Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Free Agency! Woo!

For some reason I love wandering in the realm of possibilities.  Specifically, the possibilities of something that would make the Spurs better.  In the wake of the flurry of trades that drastically altered the landscape of the NBA, sending Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to New York to join Amar'e Stoudemire, the one that sent Deron Williams to New Jersey, and Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City, now comes a slew of buyouts, through which, contending teams hope to shore up their rosters and improve their chances in both the playoffs but also in pursuit of the ever elusive Larry O'Brien trophy.  Among the names of players already bought out include names like Mike Bibby and Troy Murphy, of those expected to be bought out but weren't we have the likes of Samuel Dalembert and Joel Przybilla.  

Nonetheless, also in the wake of the trade deadline is a major injury to Tony Parker, sidelining him for 2-4 weeks.  Even had Parker stayed healthy, I expected the Spurs to be a major player in the free agent market, as their seemingly perennial hunt for a championship makes them one of the few small market teams that veteran players look at.  Currently as stands, the Spurs roster looks like this:

PG - Tony Parker, George Hill, Chris Quinn
SG - Manu Ginobili, Gary Neal, James Anderson
SF- Richard Jefferson
PF - DeJuan Blair, Antonio McDyess, Matt Bonner
C - Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter

I know, Anderson should technically be classified an SF and Blair a C, but let's not split hairs over these things okay?  For all extensive purposes, this is our roster.  With Parker out, I anticipate Hill to start with Manu essentially being the de facto point guard.  Quinn might see some (more) minutes, but all-in-all I see much of the ball handling duties going to Manu and Hill with Anderson and Neal taking the other minutes available.  So what exactly is it we need then?  Well, in my opinion, and those of several others in Spurs fandom, two things; a legitimate wing defender and size.  Arguably the former is easier to find than the latter, but should that be our priority?  I would argue no.  Why is that?  Wasn't I the one constantly pushing for the Spurs front office to sign a shot-blocking presence of some sort?  Well, yes.  However, as the season has unfolded, it's really hard to see where another big would fit into the rotation given how well Blair, McDyess, and Bonner have been playing.  This is amply demonstrated by the fact that Tiago Splitter (granted he's had his rookie woes), the biggest player on the team, cannot find a consistent spot in the rotation.  As much of a defensive revelation as Anderson has been, we still don't necessarily have someone that can hassle the opposition out on the perimeter.  Now, granted, we have to temper our expectations, we're not going to find another Bruce Bowen, but that doesn't mean there aren't players out there to look at.  Additionally, we have to consider who's available from buyouts and from a free agency perspective.  Logically, we would only really consider the buyout candidates since the players that are still free agents are still free agents for a reason.  We know that Mike Bibby is going to sign with the Miami Heat (probably), and one of the few bigs to be bought out, Troy Murphy, will sign with the Boston Celtics.

Here are my top picks:

Corey Brewer (SG/SF, 6-9, 188 lbs, 24 yrs old)
Brewer, taken at 7th overall in the 2007 NBA draft, was part of the Florida championship team that featured the likes of Al Horford and Joakim Noah.  While his NBA career hasn't been quite as stellar, Brewer at the very least has three things going for him.  First, he's young.  Second, he's long.  Thirdly, he's used that length to establish himself as something of a defensive player.  While his three-point shooting is suspect, unlike most young players, he knows his three-point shooting is suspect, and thus doesn't take many of them.  It's not the perfect fit, but certainly I believe that if any team can work with him to improve that it would be the Spurs.  In the interim he'd definitely be a solid backup to Richard Jefferson, in the long haul, he'd definitely be a potential steal if the Spurs are able to lure him to San Antonio and keep him there and he picks up that Spurs winning mentality.

Al Thornton (SF/PF, 6-8, 235 lbs, 27 yrs old)
Old for his draft class of 2007, I recall Al Thornton being a surprise scoring sensation on the Clippers.  However, I also recall him being something of a black hole.  Since then, he's been on the Wizards, who, with the additions of Rashard Lewis and Mo Evans has found it difficult to crack the rotation, especially since Josh Howard has recovered and returned to the roster.  That being said, I like Thornton also because he's known to be aggressive and physical on defense, which is something Pop appreciates.  Granted Twitter is reporting that Thornton would prefer to get solid amounts of playing time rather than sit more for a contending team, also indicating he'll likely end up on the Warriors, he's still someone to at the very least consider.

Kelenna Azubuike (SG/SF, 6-5, 215 lbs, 28 yrs old)
I've always been high on Azubuike, and granted, he's something of an older, more battle-tested James Anderson in more ways than one, he's a solid player overall.  Of course, the fact that he was waived from New York during his rehab from major knee surgery is something we should be cautious about, he is a player that can make an immediate positive impact.  While not a stellar lockdown defender, he is a 40.9% career 3 point shooter, which definitely helps, not to mention he's a plus on the athletic end of things.

Aside from that, I also expect the Spurs to take good hard looks at players that they've already seen before, reports include Garrett Temple.  Personally, I'd also like to see the possibility of some D-League call-ups, including Marcus Cousin and/or Joe Alexander.

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