The Spurs are not an elite teams in the Western Conference, and that, by the standards set in the last ten years, is an aberration. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker have held down that fort for the better part of those ten years, and have done a pretty splendid job doing so. Just ask the trophy case.
A big part of the Spurs’ winning formula has been Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford’s ability to identify talent and engage in ‘teambuilding’ in the truest sense. 99% of the time, that term is thrown about as a corporate buzzword, but when a management duo has had such success in identifying, obtaining, and preserving a steady core of role players, there’s honestly no better or more authentic way to describe the process. The job Pop and Buford have done in San Antonio over the years has been remarkable, not only because of the titles and the culture they’ve created, but also because the well of role players has never run dry.
Garrett Temple is only the latest of such players, and after about two months with the team providing spot minutes in the backcourt, Temple received his first start last night and dropped 15 points on 63% shooting along with four assists. This is a case where the Spurs picked up a D-Leaguer who wasn’t even a part of their established system with the Austin Toros (Temple played with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers), and two months later he’s able to step in to that kind of production.
Yes it was against the Kings, and that matters. What’s more impressive to me is that Temple is not the most polished D-League guard out there, but he’s young (only 23), capable of playing good defense without being an offensive liability, and shows plenty of NBA potential. It’s not even a case where San Antonio took what they knew or picked up the biggest, baddest dude tearing up the D-League, but put in the work, found the right guy for their system, and nabbed him.
Roster depth can be so easy to come by, even if it’s not in the form of perfectly ideal players; Temple may not be solid all-around or have a ton of pro experience, but he’s contributing for a playoff caliber team and helping out in a big way. We could see him put in more and more performances like this one as Tony Parker continues to ease back into the swing of things. With George Hill still sidelined, that’s invaluable.
The Spurs already have quite a bit of D-League talent, so it’s hard to forecast exactly what kind of role Temple could get with San Antonio long-term. For now though, he’s exactly what Pop and Buford ordered.