The San Antonio Spurs made a lot of noise this off-season and are early odds-on-favorites to win the Western Conference even though they don’t have a complete roster.
Heading into training camp, San Antonio has 18 players under contract with 13 of those players possessing fully guaranteed contracts and the other five players either holding partially guaranteed or nonguarateed deals. While having a guaranteed contract generally gives a player a leg up on securing a roster, that may not be the case with the Spurs this year.
San Antonio’s first two units are set with the starting unit including Tim Duncan at center, LaMarcus Aldridge at power forward, Kawhi Leonard at small forward, Danny Green at shooting guard and Tony Parker at point guard. Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Boris Diaw, David West and Kyle Anderson make up the second unit. Veteran Matt Bonner is basically guaranteed a spot on the roster, due to his ability to spread the floor with his shooting.
Bonner signed a one-year contract at the veteran’s minimum — around $1.5 million — though his it doesn’t become fully guaranteed until January 10, 2016 per Basketball Insiders. The 35-year old ranks No. 3 in the franchise record books for 3-pointers made (782), sixth in 3-point field goal percentage (41.2) and ninth in games played (602). He averaged 3.5 points and shot 36.5 percent from beyond the arc last season. Bonner, who averaged 13.0 minutes a game last year, will likely see the same limited action as the No. 11 or No. 12 player on the squad.
Jonathan Simmons is also a virtual lock to make the 15-man roster as he signed a two-year contract with the team worth the veteran’s minimum — 2015-16 is fully guaranteed while the second-year is a team option.
Simmons,25, spent the last two years in Austin with the Spurs D-League team and is coming off a superb summer league campaign. He averaged 17.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in seven games this summer. Simmons averaged 15.2 points and 4.3 rebounds for Austin last year.
With Bonner and Simmons virtually guaranteed a roster spot, that leaves Ray McCallum along with Jimmer Fredette, Reggie Williams, Boban Marjanovic, Youssou Ndoye and Kiefer Sykes to fight for the final three roster spots according to Sports World Report.
So, of the six players remaining who is most likely to make the roster?
First, Ndoye has no chance of making the team and is destined to start the season in Austin. Ndoye is a solid NBA prospect due to his athleticism and physical attributes. The undrafted rookie out of St. Bonaventure is an outstanding defender who excels at rebounding and blocking shots.
Offensively, Ndoye has good hands and finishes around the rim well. He also has a nice jump hook and range out to 15-feet on his jumper.
Ndoye saw limited action with the Spurs’ Las Vegas summer league team, averaging 3.17 points and 0.5 blocks in just 9.4 minutes per game.
Sources: St. Bonaventure 7-footer Youssou Ndoye has agreed to San Antonio camp deal, w/ expectation he'll play '15-16 for Austin in D-League
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 26, 2015
With Ndoye being relegated to the D-League, that leaves Marjanovic as the Spurs only other “big man”. Therefore, Marjanovic will make the 15-man roster. The 7-foot-3, 290-pound center averaged 16.6 points and 10.7 caroms while averaging 27.3 minutes of action in 24 Euroleague games last season, playing for Crvena Zvezda.
Yahoo! Sports is reporting that there may be cause for concern surrounding the health of Marjanovic, which is why the Spurs refused to let him play for Serbia in the EuroBasketball tournament this summer. According to the Spurs, tests on Marjanovic’s ankle shows ”significant bony edema” that ”compromises Marjanovic’s ability to play basketball without compromising long-term health and future injury.”
Marjanovic will also likely see time in the D-League sometime this season.
That means McCallum, Fredette, Williams and Sykes will battle for the final two spots.
McCallum likely has the advantage over the other three players as the Spurs surrendered a second round pick and his $947,276 salary is fully guaranteed. However, his inclusion on the roster is not guaranteed.
McCallum is a “true point guard” who distributes the ball well and limits turnovers. He is really has the ability to score on jumpers as he struggles to finish at the rim and creates little contact. McCallum is not a great defender, he recorded a -4.43 real plus/minus rating –which ranked No.81 out of 83 point guards in the league.
McCallum averaged 7.4 points, 2.8 assists and 2.6 rebounds with Sacramento last season. He also shot 43.8 percent from the floor and 30.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Fredette signed with the Spurs as a training camp invitee, meaning his salary is partially guaranteed unless he makes he makes the team.
Fredette is essentially a one trick pony and that is as a deep-range shooter though he struggled terribly last season — making only 18.8 percent of his three-point shots. He also struggles on the defensive end as he has poor lateral movement. The 6-foot-3 point guard recorded a -2.83 in the real plus/minus rating (which ranked No. 58 among all point guards).
Fredette, 26, averaged 3.6 points and 1.2 assists in 50 games for New Orleans last season.
Williams, 28, appeared in 28 games last year for San Antonio while Sykes is a “quick and explosive” off the dribble. Sykes had a solid summer league campaign for the Cleveland Cavaliers, averaging 9.4 points and 3.4 assists in 18.4 minutes of action.
To recap, Marjanovic along with McCallum and Williams are the favorites to claim the final three roster spots. Williams has a slight edge over Sykes and Fredette due to his ability to play small forward. Fredette could over take McCallum if he shoots the ball well during training camp. Sykes, who went undrafted out of Green Bay, could end up in Austin to start the season.
[Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]