With the beginning of the regular season just a week away, the San Antonio Spurs are still working to figure out which training camp player will earn a spot on the final 15-man roster. Whoever it is will sit at the end of the bench and probably spend some time with the D-League affiliate in Austin, but the reality is one of these guys might make an NBA roster and the rest will have to seek employment elsewhere.
To assess positional need, let’s start with the depth chart, that includes 14 players that will definitely be on the team, then move on to the analysis of the 5 remaining players ranked by the likelihood that they will wind up making the opening day roster.
PG: Tony Parker, Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray
SG: Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, Jonathon Simmons
SF: Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Anderson, Davis Bertans
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge, David Lee, Livio Jean-Charles
C: Pau Gasol, Dewayne Dedmon
It’s worth noting that Anderson and Bertans can all both forward positions. Bertans (6’10”) is a lights-out shooter who is very capable on the defensive end, while Anderson (6’9”) was a point guard at UCLA, and will likely slide into Boris Diaw’s role of scoring and facilitating as a big man.
5. Ryan Arcidiacono
Sorry Wildcat fans, but it doesn’t look like Arch is going to make the cut. Arcidiacono played point guard at Villanova for four years, capping off his collegiate career by assisting on one of the most memorable game winning shots in NCAA tournament history. He’s a solid player and he might find a home on another NBA roster, but it seems very unlikely that he will still be a Spur at week’s end.
Unfortunately for Arcidiacono, San Antonio is pretty set at the point guard position. Parker isn’t going anywhere, Mills is an adequate backup, and Murray is an exciting and athletic 20-year old with a much higher ceiling than the slower, smaller Arcidiacono. He has only played in two preseason games for the Spurs, making only one of his four shot attempts.
4. Patricio Garino
Garino is a 3-and-D specialist at the small forward position who played alongside Ginobili for Argentina in the Rio Olympics. He’s a smart player who makes good cuts and seems to be in the right place at the right time more often than not. In order to make it at the next level, he will need to prove he can shoot confidently and reliably from the NBA 3-point line, and he just hasn’t done that yet. In his limited preseason minutes, less than a quarter of his attempts have come from beyond the arc.
The main reason it seems unlikely that Garino will earn the final roster spot is because SF is not a position of need for the Spurs. Leonard should average around 30 minutes per game, and the rest will be split between Anderson, Bertans, and sometimes Simmons. Bertans projects as a better, taller, more versatile version of Garino, which definitely hurts Pato’s chances of making the squad. Garino has only played in 3 preseason games, and he did not play in the most recent game against Miami.
3. Joel Anthony
Of the five players competing for the final roster spot, Anthony is the only one that can play power forward or center. Gasol and Dedmon are the only true centers on the roster, and if the Spurs decide to go big, their only option will be the 34-year old Anthony, who won two championships with Miami. That fact alone puts him at 3 on this list, but it probably won’t be enough to get him on the roster.
Coach Popovich had a perfect quote when asked about Anthony last Friday. “He’s a pro. You can already tell what a great teammate he is. Hard worker, runs the floor, knows his role, accepts his role, enjoys his role, intelligent, doesn’t shoot as well as Klay Thompson.” He works hard, he does his job, but he’s not going to do much outside of the restricted area. At 6’9” and 34-years old, he would likely face the same problems David West faced last year, but with a much less reliable mid-range game.
Gasol should play between 25 and 30 minutes per game, and Dedmon will play a substantial number of minutes backing him up. Instead of carrying a smaller, older third string center, it would probably make more sense for the Spurs to go small for stretches with Aldridge at the 5.
2. Nicolas Laprovittola
Laprovittola is another Argentine teammate of Ginobili’s, and he has a good chance of making the team. He has a Manu-esque penchant for throwing the ball between the legs of his opponents, and during the preseason, he established himself ahead of Arcidiacono at PG. Lapro is a very capable scorer, able to create off the dribble and shoot efficiently.
Laprovittola has played in each of San Antonio’s first five preseason games, and his ability to distribute and shoot the 3 has been impressive. He’s only played 10 minutes per game, but he’s hit 7 of his 14 shots from long range and dished 14 assists so far. However, he was just 1/7 on attempts inside the 3 point arc.
The main advantage Laprovittola has over Bryn Forbes in this competition is his ability to both knock down shots and run the offense. If the Spurs want a true point guard to fill the final roster spot, Laprovittola will be the guy. However, the Spurs might not want to go that route because of the depth they have at point guard. Murray is ready to contribute at the NBA level, and he may be the point guard of the future for San Antonio. That may render Laprovittola’s services useless.
- Bryn Forbes
Forbes finds himself at the top of this list for one reason: he can shoot exceptionally well. He stands at just 6’3”, but his quick release and dead-eye shooting from beyond the arc have made his size irrelevant. Laprovittola has him beat when it comes to running the offense and taking care of the ball, but Forbes is one of the best true shooters on the Spurs’ bench.
Forbes shot 48% on 3-point shots as a senior at Michigan State, and he’s 6/12 from NBA range so far in the preseason. His scoring game is well rounded, as he has added 7 makes on 15 attempts from inside the arc. He has shown an ability to hit shots off screens, off the dribble, and off the catch from everywhere on the floor. His shot making ability was on display in Summer League play, including this game where he dropped 23 with most of what will be the Spurs’ second unit.
Most of the other players on this list are competing to be the fourth string something, but Forbes may have a unique niche to fill for the Spurs. The best backcourt shooters on San Antonio’s bench are Mills and Ginobili, and Forbes would be right up there if he made the roster. He has the potential to get hot and put up points in bunches, and that could be vital against a team like Golden State.
The Spurs still have one preseason game left, and Coach Popovich has said that they’re in no rush to make a final decision before then. It really seems like a two-horse race between Laprovittola and Forbes, which amounts to a fundamental choice between a 4th string point guard and a very effective shooter. Lapro’s shooting ability and versatility might make the decision tough, but Forbes has the best chance to make a real impact for San Antonio in games that matter.