Before the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Atlanta Hawks in their third Summer League game on Monday evening in Las Vegas, Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford joined the NBATV commentators in the third quarter to answer a few questions regarding the Spurs and in one question, discussed Deshaun Thomas, the Spurs' 58th pick who would go on to score 17 points in the game.
Buford on Thomas and the chance of playing for San Antonio next season:
“Pop’s going to put demands on him that are going to require him to play differently than he did at Ohio State, but he can score. He can score in a lot of places on the floor and with Deshaun, his attitude and his eagerness to learn and grow has been overwhelming over the first week, and we haven’t had him a long time and a lot of things will need to go well for him to maximize his opportunity, but there is a hole in our roster behind Kawhi (Leonard) right now and we’re looking forward to what Deshuan brings and how his approach has been so far.”
As you read and hear the answer from Buford, it sounds like he’s speaking in the ‘Deshaun will be apart of this team’ context at some points, but the statement “a lot of things will need to go well for him to maximize his opportunity” also stays as a reminder that the vacant 15th roster spot may not be his just yet or at all.
With the Spurs already set with 14 roster spots filled for next season, the 15th space is up for grabs and could be reserved for restricted free agent Gary Neal if the price is right, as Buford indicated last week. Even early Tuesday morning another rumbling from the Greg Oden rumor mill stated the Spurs and Miami Heat are still the favorites to land the big man as well.
For Thomas, through three games he’s allowing his productivity on the floor to be his biggest pitch to San Antonio as he’s averaging 17 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 2.3 fouls, shooting 54% from the field, 50% from 3-point range, and 83% from the free throw line in 28.7 minutes per game. He's even averaging more points per game than the three Spurs veterans in Vegas, Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo, and Aron Baynes.
With at minimum two more games to play in Vegas, Thomas will have to continue to produce at a high level if he really wants the Spurs to invite him to training camp. He still needs to show a bit more production on defense and it’ll be interesting to see how he does if the Spurs put him at the small forward position, since he’s been playing his comfortable small ball power forward position so far in three games.
There was an interesting tweet from Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News that could have an impact on Thomas’ future. Here’s what he tweeted during the game regarding Thomas.
If you invite a guy like Thomas to camp, you have to sign him to do it. If he can't make the team and gets cut, you lose his rights forever.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) July 16, 2013
Looking at the situation from this perspective means there are a lot of different scenarios for Thomas and the Spurs.
Scenario 1, Neal returns: If Neal re-signs, the Spurs would probably have to look at allowing Thomas to go play overseas for a year, let him continue to develop and then give him a chance to play next season very similar to what they did with 2012 draftee Marcus Denmon.
Scenario 2, Neal leaves, Oden chooses SA: If Neal received an offer sheet from another team that was out of the Spurs’ price range, but Oden chose to play in San Antonio, then that would be a decision for the Spurs to make. Do they take the risk with Oden or allow Thomas that 15th spot? In this case, they could take Oden and allow Thomas to go play overseas as stated in scenario number one.
Scenario 3, Neal leaves, Oden signs elsewhere: This would be the highest chance of Thomas earning a training camp invite. Neal would sign elsewhere, Oden would have chosen another team and the vacant roster position behind Leonard could have Thomas’ name written on it.
There's plenty of other scenarios that could happen but before looking too far ahead, it’s important to remember that Thomas still has a lot of basketball to play and more than anyone else, he controls his own destiny with his production on the court.
I'll apologize for that last comment. You don't know me and I don't know you wo I guess we can agree to disagree!
Here's my take on Oden....
I check Hoopshype at least 3 times a day all year long, particularly in the off-season. It becomes pretty clear when "stories" are planted by player agents with friendly journalists or through twitter stating some team is interested in some player or that they are "meeting" or showing mutual interest. In my experience as a Spurs fan, these players and their agents don't mesh well with the Spurs philosophy. Maybe Oden is the embodiment of the phoenix legend and he will be everything a #1 pick is supposed to be next season. I doubt it, but maybe. I have nothing against Oden because there is no body of work to criticize that has any real meaning. The fact is he is being represented by an agent or group that is trying to fluff him up and create interest in him. They are playing this out in the press like these teams are being granted an audience with him. I just don't see the Spurs, particularly Buford or Pop kowtowing to Oden or his representatives like they are doing the Spurs a favour. If he was smart, he would take a one year vets min with the Spurs and get absorbed by the culture, work with Tim and Pop and get his NBA speed and reflexes up in the best place possible. Spurs practice. He would also show grace and dignity and get his name out of the press and just sign already. In the end, it's a pretty one sided relationship and if Oden doesn't recognize that, let him sign in NO or with the Heat or Mavs or wherever, The way this is playing out in the press it sounds like he would be a better fit elsewhere.
