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2009 Summer League Breakdown - San Antonio Spurs

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To use the parlance of our times (or at least of three years ago), the Spurs are your favorite team's favorite team. They just do this kind of thing (draft, D-league, etc.) better than everyone else. Two of their recent draft picks, DeJuan Blair and Jack McClinton, were hailed as immediate contributors, not bad for mid-to-late second round guys. And pretty much everyone is assuming their other pick, Nando de Colo, is going to work out just because the Spurs drafted him.

The San Antonio Summer League team has other players who you may or may not know, but who can contribute. George Hill started showing some ability for the team last year, and they've brought in some D-Leaguers like Malik Hairston and Romel Beck who other teams might wish they had. A full breakdown after the jump.

Oh, but first, Marcus Williams isn't here, which is kind of strange. I don't know if he's hurt or what, but he should be here. He played well enough (extremely well) for the Spurs' D-League affiliate last year that they actually released Hairston, who had a Spurs contract, in order to be able to sign Williams and prevent another team from calling him up. He's listed as a forward but is really a 6'7" point guard, and he really grew into that role over the course of last season. He should be on the Summer League roster, but he's not. Huh.

Anyway, full breakdown after the jump.

George Hill (6'2" G) - Hill was drafted in 2008 and impressed in that year's Summer League, guarding guys like OJ Mayo. He spent a fair amount of time last year backing up Tony Parker, though he's not a solid enough assist man to be a "true" point guard and is more of a combo. He's not a defensive standout yet, but the ability is there and that's partly how he worked his way into the Spurs' rotation.

Ian Mahinmi (6'11" C) - Mahinmi didn't play much last year because of injuries, but the Spurs and others remain high on his prospects. He was drafted in 2005 but remained in France for a few years before coming over and starting out with the Austin Toros in 2007. There he averaged 17 points and 8 rebounds, along with close to two blocks a game. His jumper isn't very consistent, but he's a nice athletic big man who's close to contributing to the big-league club.

Malik Hairston (6'6" G) - Hairston had a contract with the Spurs and appeared in 15 games for them last year, and had been playing for the Toros when the team became enamored of Marcus Williams and cut Hairston to make room. He stayed with the Toros, though, which probably made for some awkward situations with his still-teammate Williams. I wrote more extensively about Hairston here, but to summarize he can definitely score, he's a good rebounder for his position, and while he's not that quick he's a good but not great defender. He had a propensity to turn the ball over when he was playing with the Spurs, but with the Toros his passing was decent.

James Gist (6'9" F) - Gist was drafted by the Spurs in 2008 but spent last season playing in Italy. Gist is a solid rebounder, but his shooting mechanics are inconsistent. He's very athletic, but he might need another season of, uh...seasoning before he's ready to consistently contribute at the NBA level. He's a decent help defender but has trouble one-on-one, particularly in the paint. Reports are that he worked hard last season, though, so there's reason for optimism that he'll put it together.

DeJuan Blair (6'7" F) - For people who write about basketball on the internet, Blair's drop into the second round was borderline inexplicable. The word was that teams were frightened by the face that he had surgery on both of his ACLs in high school, but he was the best rebounder in college basketball last year as a sophomore, so you'd think they'd see that he's gotten by. He's not great at scoring, and projects to be less so in the NBA level, but he's a really, really good rebounder, particularly on the offensive end. He could come off the bench for San Antonio right now.

Jack McClinton (6'1" G) - He's a bit on the small side for a shooting guard, but McClinton's an incredibly efficient scorer. He mostly relies on his jumper for that, which is really solid. His game around the rim is less so. He's an okay ball-handler and reasonably quick but not overwhelmingly so. This was a good pick for the Spurs, though I imagine I'll probably see him in Austin at some point.

Nando de Colo (6'5" G) - Not to get all "stereotypes exist for a reason" on you, but you could see this one coming from a mile away. De Colo impressed at this year's Eurocamp, showing good court vision and passing abililty, and he has a nice pull-up jumper. I didn't find much about his defense, though, which probably means that there's not much to say about it, and he's not a great three-point shooter. I'd be surprised if he doesn't stay in Europe for another few seasons, but this is exactly the kind of player the Spurs have had success with.

Carldell "Squeaky" Johnson (5'10" G) - Squeaky was the Toros' ostensible starting point guard last season, though as I've mentioned, Marcus Williams increasingly handled those duties from the forward spot as the year went on. The first thing you should know about Johnson is that he's not a great passer, defender, or shooter (though he can get hot from three at times). The second thing you should know is that he doesn't turn the ball over, ever. That's not just a function of Williams handling the ball, that was true even when Williams initiated most of Austin's possessions. He averaged just over 2 per 36 minutes last year, and he spent a lot of time on the court. That sort of thing was incredibly valuable in Austin's fast-paced offense (they were the second fastest team in the league), and I suppose there's a chance the Spurs (or any other team) could decide that it's valuable to them, too.

Eric Dawson (6'9" F/C) - I know I've been more negative than positive towards Dawson on this site, but there are some things to like with him. He's a decent finisher around the rim, and a pretty good finisher. Unfortunately, he's probably more of an undersized center than anything else, and playing next to guys like Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Dwayne Jones meant that he had to play further out most of the time. He's not really quick enough to keep up with perimeter players, and his mid-range shot isn't very good. He's also not a great defender inside, though he occasionally makes some great defensive plays, so he's not too far off the mark.

Romel Beck (6'7" G/F) - I like Romel Beck a lot, though he was injured for part of last season with the D-League's Dakota Wizards. I was surprised to see that he's already 27, though. Beck is quick, and has a lot of scoring ability, though at this point he's still probably better suited for isolation plays. His defense is good but not outstanding. He doesn't always make the best decisions with the ball, but the talent is certainly there.

Antonio Anderson (6'6" G) - Anderson was the shooting guard for Memphis last year, though he was overshadowed by Tyreke Evans. He's not a great ball-handler or even a very good shooter, though he gets to the rim and finishes there pretty well. He's a tough perimeter defender, though, and a decent rebounder for his position. He might stick in the NBA if he improves his shooting form.

Alonzo Gee (6'6" G) - Gee's outside and free-throw shooting both need a lot of work, though he's a decent slasher from the perimeter. He's also been called an unfocused defender, which won't exactly endear him to the Spurs. He's an explosive player and his turnovers decreased with each season at Alabama, but he's still a work in progress.

Marcus Vinicius (6'9" F) - Marcus Vinicius was a Roman consul related by marriage to the emperor Tiberius. In 38 AD, he - oh wait, the basketball player. Basketball Vinicius seems like the type of guy who would've been drafted by the Spurs, but the Hornets got to him first. He's here now, though, and he's a quick, athletic wing player. He doesn't finish around the rim very well, and he doesn't take as much advantage of his quickness on defense as he should, but San Antonio is probably the perfect team to develop his game.

Donell Taylor (6'5" G) - Taylor played a few seasons with the Washington Wizards until 2007, but he didn't do much to stand out and since then he's been playing in Greece. You also may (or may not) remember him from when he played for UAB with his twin brother Ronell. He's not a good outside shooter, and his free throw shooting could use some work, but I guess he's a decent enough "end-of-bench" NBA guard. By all accounts he's a classy guy.