The San Antonio Spurs have garnered a reputation as one of the best organizations in the NBA. While big men have played a key role in their success, the Spurs have also had a number of quality small forwards in their history.
For years, Gregg Popovich has found ways to cultivate a culture based on the team, winning five championships since 1999. The Spurs are the ultimate winners in the NBA, in part due to the unselfishness of stars like David Robinson and Tim Duncan.
Still, the Spurs have had no shortage of brilliant individual players since they came to the NBA as part of the ABA merger.
Duncan is the best player in franchise history and arguably the greatest power forward ever. Robinson was one of the best centers in league history. It would seem San Antonio’s success has frequently revolved around big men.
However, the Spurs have had some pretty generational wing players. Here are the five best small forwards in Spurs history.
5. Bruce Bowen
Perhaps no player defined San Antonio’s team credo quite like Bowen.
Although Bowen was hardly a prolific scorer, rebounder or playmaker, he nonetheless played a vital role in helping the Spurs win three titles between 2003 and 2007.
Bowen was one of the best defensive players in the league and arguably the best defensive player at his position. He made eight All-Defensive squads, including making First-Team All-Defense in each season between 2003-04 and 2007-08.
Moreover, Bowen provided vital floor spacing as the Spurs ran their offense through Duncan. He shot 40.5 percent from beyond the arc on 2.6 3-pointers attempted per game during his eight seasons in San Antonio.
Simply put, Bowen made winning plays for the Spurs.
4. Larry Kenon
Kenon — along with George Gervin — was one of San Antonio’s first true stars as they transitioned from the ABA to the NBA.
The former Memphis product was a tremendous scorer, averaging over 20 points per game in four of his five seasons with the Spurs. Kenon also made a pair of All-Star teams, and he could play both forward positions.
San Antonio made the playoffs in each of its first seven years in the NBA. Kenon was a massive part of this success, as he was arguably the best all-around playmaker on those teams while routinely ranking just behind Gervin in Win Shares.
Kenon currently ranks fourth in Spurs history in rebounds and ninth in scoring. Pretty impressive for a guy who spent just five seasons with the team.
3. Sean Elliott
Elliott spent 11 of his 12 seasons with the Spurs, making a pair of All-Star teams and finishing with averages of 14.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
The former No. 3 overall pick was probably more adaptable than most remember. Elliott was a bona-fide star alongside David Robinson early in his Spurs career, eventually morphing himself into a dependable perimeter shooter.
But Elliott also slotted comfortably into a role as a third option once Tim Duncan emerged. Of course, part of this is due to the injuries that played a massive role in the final seasons of his career.
Elliott has a seminal moment in franchise history with the “Memorial Day Miracle,” and he also helped the team win a title in 1999.
Tendinitis might have robbed Elliott of multiple good years, but he is still one of the more recognizable players in franchise history.
2. Kawhi Leonard
The Klaw has a serious argument to be No. 1 on this list.
Leonard ranks seventh all-time in terms of Win Shares despite playing just seven seasons with the Spurs. He made a pair of All-Star teams and multiple All-Defensive teams while also winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016.
Kawhi also earned a pair of First-Team All-NBA selections in back-to-back seasons (2016 and 2017), putting him in pretty rarified air. Most notably, Leonard has a separator: a Finals MVP trophy.
There is no doubt Leonard cemented his status as one of the greatest players in franchise history in just seven short years.
But, as Spurs fans know all too well, Leonard is spending his prime years with other franchises after an acrimonious breakup led to a trade ahead of the 2018-19 season.
Leonard developed into one of the best players in the NBA as a member of the Spurs, and he also captured a title with the team.
However, he does not quite boast the longevity or history as the No. 1 player on the list.
1. George Gervin
Gervin is one of the best players to never win an NBA championship.
Iceman was the franchise player in San Antonio for 11-plus seasons (two-plus came in the ABA). He made the All-Star team in each season with the Spurs, making five All-NBA First Teams in the process.
Gervin also won four scoring titles, twice averaging more than 32 points per game. Gervin ranks ninth on the NBA’s all-time scoring average list with 26.2 points per game. He is unquestionably one of the greatest bucket-getters in NBA history and is often credited with popularizing the finger roll.
Although Gervin never won a title, he did come close on a few occasions. The Spurs lost in the conference finals three different times during Gervin’s tenure, including back-to-back losses in 1982 and 1983. Both losses came at the hands of the mighty Los Angeles Lakers.
Gervin might not have a title to his name, but he is still one of the most revolutionary scorers in the history of the game, and he helped define a nascent Spurs franchise in the early years.