This next week will represent an intense one for many NBA hopefuls, as a bevy of them will be waived as teams trim down to an official fifteen man roster.
Though the Spurs have already begun to make their cuts, they also gave two of their more promising prospects a vote of confidence by exercising team options for the 2013-14 season. Thus, Cory Joseph can exhale knowing he continues to do enough to stand out, no matter who comes challenging his way for minutes on the court.
Perhaps Joseph's time is coming. Despite only playing in 29 games last season, he led the way for San Antonio during NBA Summer League, emerging as the squad's leading scorer. Such an effort warranted him All-Star honors for the session.
As beneficial as sharing a seat on the bench next to players like Tim Duncan and Tony Parker may be, Joseph likely benefited from time on the court as much as he did the mentoring of his teammates. The guard was sent to the Spurs' NBADL affiliate (the Austin Toros) on three different occasions last season, able to log minutes in fourteen different contests. Joseph averaged 13.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.1 assists. His various stints were highlighted by a triple-double on March 23rd.
Sending a first-round draft choice to the D-League may not be the most common occurrence these days, but it's clear San Antonio did so because they believe in the development system the minor league provides. After building their core around three championship winning veterans, the Spurs have needed to inject themselves with a bit of youth, surrounding their vets with young gun role players.
The team undoubtedly has faith in the various values of the NBADL. The Spurs scooped up Danny Green following his successful time in the minors, only to help him emerge not only as a key role player, but one of the league's better long range shooters. Attempting to embrace the Toros even more, the team was also set to send Gary Neal to Austin for a rehab stint. As NBA teams grow their relationship with respective affiliates, expect for this to become a possibility even more.
As a franchise that contends for an NBA championship annually, the Spurs may not be able to dedicate sufficient enough time to develop their young talent in San Antonio. That said, with three of the better players the league has seen in over a decade growing older, it's apparent the team will soon have to transition and depend more heavily on the up and coming prospects.
To ensure that the learning curve doesn't end up becoming too steep, the Spurs are using the D-League to bolster their long-term plans. Embracing the tools at their disposal to the fullest, it quickly becomes clear why they represent one of the more successful and efficiently ran organizations.
On a team like Bobcats, perhaps a player like Joseph would have been thrust into tougher competition from the get-go. Instead, the Spurs have developed him, helping the guard make strides towards becoming a player they feel confident enough in to play rotation minutes. Looking at his predecessors and the young guns who have emerged before him to make major contributors, Joseph feel strongly knowing his future is bright in San Antonio after putting in the time. And it's his time in the D-League that is helping him get there.