San Antonio Spurs Rolling Dice with Short-Term Point Guard Depth

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistOctober 14, 2014

San Antonio Spurs' Cory Joseph, left, bites his shirt as teammate Tony Parker stands by during NBA basketball practice, Saturday, June 15, 2013, in San Antonio. The Spurs host the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, with the best-of-seven games series even at 2-2. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

The final spot on the 2014-15 San Antonio Spurs roster is officially occupied by center Aron Baynes, leaving the defending NBA champions with three point guards on the 15-man roster.

Providence product Bryce Cotton was a serious candidate for the last seat, but the Spurs ultimately decided to retain familiarity over addressing short-term depth.

Passing on the 22-year-old leaves San Antonio somewhat shorthanded at point guard since a shoulder injury to breakout three-point specialist Patty Mills will reportedly sideline him until January, per Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News (subscription required).

Consequently, Gregg Popovich's team must rely on longtime leader Tony Parker and reserve Cory Joseph to stay healthy until Mills' return. His surgery provides Joseph a major chance during his contract year, as noted by Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News.

To call his fourth NBA campaign make or break would be hyperbole. But with his contract up after this year, and an opportunity to serve as Tony Parker's backup for the first half of the season while Patty Mills recovers from offseason shoulder surgery, this will be his best — and perhaps last — chance to prove himself to the Spurs.

Joseph served as an occasional starter during the 2013-14 season, averaging 8.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists on nights Parker did not play.

Though the fourth-year reserve will never replicate Parker with the ball, Joseph is a better defender. Of course, he'll be particularly important when his superior takes a night off, being tasked with running the pick-and-roll offense despite being a mediocre shooter.

Parker will definitely not participate in all 82 regular-season games, healthy or not. How many outings he'll rest while Mills is sidelined, though, is a question that can't be answered right now.

Admittedly, the 14-year veteran should be more fit than previous years because he elected to forgo playing for France this summer. ESPN's Matthew Tynan believes the additional rest will pay dividends for Parker's production.

Matthew R Tynan @Matthew_Tynan

I do think we’re going to see Parker return closer to his 2012-13 form than last season’s after actually taking a summer off.

Manu Ginobili sliding into the role of the primary ball-handler is almost certain, considering the sixth man has occupied that spot in the past. Of course, he's the Spurs' best offensive creator sans Parker.

The downside, though, is Ginobili would play fewer minutes alongside Marco Belinelli and Boris Diaw in the NBA's best bench, per Hoops Stats.

San Antonio can survive a scheduled rest day for a star, yet the undermanned unit remains a concern should injury strike. While Danny Green and Belinelli are definitely valuable on the offensive end, neither player can be relied upon to protect the ball.

What about Kyle Anderson?

The Spurs drafted the UCLA star with the 30th overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, but how he will be utilized remains a mystery. One thing is for certain, however: Anderson will never be accused of being fleet-footedhe wasn't dubbed "Slow-Mo" ironically.

SLOWMO @KyleAnderson5

Boris diaw put on for the slow pokes

Anderson plays a deliberate style, showcasing a superb passing ability because of excellent court vision. The 6'9" swingman doesn't get anywhere quickly, yet his skill set justifies an opportunity to run the point.

Per Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times, back in March, Anderson said critics suggested his "slow, methodical game wasn't going to work at the college level," but "I pretty much do whatever I want on the court this season."

As a sophomore, he tallied 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game, so it's hard to disagree with him. Granted, there's zero chance the first-round pick can do whatever he wants in the NBA, especially under the watch of the fire-breathing basketball genius Popovich.

For all the talent and potential surrounding Anderson, he still must react to game situations and not play outside his limits, especially in the Spurs system.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 11: Kyle Anderson #1 and Cory Joseph #5 of the San Antonio Spurs high five each other against Fenerbahce Ulker during a game as part of the NBA Global Games on October 11, 2014 at the Ulker Sports Arena in Istanbul, Turkey. NOTE
Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

In other words, Anderson is unproven. He should be a decent ball-handler. He probably will be an efficient reserve. But San Antonio doesn't know either as fact quite yet.

Although the Spurs are capable of overcoming a starter going down, they'd be pressed into a situation they hoped to avoid, removing a key piece of the stellar second unit or throwing a rookie into the gauntlet.

It's certainly not a make-or-break outlook; San Antonio has replaced hobbled pieces for years. However, opening the season with just two healthy point guards is a considerable hazard, even if the risk isn't a debilitating one.

All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.

Follow Bleacher Report NBA writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.