One of the knocks on the San Antonio Spurs has been, aside from the old thing, is that they lack athletes. While you could go back and forth on the age thing, the lack of athletes is nearly indisputable. The athletes they had, namely someone like Ian Mahimni, couldn't get off the bench for one reason or another. Last season they didn't have one player who would be described as athletic.
That could be changing. Thursday, news came out that the Spurs were inviting Summer League Spur Tyler Wilkerson and are working out former Charlotte Bobcat Derrick Brown. Two undersized power forwards who are definitely athletes. Both are what many Spurs fans hoped DeJuan Blair would turn in to. Both guys, while undersized, posses some shooting skill and use their quickness to beat their opponents of the dribble. Scott Schroeder had this to say about Wikerson a few years back during the Las Vegas Summer League.
"Wilkerson showed to be an interesting NBA prospect in Vegas as he showed a strong motor in attacking the offensive glass as well as being a decent spot up shooter for his size. He doesn't seem to be able to do much with his back to the basket, but the Spurs have shown a knack for being okay with face-up forwards – especially if they're able to contribute on the glass as Wilkerson did in Vegas."
Wilkerson was able to score 20 points and nine rebounds against the Lakers Summer League squad, though that Lakers Summer League squad was really bad. But it's encouraging that Wilkerson showed both a willingness and an ability to put the ball in the basket.
Brown has also shown some offensive versatility and has a couple of skills that would fit well in the Spurs system. According to NBA Advanced Stats, Brown shot 66 percent in the restricted area, which is incredibly good when you consider Brown's size. He also shot 40 percent from mid-range which is good for the floor spacing. Another interesting note: Brown shot 30 percent from the corner three (granted he only took 20 attempts). If you can shoot 30 percent from the corner in the Bobcats' screwy system, you can shoot at least 35 percent in the Spurs' floor spacing system, right?
The larger point here is that the Spurs may have found something in last June's loss to the Thunder. They may not have had the ideal personnel for it, but going small ball with only one big on the court may be the best way to combat the size of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers is to spread the floor and outrun them. Sounds a little 2004-2009 Phoenix Suns-ish, but in the short term it may be the best solution. Brown and Wilkerson are both are young, can play multiple positions and their athleticism would bring some to a team that sorely needs it.
And by athleticism, I mean hops like this from Wilkerson who decided to humiliate Hasheem Thabeet at the 2010 Summer League.