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Spurs Get Their Long-Range Enigma

A Daily Babble Production

Earlier this summer, we wondered in this space about the prospects of the Spurs acquiring Nuggets guard J.R. Smith.  Smith would have been an intriguing acquisition for a team that has built its fortunes alongside a reputation of class and professionalism (not to mention defense).  The 22-year-old would have been a work in progress on those fronts though he could have provided a major offensive spark for the team as well.

The Spurs didn't get Smith, who re-upped in Denver several weeks ago.  But they did come to an agreement over the weekend with another smaller-time reserve with the ability to add equal parts instant offense and headaches to the equation in San Antonio.  Former Arizona Wildcat and Atlanta Hawk guard Salim Stoudamire is now a member of the Spurs.

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Like Smith, Stoudamire is a player with high offensive potential but a poor defensive history and a likelihood to stir up some trouble in the locker room.  He had some issues with Lute Olson during his college days concerning his moodiness and occasional lack of effort, and that reputation as a clubhouse malcontent stayed with him while in Atlanta.

But Stoudamire has the ability to be a master at one particular part of his craft:  The southpaw can shoot the ball.  In his NCAA days, he lived beyond the arc.  Throughout his four seasons at Arizona, Stoudamire shot 45.3, 44.4, 41.5 and 50.4 percent from behind the thee-point line, averaging 15.2 points per game for his tenure and 18.4 in his senior season.   As a 6-foot-1 off-guard, Stoudamire needed to develop his range in order to be able to get his shot off against bigger players, and he became a long-range bomber from well beyond the college line.

Size (or lack thereof) and conditioning issues have prevented Stoudamire from reaching that level of success thus far at the NBA level.  He has shot a respectable but not spectacular 36.6 percent from beyond the arc for his career, and he hasn't shown that he can play the point, thus mitigating some of his value at just 6-foot-1.  But he can provide offense in bursts, and he has averaged 17 points per 36 minutes for his three-year career, which is admittedly some reflection of the fact that he has a bit of Eddie House in him: The guy just loves to get in the game and get the ball up.  When he is hot, that can be a great sight.

Stoudamire and the Spurs should make for an interesting match.  As would have been the case with Smith, Stoudamire's inattentiveness defensively and his occasional gaps in focus don't mesh well with the Spurs' approach.  It's hard to imagine keeping older cousin and current free agent Damon around would help matters much there.  But the expectation in San Antonio has to be that a chance to play for a true contender, under Gregg Popovich and alongisde the likes of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will help the 25-year-old change his ways a bit in that regard.

Unlike Smith, however, Stoudamire won't require a substantial investment and won't be counted on as much to be a big deal off the bench.  The Spurs won't be locked into a big-time contract with him and won't be in as tough a situation if he busts and becomes a character concern, in which case they would simply show him the door.  Instead of being counted on as a sixth man, he'll likely be used as an occasional contributor off the bench when the team is having trouble scoring or needs some new energy.  On a team with the star power the Spurs have offensively, Stoudamire could find himself getting far more open looks from the outside than he did in Atlanta, and that could afford him an easy way to increase his shooting efficiency and his offensive proficiency.  If this guy gets open looks, he's rather likely to hit them.

Salim Stoudamire was mercurial but a heckuva player in college.   He was mercurial and a scrub for his first three seasons in the NBA.  It's time to see if he can get his act together with one of the league's top franchises.

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