Ranking the San Antonio Spurs' Role Players by Importance

Garrett Jochnau@@GarrettJochnauCorrespondent IISeptember 28, 2012

Ranking the San Antonio Spurs' Role Players by Importance

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    The San Antonio Spurs have been one of the most complete NBA franchises of this decade. With a great coach and management, as well as one of the league's greatest ever to lead the team, every aspect of their organization seems perfect.

    Perhaps more than the great front office, as well as the standout stars that have been produced, the Spurs are often praised for their depth. Year after year, their bench efficiency finishes near the top, and with talented players at the bottom of the depth chart, the Spurs are a talented team, no matter which five are on the floor.

    Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have left large impacts on the franchise, and still do despite their inevitable aging. Still, with their clock ticking, the Spurs need not worry, as there are plenty of role players who are ready to step up and take a lead role at any given time.

11. Nando De Colo

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    As of now, Nando De Colo is the only guaranteed new face to appear in the Spurs' roster during the 2012-13 season.

    That said, the chances of him receiving very much playing time are slim, as he unfortunately landed in the most crowded backcourt in the entire league. With established stars, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, leading the attack, there is also little room as a backup, as guards Danny Green, Gary Neal and Patty Mills have already proved themselves to the organization.

    De Colo could eventually develop into a solid role player, but there is simply too much depth at his position for him to make a splash in his rookie season. He is easily replaceable and hasn't shown enough talent to secure a legitimate spot in the lineup.

10. Cory Joseph

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    Like Nando De Colo, Cory Joseph will struggle to break into the crowded lineup that the Spurs' backcourt has become. He spent the majority of his rookie campaign bouncing in between the NBA and the D-League, and despite an impressive summer league performance, there are simply better options on the roster.

    Joseph has plenty of raw talent, and could one day be a key component to the team's future. He is one of the team's younger players, and has plenty of years before he reaches his prime.

    Until he shows a vast improvement, however, Joseph will struggle to provide the Spurs with value, as he doesn't quite match up with some of the team's more established guards.

9. Gary Neal

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    Gary Neal has shown brief flashes of stardom in each of his two seasons with the San Antonio Spurs. He has established himself as one of the team's best three-point shooters and has displayed a knack for knocking down big shots in the final moments of close games.

    Despite these small indications that he could one day be a star, Neal has yet to find consistent playing time, and he struggles to develop a role.

    As a shooting guard in a point guard's body, he wasn't a natural at either position, and found the majority of his time backing up Parker.

    Now that Patty Mills has secured the backup point guard duties, there is even less demand for his talents on the court. Since he can play each guard position, he is valuable should the team face an injury, but he doesn't provide the team with enough unique talent to earn a role of major value.

8. Matt Bonner

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    Matt Bonner may be absolutely useless to the team on defense and on the boards, but the team does lack height, which Bonner does have.

    While his 6'10'' frame may be misleading, he can be trusted with a few minutes at power forward per game. Unlike the other guards, the team cannot easily replace Bonner, as there simply aren't enough options at the post positions.

    He also provides the Spurs with the unique ability to spread the floor, as Bonner is one of the league's most talented perimeter shooters, despite his height. He may be less valuable than other big men, but with so few options at the position, Bonner is still somewhat valuable to the squad.

7. Patty Mills

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    A decent argument can be made that Gary Neal has a higher value to the Spurs' franchise than Patty Mills, and the two could really be swapped for each other at any given time.

    Ultimately, I went with Mills as the more important guard, solely based on the fact that his role is predetermined whereas Neal is still struggling to find an identity.

    Mills has shown that he is a capable backup point guard, with outbursts towards the end of the regular season last year as well as an impressive Olympic outing. He is a true point guard, and with a full summer's worth of training camp under his belt, his productivity should be at an all-time high.

    He might lack the experience that others on the team may have, but Mills is a solid player who offers the Spurs a load of talent.

6. DeJuan Blair

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    DeJuan Blair likely had the toughest offseason out of any member of the San Antonio Spurs roster, as the team flirted with trade options involving the young big man.

    Luckily for Blair—and the Spurs—he managed to stay put in San Antonio at least for the time being.

    Blair is a major defensive liability, but he is a workhorse and his efforts on the boards go unmatched by any other big man on the roster. 

