By re-signing Tiago Splitter, the San Antonio Spurs have 14 players with guaranteed deals heading into next season, with the tendency to leave one spot open for when it begins. With that kind of thinking, it might mean that both Gary Neal, a restricted free agent, and Deshuan Thomas, a second round draft pick, won’t have a place on the team.
Neal is a proven bench commodity, averaging 9.7 points per game in the first three seasons of his career, mostly used as a shooting guard but often spending minutes in the point guard position, especially when Manu Ginobili is out injured.
As for Thomas, he played as a power forward most of the time during his college career with Ohio State, averaging 19.8 points per game during his Junior and final season. He can operate in both forward positions (34.2% shooter from beyond the arc in college), and has been doing rather well for the Spurs in the Las Vegas summer league so far.
But a roster spot? It’s hard to say. It all depends on the Spurs being pleased with their point guard situation. At the moment, besides Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili (de facto point guard off the bench), they also have Nando de Colo, Patty Mills and Cory Joseph. That seems a bit much, even if Ginobili does have a tendency to miss games in big chunks the older he gets.
Who is most likely to be moved? Some teams have shown interest in Patty Mills, who played 58 games last season, averaging 11.8 minutes a night. He played a total of 31 minutes in the playoffs. His deal, worth $1.1 million next season, is something most teams could live with for a point guard who can serve as the primary backup on certain teams, as he has shown during his first season with the Spurs (10.3 points per game, but only 16 games).
Joseph? He spent about the same time as Mills on the floor last season, but had a bigger part to play in the playoffs, and his defense probably gives him the nod over Mills. De Colo played less than both of them, but his size and versatility make him a likelier option to stay, especially if Neal doesn’t remain with the team as a backup shooting guard.