- Bradford Doolittle, ESPN Staff Writer
Going into last season, Richard Jefferson had to feel pretty good about his chances of keeping his job as the starting small forward for the San Antonio Spurs. He had started all 81 of the games he played in during the 2010-11 season, averaging 13 points and shooting a career-best 44 percent from 3-point range. He was just 31 years old and, perhaps most importantly, had two years and a player option -- plus $19.4 million left -- on his contract. For better or worse, it appeared that Jefferson would be a fixture in San Antonio in the immediate future.
Then Kawhi Leonard came along. The San Diego State product was drafted by the Indiana Pacers with the 15th pick last June, then shipped to San Antonio for veteran guard George Hill. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has always been leery of rookies, however, and with the lockout eliminating last year's summer league, offseason workout programs and most of training camp, it didn't seem likely that Leonard could uproot Jefferson from his position.
However, the compressed schedule forced teams to use their full rosters last season and Leonard quickly proved his prowess and versatility on the defensive end of the floor. When he started to consistently knock down corner 3s, that was it. San Antonio was better off with Leonard in the lineup and after starting 41 games, Jefferson found himself finishing the season as a backup for the Golden State Warriors.
Every year, established veterans give way to younger players. It's the way of the sports world. Such players in the NBA tend to have more raw athleticism, are more prone to accept supporting roles and are cheaper options to fill out a roster. With that in mind and using Chad Ford's Mock Draft 7.0 as our guide, let's look at 10 veterans who could find their starting role or roster spot usurped next season by an incoming rookie.