Cross-posted from ProjectSpurs.com
The D-League is rarely the picture of consistency as teams undergo major roster changes year after year.
This year the Austin Toros became the Austin Spurs, and along the way, the team added several new players just as several players left the 512 area code.
The AustinSpurs brought back very few players from last year’s squad, and all five starters, aside from JaMychal Green, are new.
In this case, however, a fresh start has led to positive results. The Austin Toros missed the D-League playoffs last year, and behind new player leadership, the Austin Spurs have won their last eight games and lead their conference.
Three players San Antonio had in training camp, are emerging as leaders, with Bryce Cotton playing the natural floor leader, and an extension of coach Ken McDonald on the hardwood.
Josh Davis is often compared to Kawhi Leonard. They look similar, play the same position, went to the same school…and the similarities don’t end their. Davis could be looked at as a bit of a Kawhi-lite for the Austin Spurs. He’s all business with a blue-collar ethic coaches love, making McDonald’s decision to start him a no-brainer.
Green is one of the few constants from last year, and he has set the D-League ablaze early, undersized or not.
Through 11 games this season, Cotton has made the transition from college standout to pro standout seem effortless. While many tagged him a one-dimensional scorer coming into the draft, he’s proving to be anything but. Through 11 games, Cotton is averaging 17.9 points, 5.4 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. He’s also been shooting at an impressive rate, making 49 percent of his attempts from the field.
In a game against the Oklahoma City Blue last Saturday, Cotton finished the game with 34 points and seven rebounds in an OT thriller.
“I just wanted to go out there and try to set the tone, bring energy and bring a spark to the team,” Cotton said. “I know I wanted to be a pest on defense and fortunately some shots were falling as well.”
Cotton said the young Spurs seemed to be finding their way as a group.
“It feels great. I think it’s a testament to our teams character, being able to close out games and persevere through tough games down the stretch. It just shows we’re growing and or maturation is at a good point right now.”
The Austin Spurs are certainly growing, losing their first four games and then not losing a game since. They’ve also gone from needed overtime wins to blowing out teams in some of their recent games.
Davis starts at power forward for Austin, and given his size, the 6-8 forward has had no trouble dominating much taller opponents for rebounds and scoring at the rim. He is also able to pull his defender out of the post and will either work to speed by the slower man or pass it in to Green, giving the University of Alabama product room to work down low.
Davis is averaging a double-double, 14.5 points and 11.2 rebounds per game, and likely opened some eyes last week in a game with the Los Angeles D-Fenders where he ended the night with nine points, 16 rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots.
While Green is ranked 13 on the D-League’s Prospect Watch, he has proven to be a much more intriguing prospect for a team that is interested in the right numbers. A team that is infatuated by height and weight could be missing out and far more impressive numbers.
He currently leads Austin with 22.5 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. He also manages over three assists per, is fifth in scoring, fourth in rebounds and is among the top ten in the league in blocked shots with 1.7 per game.
While there are questions about the 6-9 big man’s effectiveness against bigger and stronger competition, Green has held his own in games against James Michael McAdoo, Mitch McGary, Ivan Johnson and Earl Clark.
His most impressive game yet has come against the D-Fenders. Green finished that game with 29 points, 18 rebounds, five assists and three blocks.
The Austin Spurs starting group is rounded out by a recent addition in former Pacers guard Orlando Johnson and Jarrel Eddie, both of whom average more than 16 points per game.
Austin also has two bench players currently averaging double figures. Both players could likely start on other teams and Johnson could be the first option on any team, but like Gregg Popovich, McDonald has found a way to manage minutes and egos.
They’ll look to extend their streak to nine games against the Canton Charge on Friday.