SAN ANTONIO — The Spurs have long been the NBA's gold standard when it comes to drafting and development, preferring to roll up their sleeves and scour the globe to find the right players to slot into well-defined roles in San Antonio.
They have more international players on their roster than any other team in the NBA, and even their American players don't come straight from America to the league.
It's the hard way to build a roster, requiring patience, discipline and investment that few teams are able to muster these days. And it's paying off in a big way for them in the NBA Finals.
There is Danny Green, who was cut three times and spent a summer in Slovenia, drilling every 3-pointer in sight and running away with the finals MVP award.
There is Gary Neal, who was undrafted out of Towson University and spent three years kicking around Turkey, Spain and Italy before being discovered by the Spurs, scoring 24 points in a Game 3 victory that put them back in control.
There is Boris Diaw, the once-promising Frenchman who was on his way out of the league before the Spurs brought him in, playing surprisingly stingy defense on LeBron James and finding Manu Ginobili cutting to the basket for easy buckets in a Game 5 win that moved the Spurs one victory away from the franchise's fifth title.
How do they find these guys?
General manager RC Buford has assembled an unparalleled scouting staff and worked with Gregg Popovich to establish a system and culture over the last 15-plus seasons that allows them to identify the exact attributes that will allow a player to succeed in San Antonio.
"Our management staff, RC does a great job with his scouts showing us who is out there, who is available," Popovich said earlier this season. "And we all sit down and decide who we want to bring in. Once we bring them in, we do take a lot of time trying to develop them."
It takes communication. It takes trust. It takes commitment to do what the Spurs do. It also takes a willingness to think outside the normal parameters of team building, to consider players that don't fit the prototypical mold.