Author: Rob Mahoney

DeJuan Blair, James Anderson

Spurs decline third-year option on James Anderson


Although the final public analysis of any NBA roster move is usually distilled to a few lines of explanation, every single decision that an NBA front office makes is a complicated one. Salary, fit, production, potential, age, redundancy, personality, character, experience, flexibility — all of these factors — and more — come into play, and it’s up to general managers around the league to make sense of lengthy lists of criteria in the name of making the best moves possible.

San Antonio Spurs general manager R.C. Buford has been “making the best moves possible” for over a decade. San Antonio’s enduring success isn’t merely a product of lucking out with Tim Duncan; it’s taken careful, deliberate work to build competitive teams worthy of San Antonio’s transcendent star, and further, more difficult work to keep the Spurs near the top of the Western Conference as Duncan has begun transitioning from star to nebula.

Buford had once hoped that Oklahoma State product James Anderson would be a useful part of that transition as a dynamic wing scorer, and he used the Spurs’ highest draft pick of the Duncan Era to select Anderson with the 20th overall pick in the 2010 draft. But Anderson’s projected rise seemed to fizzle out early; Anderson struggled to even make it onto the court in his rookie season, and couldn’t offer much on-court justification for the influx of playing time he saw earlier this year. All of that played into a decision that, on first glance, may seem a bit hasty: The Spurs have opted to decline their third-year option on Anderson, despite the fact that the once-promising scorer would only cost San Antonio $1.5 million to retain for the 2012-2013 season.

There are plenty of reasons why releasing Anderson actually makes some sense for the Spurs, despite his minimal price tag. But the most persuasive of which — and the factor that stands out amongst all others that Buford was forced to consider — is the emergence of third-year forward Danny Green. Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News walks us through the logic:

So why not hold onto Anderson and see what’s there? Sure, Anderson wasn’t making shots, and he looked at times as if the game was too fast for him. But he was scheduled to earn only $1.5 million next year. Given the promise the Spurs had originally seen in him, and given that he hasn’t had much time to show that yet, didn’t it make sense to wait?

Those are the thoughts that made the Spurs hesitate…Still, the Spurs couldn’t get past what they had — too many wings. But it wasn’t Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Richard Jefferson or Gary Neal who changed the roster dynamics. It was Green.

If he had not emerged, those on staff say, they would have picked up Anderson’s option without thinking.

There are no guarantees the pecking order stays this way. Green could falter as the rest of the season progresses, and Anderson could rise. Wednesday night showed why the latter is still possible. The Spurs told Anderson they were not picking up his option just before the game against Atlanta, and he responded without sulking. They wonder if he will be better for this, as Green was after Cleveland cut him. Maybe it’s what Anderson needed to hear.

…But the Spurs aren’t betting on that. They are betting on a more complete player who they don’t have to wait on, and someone who will also be a free agent this summer. Green.

It’s a roster spot. It’s a guaranteed contract. It’s Danny Green, and Gary Neal, and Kawhi Leonard. But most of all, it’s a move that the Spurs have the luxury of actually thinking about; it could certainly be argued that that San Antonio is giving up on Anderson a bit too early by declining his third-year option, but the Spurs have put themselves in a position to evaluate Anderson’s future more fully thanks to their finds in the NBA’s bargain bin. Neal and Green truly came out of nowhere, and while both deserve praise for their ability to capitalize on a valuable opportunity with the Spurs, Buford and Gregg Popovich have earned their reputation by helping discarded role players in their vein consistently find their way up through San Antonio’s woodwork.

They just haven’t quite made it work with Anderson, and maybe never will. A declined option doesn’t necessarily mark the end of Anderson’s time in San Antonio, but considering the statement of the move and the dynamics that caused it, the Spurs seem to have the luxury of moving on.

Detroit second rounder Kyle Singler content with decision to stay overseas

Kyle Singler, Joe Dumars

It’s rare for a player selected in the second round of the NBA to have much immediate career affirmation. After all, many second rounders never even make the final cut of an NBA roster, and those that do typically warm the bench and play out unguaranteed contracts as practice filler.

Duke forward Kyle Singler appears to be an unusual exception. Not only does Singler bring the prestige of formerly being a prominent contributor for one of the NCAA’s basketball institutions to the table, but his résumé has been supplemented further with successful stints playing for two European clubs in the past several months. He was so comfortable playing overseas, in fact, that rather than return to the States following the lockout’s conclusion, Singler opted to merely switch teams and remain in Spain.

It’s all worked out pretty well for Singler, who has found a way to continue the showcase of his NBA qualifications despite being drafted into a situation with few chances at playing time. It’s a great break for a young player who easily could’ve been buried on the bench until late in the season, and playing for Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid has been so kind to Singler that he really doesn’t seem to be in all that much of a rush to join the struggling Pistons. From the Associated Press:

With Detroit last in the Eastern Conference’s Central division, Singler is happy to wait until the offseason to make a decision if the Pistons offer him a deal.

“If I do go back, I’m sure it will be Detroit because they are very interested in me,” Singler said. “I’m not saying that I don’t want to go to their team, but if it’s a good situation, I’ll definitely make that choice.”

Not exactly shocking considering that Jonas Jerebko, Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye, and — somewhat inexplicably — Damien Wilkins all eat up minutes at Singler’s primary position. But that kind of patience from a player without a concrete NBA deal? That casual shrug as Singler willingly waits on his NBA dreams? It’s unusual to say the least, and speaks to Singler’s strangely high value despite being drafted in the second round.

Baron Davis returns to practice, but can his ailing back bear New York’s wildest expectations?

baron davis

Abandon all expectations ye who enter here: alleged Knicks savior Baron Davis is officially playing basketball again.

Davis underwent a full practice for the first time since signing with New York in December, and according to the Associated Press, the team hopes he’ll be available for his regular season debut at some point during the team’s four-game road trip. Even if that’s the case, expectations of Davis’ performance should be tempered and suppressed, if not outright smothered. Davis has always been an impressive playmaker, but it will take him time to adjust to the speed of NBA basketball again and more time yet to adjust to the frenetic schedule of a lockout-shortened season.

Even then, Baron is only Baron; he may be a better set-up man than any one else on the Knicks roster, but that doesn’t mean his prolonged presence on the court will necessarily be a net positive. Will Davis fire up ill-advised three after ill-advised three? Will he give the Knicks some much-needed order? Will he compound the defensive problems caused by Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire? Will he really ride in on a unicorn to run simultaneous pick-and-rolls with Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler while still getting Anthony the shots he wants?

Davis is still capable of being a solid player, but it’s best for all involved if his potential play is treated as a long-shot hope. The Knicks are in trouble. That much has been made crystal clear with the team’s offensive idling, the apparent incompatibility of Stoudemire and Anthony, and the New York’s ongoing six-game losing streak. But as many have warned before me, putting too much pressure on Davis’ shoulders will only result in disappointment.

Hear, hear, Knicks fans: celebrate if Davis pans out as a nice addition. Shake your head and shrug if things go, sadly, as expected. He has a chance to improve this team, but nothing in Davis’ recent career points to him as being capable of bearing a burden as heavy as saving a middling franchise. Either way, we’re ticking closer and closer to Boom Day, and the weeks and months that will define this core’s immediate future.