I'd like to see Neal get a solid payday and Thomas make the squad. Love Neal, he reminds me of Vinnie Johnson from the Bad Boys days, but he has several limitations with handle and D. Let's get the young legs a chance. He could have a great career as Kawhi's back up.
It always fascinates me that basketball so called experts cannot see the forest for the trees when the comparisons are so blatantly obvious. Just need to get past your assumed "expertness" to see it, to be honest.
Deshaun Thomas like the aforementioned other Big 10 conference player is a not so poor mans Glen Robinson.
They both played Power forward in College more or less. They are both 6'7'' "non athlete' scorers from anywhere on the court. Their game translates to the NBA in ANY ERA. All you big headed guys here and on Spurstalk want to prove how knowledgeable you are but miss the obvious.
He can play back up small forward on the spurs behind Leonard.
First it's a BACK UP FORWARD position and he will not be putting many minutes against starting 3's in the NBA.
Second he will see time as a stretch four in small ball situations and he will not be that much of a defensive liability because his perceived lack of quicks can be masked by proper defensive scheming and coaching . If mat Bonner can see significant minutes at the 3 and four in relief minutes and the spurs STILL have a top 5 defense then Thomas will be just FINE. Also,he seems to have a nose for the game which means he is probably crafty enough to to get beat off the ball TOO badly.
I sit back and watch all you guys hem and haw at one of the best prospects to call into the Spurs Laps in YEARS because you try to make yourselves talk like guys you hear talk on TV and Radio.
I'm sure the Spurs coaches and Front Office see the OBVIOUS even if the Fan's don't because RC himself has said that there is a spot behind Leonard in the lineup OPEN.
@RodneyDeLaCruz I agree with almost every point you make. Glen Robinson is a great comparison. I believe Deshaun can command a double team in the NBA. He isn't a good athlete, but your right, on a second unit, he is less of a liability, and as a "small ball 4", he can be protected. At Ohio State, Deshaun did play defense, and did try. He isn't the best, but it isn't for lack of effort. However, who else on the Spurs can command a double team? Tony Parker. Some nights, Tim Duncan. That's it. For a young kid with talent, who will try to play defense, Deshaun is decent pick for the 15th spot. Maybe he is on the elevator between San Antonio and Austin. Maybe he has already hit his ceiling as a defender. But if he tries and learns, and is cheap, what else do want for a 15th guy?
@RodneyDeLaCruz Maybe you should call the FO and ask RC for a job since you "Claim" to be the expert here!
@RodneyDeLaCruz Why is he even being compared to Glen Robinson, did i miss something? When did Glen robinson become a great player? Hey this is the first spurs draft p[ick not playing overseas and if he can make the back-up role to Leonard that is great, I've been watching the guy play in the summer league games and he looks good and hustles on every play. He bangs in the paint and gets rebounds what else can you ask for...
Im glad you spend a lot of time praising yourself.
@TomArmstrong @RodneyDeLaCruzYou're so dense. I'm not expert and neither ar the boobs I am attacking in my post. If I sound more informed than you so be it. Goes with watching College and NBA hoops for over 30 years. LOL. Not one time in my post did I call myself and expert. I notice you didn't try to debate any of my points, especially my main point that Thomas is a Glenn Robinson Type player. Its probably because you never saw Glenn in college or the pro
Another possibility to risk not losing him is you can invite him to camp where you have to sign him but end up sending him to the d-league if you find a better sf at training camp and dont sign anyone. That way you dont lose his rights and hes also technically not taking up a roster spot. Its not that complicated
@aespurs If I'm not mistaken, you can't do that--even if you send him to the D-League he still takes up a roster spot, ala Joseph and Baynes and Nando last season. They all counted as roster spots regardless if they were in the D-League or w/ Spurs.
@merkin @aespurs That was my thinking as well. In fact, I spent an hour looking over my copy of the CBA and the policy of draft rights. From what I learned, the Spurs have until September 5th to offer Thomas a contract or else he can either keep contact with them by playing outside of the NBA (Europe) or he'll become a rookie free agent.
This obviously sounds like the easiest avenue but I'm getting some conformation of this procedure first. If what you say is true, then the Spurs holding onto Thomas' draft rights even if Neal returns could be a walk in the park.