The San Antonio Spurs have established a reputation for favoring high-effort, high-IQ players who embrace team-first roles. So it comes as no surprise that they have shown an affinity for Kenny Williams.
One of the best “lunch pail/blue collar” players in recent UNC history, Kenny signed a contract with San Antonio on Monday to become a member of the 20-man training camp roster. This comes after playing for the Spurs’ Summer League squads in both Utah and Las Vegas.
There is still work to be done for Kenny: NBA teams are allowed a roster of 15 NBA contract players along with two “two-way” players (who spend most of their time in the G-League in addition to regular squad duties). This means that there are three cuts the Spurs still need to make before the start of the NBA regular season. The good news is that Kenny, along with Galen Robinson Jr., has just signed an Exhibit 10 contract, which means that in the event that he is waived, he will likely be playing on the Austin Spurs (San Antonio’s G-League affiliate) unless he is signed by another NBA team.
The Spurs have a lot of depth at the wing position: DeMar DeRozan, Bryn Forbes, Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli, and DeMarre Carroll all figure to make an impact. In addition, former first-round pick Lonnie Walker IV will play his first season free of injury (he suffered a meniscus tear during the summer of his rookie season). However, the Spurs’ usually stingy defense dropped off last season, ranking 20th in the league and the biggest reason for that was being susceptible on the perimeter. At times, the Spurs tried to compensate by throwing out defensive formations like triangle-and-twos to throw opponents off, to little success. In the modern NBA where the three-ball is being relied on more than ever, that’s not acceptable and Gregg Popovich, R.C. Buford, and Brian Wright know it.
A team that needs help guarding the perimeter? Tell me you didn’t think of Kenny Williams when you heard that. If Kenny can consistently hit off-ball threes and can contribute defensively, he’ll have a shot at making the full roster. If not, he won’t be the first “3 and D” Tar Heel to try and build a career through the G-League (see Green, Danny).