Despite constantly being a perennial championship contender, the San Antonio Spurs have never been a team to turn its head on the development of up and coming players.
Ironically enough, some of the NBA's top contending teams are those who pay special attention to and effectively utilize the D-League. From using the minor league to develop guys like Danny Green and Cory Joseph for the long term, to ensuring young guns like Aron Baynes and Nando de Colo receive enough reps on the court while not in the team's rotation, San Antonio maintains a rather active relationship with the Austin Toros with regard to building up its core group.
Though each of them can appear ageless at times, the likes of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili (and even Tony Parker soon after the former two) are set to eventually trail off to greener pastures at some point.
Will the likes of Green, Joseph, and Kawhi Leonard (who practiced with the Toros last season as part of injury rehab) go on to help fill out a new starting five for the Spurs in the next few years? If so, who else will join them?
With an eye always on the future, San Antonio recently plucked versatile forward Malcolm Thomas from the D-League. A strong rebounder and one to always assert himself offensively and pour in the points, Thomas is finding even more efficient ways to do so, and the Spurs couldn't be more intrigued. His increasingly present prowess from long range is making him an interesting stretch forward option, according to our friends at ProjectSpurs.com.
Of course, coming right from the NBADL, Thomas still needs some more time and work before he can stand on his own two feet as an everyday NBA contributor. But as a dominant minor league player, there's no doubt he's rather close.
While he may not be able to jump right into the fray for the contending Spurs just yet, the team recognized his potential and were savvy enough to pick him up now before any other team becomes more interested in doing so themselves.
With Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker still leading the way, the Spurs still have time (to a certain extent) on their side. Needless to say, instead of waiting for a player like Duncan to retire and then react, San Antonio is making the moves necessary to ensure Thomas may be ready to fill such a role in the future, regardless of how near or distant that same future may truly be.