• The 10 Best Role Players in San Antonio Spurs History
  • Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports
  • The Spurs dynastic run, now stretching back into the last millennium has been fueled by six names. Coach Gregg Popovich, David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and last but not least, GM RC Buford. All six of these names will one day grace the chambers of the Basketball Hall of Fame, rightfully so, as each guys exhibited a level of mastery of the game. However, their two-decade continuum of success incorporated the services of less lauded guys who contributed to each victory. This is where Buford shines the brightest. We all know how good the Twin Towers were and how the Big 3 execute under the stewardship of play designer and motivator Pop. Buford has been just as essential. Since taking the reins as GM in 2002, he has helped lead San Antonio to three titles using every method of roster-building possible. Through the draft, through trades and through international scouting, he has constantly replenished the stash of invaluable Spurs role players. The Game 3 explosion by Kawhi Leonard is only the latest in a long line of players. Here’s our attempt at listing them.

     

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  • 10. Brent Barry

    There are a lot of Spurs on TV right? Bones is another, where he gives his insight on matters for NBA TV. Getting those TV gigs is easy when you have the Spurs on your resume. Bones was an athletic SG who dunked his way around the league until he got to San Antonio. On the Spurs he recalibrated things, becoming a deadeye shooter. In his four seasons there he averaged 7 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists but he was a killer from long range. He shot 40% from the three and helped the Spurs win rings in ’05 and ’07.

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  • 9. Steve Kerr

    When you watch Kerr on TV he downplays his career, often deferring to other vets who experienced more personal glory. But don’t get confused, Kerr, the newly named coach of the Golden State Warriors, ate off of the glory plate plenty of times. As a member of the Bulls and the Spurs, Kerr was a part of five championship teams (two with SA.) Though his biggest moment came via a Finals game-winning MJ pass, he put in work in SA too, shooting nearly 40% from three in his four-year Spur career and filling the role of off the bench shooter nicely.

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  • 8. Malik Rose

    Rose was the consummate role player for the first two Spurs title teams. He contributed important frontcourt minutes playing with both Duncan and David Robinson, overachieving his way to a respectable career. Though undersized at 6’6″, Rose still beasted for rebounds and defended bigger players when called upon.

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  • 7. Boris Diaw

    Diaw’s career had been considered “less than” until he joined San Antonio. After stints with the Hawks, Suns and Bobcats the knock on him was that he passed too much and didn’t take advantage of his verticality (he’s 6’8″) while getting slowed by his horizontal baggage. However, after two seasons in SA it’s now obvious that other coaching staffs didn’t know how to utilize the multi-tooled Frenchman. Diaw is an elite passer, especially in the post where the offense often runs through him. For a team that values passing, Diaw is a perfect fit.

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  • 6. Matt Bonner

    All Bonner does is shoot 3s, but for this franchise, that’s more than enough. After eight years of playing the stretch 4 off the bench, Bonner’s place in Spurs lore is secure. His career Spurs average from beyond the arc is 41.7%, including a blistering 45% he shot for the ’10-’11 season.

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  • 5. Kawhi Leonard

    Leonard is young and still settling into his NBA career, but your man already has the ability to take over games that predicts a strong future. Smart, athletic, great size and the previously discussed giant hands portend good things. He’s already an elite defender and his ability to go to the next level offensively will extend the Spurs dynasty beyond its assumed expiration date. He’s a role player now but he could very well be the (near) future for the franchise.

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  • 4. Sean Elliott

    If the “Memorial Day Miracle” existed by its lonesome on Elliott’s career resume, he’d still get love in San Antonio. That game winning three-pointer in the ’99 WCFs propelled the Spurs to their first title and cemented Elliot as one of the best and most popular players in team history. A reliable scorer, the lanky small forward made two All-Star teams in his nine-year career in San Antonio.

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  • 3. Robert Horry

    For those of us who believe Horry belongs in the Hall of Fame, we take solace in the fact that he’d likely make this same list for the Rockets and Lakers. Horry was just a unique talent. A stretch 4, who played physical defense and rebounded and was one of the most clutch players in NBA history. Horry helped the Spurs win titles in ’05 and ’07, contributing in his usual “whatever it takes” approach.

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  • 2. Bruce Bowen

    Long before he was on TV rocking bow ties, Bowen was among the best defensive players of his era (and arguably all-time.)  Bowen famously guarded the best wing player the other team had and drowned open threes with the best of them. In eight seasons in SA he made the All-Defensive Team eight times (five times 1st team), schooling and torturing SGs and SFs across the league.

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  • 1. Avery Johnson

    The Lil General had one of the most unlikely careers of any guy on this list. At 5’10 he wasn’t a physical intimidator, but he had a will to lead and a grit to survive. Playing on several teams in his career, his 10-year stint with the Spurs saw them turn from champion pretenders into a legit title-seeking franchise. His SA averages of 10 and 7 aren’t eye-popping but he challenged players to compete at a higher level. Johnson was the leader of that first title team, not Robinson or Duncan, and his retired jersey is a testament to his worth.

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