Nash's old role. The problem is his system relies on a pick and roll game with shooting specialists. The Lakers don't have that in their starting five and D'Antoni's rotation is cut extremely short and it doesn't matter if the stars are injured or aging. Howard's style of play revolves around him being the first or second option with post ups and maybe some pick and rolls along the way. Does that sound familiar? That's exactly what the San Antonio Spurs tried to do in the Finals and couldn't for a full series with Tim Duncan's aging legs and Tony Parker on one hamstring. Tiago Splitter's disappointing no show on the biggest stage was clear and he couldn't do what Howard would anyway. Splitter's reluctance and inability to post up smaller players had Miami smelling blood throughout the series and forced San Antonio to go small, which gave clear lanes to LeBron James.
Howard would cancel all that out. Tim Duncan isn't Pau Gasol in that he'll complain about not getting touches because he just wants to win and knows his role. Danny Green is a spot up shooter along with Kawhi Leonard, who'll move without the ball occasionally. That leaves Tony Parker, who uses the pick and roll effectively and doesn't mind watching his big man post up. With Boris Diaw likely staying or returning as a Spur if he declines his option, he'd be a great fit next to Howard with his passing ability and ball handling. This was a guy who would pick-and-roll with a big man during his tenure as a Phoenix Sun and could do the same again (if he loses a few pounds this offseason especially).
The conclusion is simple as far as a fit and what the Spurs need. Howard brings what Gregg Popovich longs for in a player who can play the way Duncan used to and protect the paint. Before this, it was either offense or defense. Howard would be the closest (basketball wise) equivalent to what David Robinson brought in the center position. With his athleticism, it's hard to argue that Popovich would have gone small if Howard was in a Spurs uniform. His long arms and his tall stature would've posed a problem with his quick legs since he'd definitely be able to keep up with Mike Miller (unlike Splitter for some reason).
The best part about Howard's offensive game is that he'd command legitimate double teams or even triple teams and that'd cause foul trouble for San Antonio's opponents. Tim Duncan's post ups would be minimal, maybe when Howard would be out of the game. The Spurs would arguably have the best defensive backcourt in the league in some time. We saw Howard's excellent defense last season with a coach who teaches little to no defense.
The Spurs need a player who can spot the Big 3 and any of these 3 would make a good case for the roster spot. Howard, in my opinion, presents the best basketball player out of the rest who can spot the rest of the players and help them out in every situation on offense or defense. He's not afraid to shoulder the offense and defense, a factor that would keep Duncan fresher than ever. Howard needs a mature team with a mature coach and one that tends to stay out of the spotlight instead of playing in front of it.
If you disagree because of Howard's "dramatics" and don't think the organization as a whole can help Howard mature, then watch the Game 7 post game video with Duncan again and ask yourself if the best big man in the game wouldn't have changed the outcome.