    His youth allows him to be a major component to the team in the long run, as well as the current 2012-13 season, so if the Spurs are eyeing to make Blair a part of their future, it would be wise to begin grooming the young man now.

    He may not see minutes like he did during his days as the starter, but Blair should definitely expect an increase from last year's upsetting totals, as his talent level is too high for the Spurs not to take notice.

5. Stephen Jackson

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    Stephen Jackson joined the roster around the trade deadline last season, marking his second stint with the team. Thus far into his San Antonio career, Jackson has demonstrated a level of professionalism that was missing from the veteran during his time with other teams around the league.

    He has managed to stay out of trouble, while also becoming a generous player, the exact opposite of the black hole that he became in Charlotte.

    Jackson is one of the first players called off the bench, and sophomore, Kawhi Leonard's primary substitute. He also has received time at the shooting guard and power forward positions, displaying his versatility. 

    His tenacious defense helped the team in numerous ways, and he also became one of the best perimeter shooters in the league last season, averaging a remarkable .605 field goal percentage from beyond the arc.

    His veteran leadership is key, especially on a team with so many young players, as well as the energy he brings to the "boring" team that many label the Spurs. As long as he remains on the roster, Jackson is a key component to the team.

4. Boris Diaw

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    Boris Diaw's lazy personality that he displayed in Charlotte quickly erased itself after he was bought out and signed by the Spurs. Diaw immediately found himself in the starting lineup, and will most likely begin the upcoming season with the same title.

    Diaw is virtually a threat from everywhere on the floor, and his wide array of skills makes him one of the most diverse players in the league.

    After a productive second half of the year with San Antonio, he'll be expected to produce similar numbers now that he has spent an offseason with the team.

    His role as a starter automatically increases his value, but with an aging Tim Duncan, Diaw's importance only grows. He too, has now spent his first summer with the team, and after weeks of training, expect the Spurs to utilize Diaw even more.

3. Danny Green

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    Like Boris Diaw, Danny Green's massive importance to the team is largely due to his role in the starting lineup. Green's miraculous rise to the starting shooting guard position was one of the best stories of 2012, and had Jeremy Lin not stolen the spotlight, Green may have received more attention for his endeavors.

    Green will presumably begin the season as the team's starter, allowing Manu Ginobili to come off the bench. However, by the end of the year, Green may be one of the Spurs' most talented role players, regardless of his spot in the lineup.

    Green's heroics came out of nowhere last season, but now the young guard will spend his first full training camp with the team, allowing him to sharpen his skills and improve.

    The Spurs made sure to re-sign Green this offseason, and it is clear that they have big things in store for him.

2. Tiago Splitter

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    My oscillating viewpoint on Tiago Splitter is currently at an all-time high, as I spend one day worshipping the big man, and the next confused as to why the Spurs give him playing time.

    Right now, I'm somewhere in the middle.

    Splitter may not be the starter to begin the season, but Gregg Popovich is going to carefully monitor Tim Duncan's minutes, so the demand for Splitter's size and defense will become an ongoing theme throughout the season.

    Still, he is certainly not an elite talent, and Boris Diaw may be a more skilled player. However, Splitter's size—being the only true 6'11'' player outside of Duncan—makes him incredibly important to this Spurs roster that so desperately lacks height.

    Splitter will likely take over Duncan's role slowly during the next few years, and while he may not be as talented as Coach Pop and Co. would have hoped, his size and unique defense and pick-and-roll ability make him one of the most valued members on the roster.

1. Kawhi Leonard

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    Kawhi Leonard's breakout rookie season gave Spurs fans the hopes and dreams that they may have witnessed the next great San Antonio star.

    Apparently, the fans aren't the only ones buying into the hype. Coach Popovich went as far as to label the young man as the next "face of the Spurs" showing fans that he intends to utilize the sophomore more than he did in his rookie season.

    Leonard cracked the starting lineup last season, and due to his youth and talent, he should see a spike in numbers and minutes this season. The Spurs will be reliant on his perimeter defense to supplement Duncan's post defense, and while he isn't known for his outstanding offensive abilities, Leonard will likely be counted on to contribute his fair share of points each night.

    He managed to put together an outstanding rookie campaign despite the nonexistent offseason, and now he'll get to experience his first summer of training. Leonard will enter the 2012-13 offseason with an even larger role and more opportunities, as the Spurs will look for him to contribute in large amounts on both ends of the floor.