I recently asked Paul Garcia of ProjectSpurs.com about how the NBA Draft affects Da'Sean Butler. The Spurs signed Butler, who had recently been cleared by doctors to play again, weeks before the end of the regular season. They sent him to their NBDL affiliate, the Austin Toros, so he could get some quality practice time in before the end of the season. Last month, I spoke with Garcia about how Butler fits in with the San Antonio Spurs. Garcia is a unique member of the Spurs media as he is a credentialed media member for ProjectSpurs.com and TorosNation.com. You can find Garcia on Twitter
In the Draft, the Spurs traded promising backup point-guard, George Hill, to the Pacers for the rights to the 15th pick, San Diego St. F Kawhi Leonard. Leonard is an athletic forward who averaged 15.5 points and 10.6 rebounds for the Aztecs last season. The Spurs wanted an athletic wingman to compete with the type of personnel that the Memphis Grizzlies has. The Grizzlies, of course, knocked the #1 seeded Spurs out of the first round of the Playoffs. The Spurs then drafted Texas PG, Curtis Joseph, with the 29th overall pick to eventually replace Hill. The Spurs also drafted SF Davis Bertrans from Latvia in the 2nd round and Adam Hanga, a 6-7 shooting guard out of Hungary, with the next to last pick in the Draft.
Butler's position with the Spurs is SF. I asked Garcia where how the drafting of Leonard will affect Butler's position on the depth chart. "The Spurs are now over stacked at the small forward position," Garcia said. "If they began the season, the lineup would be: Richard Jefferson, Kawhi Leonard," as the starter and backup. "Danny Green, James Anderson, and Da'sean Butler for that third spot."
Now the Spurs have six guys that play the same position, including Bertrans. Garcia explains how that number could lessen. "The Spurs will be looking to trade Jefferson after the lockout," he said, "but they entertained very little interest when they were packaging him with Tony Parker three days before the NBA Draft. I was present at the media facility on draft night, and General Manager, R.C. Buford, was thrilled to have moved up in the draft to get Leonard's rights.
"Eventually, the motive is for Leonard to become the starting small forward if Jefferson continues to struggle. Anderson-Butler-Green will have to compete for the 2nd or 3rd wing positions in training camp, and they could each be shuffled from San Antonio to Austin (Toros) until the coaching staff agrees upon which player to keep routinely in the lineup."
Even if Richard Jefferson and his large contract were moved to a different team, that would still leave four players (assuming Leonard will start) to fight for the reserve role. What can help Butler get more playing time than the others?
"The advantage Butler has is that he can play some shooting guard. With George HIll now gone, the team only has Gary Neal off the bench at shooting guard. If newly drafted point guard Cory Joseph struggles, Neal or Manu Ginobili may be asked to run backup guard, which could net Butler some minutes as a 2nd or 3rd string shooting guard."
With the crowd in front of Butler thinning, Garcia explains how there could be even less competition for Butler to get playing time. "As for the international players (drafted in the 2nd round), Buford said Thursday night that the team intends to keep Adam Hanga and Davis Bertans overseas of another one to two seasons."
Just when it seems to get better for Butler, Garcia explains something in the Spurs' plans that could crowd up the bunch at small forward again. He said that the Spurs hosted a free-agent mini camp last week before the NBA Lockout began, where they invited several shooting guards and small forwards to compete. The men the Spurs brought in, Garcia said, were either proven scorers or specifically defensive oriented.
Garcia summed up Butler's situation this way: "It's going to be interesting for all of the wing and guard players not named Tony Parker, Manu Ginibili, or Gary Neal to show who belongs in the starting and bench roles out on the perimeter this season."
Where will Da'Sean Butler fit into the mix once the season begins? Keep checking back here for all of the details.