Spurs address uncertainty at guard, still working to add flexibility

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SAN ANTONIO -- With questions abound regarding depth and the recovery of veteran point guard Tony Parker, the San Antonio Spurs addressed the backcourt in Thursday's NBA draft by selecting Colorado’s Derrick White with the No. 29 pick.

The team used its second-round selection (No. 59 overall) on Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame.

The selections came during a week in which the Spurs held discussions with at least three teams, according to sources, about a potential trade to get them up to the top half of the first round in exchange for power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. The club also held talks with the Cleveland Cavaliers about a potential trade that would involve shooting guard Danny Green.

“The draft is what the draft is, and this was a particularly talented draft,” Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said. “So there’s always all kinds of discussions going around. You never know what’s real, and you never know where you’re gonna get. The thing I’d say [regarding Aldridge] is we’ve got a team that’s won 128 games [since Aldridge’s arrival], were in the conference finals. We’re happy with the group we have. If we can make it better, we’ll do it at any opportunity we can. But it’s more than just players. It’s the fit for our group, and our goals for this team are to continue to compete for championships, and LaMarcus helps us do that. So, that’s where we sit with LaMarcus.”

In White, the Spurs addressed a backcourt chock-full of uncertainty given Parker’s recovery from a torn quadriceps tendon, Patty Mills' potential departure via free agency in July and Dejounte Murray's relative inexperience coming off his rookie season.

“It’s crazy to be a part of the Spurs organization,” White said. “They have a great history, and coach [Gregg] Pop[ovich] has done an amazing job. I just want to get there and join the Spurs way.”

White (6-foot-5, 190 pounds) played only one season at Colorado, averaging 18.1 points, 4.4 assists and 1.2 steals in 2016-17, after playing his first three years at Division II University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. Despite only one season with the Buffaloes, White earned all-Pac-12 first-team honors, in addition to being named to the all-defensive team and all-tournament team.

Interestingly, when White finished his prep career at Legend High School in Parker, Colorado, the guard received only a junior college scholarship offer in Wyoming and one partial scholarship offer from UCCS.

“It drove me to get better,” White said. “Each time you have the doubters, you just put a little chip on your shoulder. It was humbling at the time. It just made me work to just continue to never be satisfied.”

It also helped make the call from San Antonio on Thursday more satisfying.

“It was surreal,” White said. “It probably still hasn’t hit yet. But all that hard work and dedication I put into this game [made it] definitely a fun time."

The Spurs coveted White’s versatility, size and feel for the game, not to mention his ability to contribute as a scorer from 3-point range, midrange, and at the rim. White was also noted for his ability as a decision-maker and his athleticism, as he has displayed an explosive step to go with a penchant for blocking shots on the defensive end.

The Spurs saw that firsthand when White took a pre-draft visit to San Antonio for a workout, where he met the coaches and several staffers.

“I think it will be a great fit,” White said. “I’m ready to get out there and learn the system as quickly as possible.”

White connected on 50.7 percent from the field as a senior at Colorado, draining 39.6 percent from 3. White ranked No. 3 in the Pac-12 in scoring, fifth in free throw percentage (81.3), sixth in assists and seventh in blocks. Along with No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, White was one of just two players to rank in the Pac-12’s top 10 in scoring, assists and blocked shots.

White also became the first Colorado player to produce four or more 30-point games in a career since Chauncey Billups (1995-96).

“It showed I was able to produce at the highest level of college basketball,” White said. “Colorado was amazing. They allowed me to develop. It was huge for my draft stock.”

Prior to joining Colorado, White helped UCCS earn two berths in the NCAA Division II tournament while tying the school’s career scoring average record with 22 points per game, in addition to 5.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.6 steals. He also shot 48.8 percent from the field in those three seasons.

Similar to White, Blossomgame possesses the versatility the Spurs covet, according to assistant general manager Brian Wright. Blossomgame ranked No. 10 in the ACC in scoring as a senior, averaging 17.7 points while shooting 49.9 percent from the field.

The new additions come at a time when the Spurs are working diligently to gain some flexibility to make moves in free agency.

According to sources, frontcourt contributors Dewayne Dedmon, Pau Gasol, and David Lee will each opt out of the final years of their deals. Gasol’s decision reportedly gives him and the team an opportunity to work on a more team-friendly long-term deal.

San Antonio will likely need to replace depth at those spots, as that trio has a June 29 deadline to make their decisions to opt out official.

The Spurs will also decide whether to bring back restricted free agent Jonathon Simmons, who received a qualifying offer this week, a source confirmed, but will likely fetch substantially more on the open market in a deal that San Antonio would have the right to match. The club will also face competition to retain the services of Mills, who would be San Antonio’s most experienced point guard outside of Parker and Manu Ginobili, who moonlights at the position, should he re-sign with the Spurs.