When the San Antonio Spurs traded the frustrated Nando de Colo to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Austin Daye at the trade deadline last year, not many people thought much of it outside of the Spurs dumping an unhappy player and getting back a serviceable one in return.
Daye was already a journeyman at the young age of 25, having already played for the Raptors, Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies. The Spurs would be his fourth team in his short five-year career.
In his 14 games with the Spurs, Daye showed flashes of promise. He scored 22 points against the Philadelphia 76ers in one game, knocking down six three-pointers and also grabbing six rebounds in 29 minutes. But he was also inconsistent, proving to be a “hot and cold” kind of player who was either hitting everything or bricking his shot attempts.
In appearance and by the way he plays the game, he reminds me a lot of Danny Green. When Green first came into the league, he did not know exactly what he could be until the Spurs terrific player development staff told him to work on his shooting, specifically his perimeter game. Green put in the work and became a starter for the team over time as well as one of the most lethal outside shooters in the NBA.
Daye is listed at 6-foot-11 and 200 pounds, with a tremendous wingspan to boot. Unfortunately, because of his weight, he is often asked to play the small forward position, where height-wise he is more built to be a power forward.
The Spurs have a history of taking little-used players and inserting them in to their system rather flawlessly. I see Daye as a potential Matt Bonner type of player. A big man who can space the floor for the rest of his team and get himself open for a three once in a while. He will never start ahead of Kawhi Leonard, but he could definitely turn into a specialty player who the Spurs use so well.
It is clear that the Spurs have confidence in him given they could have let him go during the offseason, but decided to keep him around. It is up to him to add more muscle so he can play both the three and four positions on the floor, because right now he would get knocked around too much on the block on defense. He also needs to become a consistent shooter who shoots a high percentage from both the field and the three-point line.
He certainly is a unique player who, if utilized correctly, can be productive in the right situation. If he is going to have a long NBA career, he needs to really develop his game in what time he has left during this offseason and prove to the coaching staff he can be trusted with rotational minutes for this season and going forward.
If there is any team that can turn his career around, it is the Spurs. And do not be surprised if they somehow pull it off again. I do not think Daye will ever be regarded as “a steal” by the media when it comes to analyzing how the Spurs acquired him, but it will be a win for the organization if they can mold him into an effective, dependable role player off the bench. I think this is a realistic viewpoint to have about a player with the skill-set Daye possesses and the talented development staff the team has as well.