After sticking with the Detroit Pistons for his first three seasons as a pro, Austin Daye has bounced around the league these last two years. In a mid-season trade in 2013, the former Bulldog was sent to the Memphis Grizzlies, where he saw his minutes and opportunities fade away. Then in the off-season, he signed a two-year deal with the Toronto Raptors, where he played in just eight games, totalling 33 minutes after failing to make it stick as a stretch four. And just before the trade deadline last month, he found himself heading to San Antonio in exchange for guard Nando De Colo.
While Daye has become an afterthought after a couple of promising seasons with the Pistons, there is still reason for hope. At 6-foot-11, he's got great size for a swingman, and his outside touch is surely something that caught the eye of R.C. Buford. He might not be able to make a big impact anytime soon, but if there's one franchise that should be able to find a specific role for him off the bench - whether it be a lockdown defender or spot-up shooter - it's the Spurs. What that role could be remains unclear, which is why Daye was assigned to the struggling Austin Toros yesterday afternoon.
We have a new single-season record: @Spurs' Austin Daye is the record 59th different @NBA player assigned to the #NBADL this season!— NBA D-League (@nbadleague) March 15, 2014
Daye made his debut last night against the Toros' crosstown rivals, Rio Grande Valley Vipers, and in 40 minutes, he showed just what he is capable of. He spent most of his time playing power forward against the Vipers' small-ball lineup and took advantage of it by aggressively attacking the basket, leading to 13 free throw attempts, and using his length to shoot over smaller defenders. He did a little bit of everything on both ends of the court, from grabbing rebounds to blocking shots to finding teammates cutting backdoor, and by the end of the night, he had a team-high 27 points and 13 rebounds. He also had a pair of blocks and three assists.
Daye did miss seven of his 10 attempts from outside the paint and committed a few careless turnovers (like on the Toros' first possession of the game when he passed the ball in the backcourt to Myck Kabongo), but he showed off his potential in his debut, which is all the Spurs really want to see at this point. With only eight games remaining on the Toros' schedule, Daye won't have many more opportunities to log big minutes in the D-League, but if he can prove that his contract next year is worth picking up, then he may have a chance to make an impact with the Spurs in the near future.
According to a report on Spurs Nation, Daye was so excited about the opportunity to join the Spurs that he screamed into his pillow when he heard the news from his agent. He's well aware of their history of finding cast-offs and turning them into formidable role players, and spending time in the D-League is just the first leg of this long road back to relevance. But the process has started and Daye appears to be heading in the right direction.