Amidst the ongoing outcry of disappointment from San Antonio fans after the abrupt departure of Jonathon Simmons, the Spurs' front office made yet another under-the-radar free agent signing. The contract went to a relatively unknown player named Brandon Paul. With the loss of a fan-favorite like Simmons, Paul's signing went unnoticed for much of the off-season. Fast forward ten games into the season, however, and Spurs fans can't seem to get enough of him. So, just who is this guy? Where did he come from? What does the future hold for him? Take a deep breath, reader.

I'm going to attempt to answer all of that.

College career

Brandon Paul began his high-level basketball career at the University of Illinois, the school of his home state. Other than Deron Williams and Meyers Leonard, Illinois hasn't exactly been a hotbed for NBA talent as of late. But this didn't deter Paul, as he proceeded to make a name for himself on campus from the first minute his feet hit the court.

In his freshman season, Paul average 7.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. These weren't stellar numbers, but it was a start. The Fighting Illini finished with a 21-15 record that season, and would go on to lose in the Quarterfinals of the 2009-2010 NIT to Dayton.

Paul upped his averages to 9.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game in his sophomore season.

Illinois looked poised for national dominance this season with many returning starters and the addition of freshman star Meyers Leonard. The Illini headed into the 2010-2011 season with a ranking of 13. For such high hopes, the season proved to be a mediocre one. It was, though, better than the previous season. Illinois finished the season with a third-round exit from the NCAA tournament at the hands of the Kansas Jayhawks.

The off-season between the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons was the turning point for Brandon Paul's college career. The departure of the Illini's key scorers Mike Davis and Demetri McCamey left a void in the team's offense. As one of the few upperclassmen left on the roster, Paul saw this as his opportunity and put the team on his back going forward.

Paul's scoring numbers increased dramatically in his junior season. The Illini's starting shooting guard averaged 14.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game in his 2011-2012 campaign. The team got off to a fast start at the beginning of the season, but the Big 10 conference play proved too much for the team. Illinois finished with a 17-15 record, going 6-12 in their conference and failing to make a tournament. The bright side? Brandon Paul had officially morphed into a star player. He led the Illini in scoring that season and was named to the third-team all-Big Ten team.

Paul's senior season saw the departure of underclassman Meyers Leonard for the NBA, so the fate of the team was on his shoulders yet again.

His scoring increased once more, as he boasted averages of 16.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. Paul flat-out dominated defenses in his senior season, posting huge point total after huge point total, including a 35 point performance against the 10th ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs. The Illini finished with a much improved record of 23-13 that season. Sadly, the NCAA's elite were just too much for the team come tournament time, as Illinois made another third round exit after losing to second-seeded Miami.

Paul led the team in scoring again and was named to the third-team all-Big Ten team once more. He also became the eighth leading scorer in school history with 1654 total points, and he was just the second Illini player ever to reach career milestones of 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists, and 100 steals.

Pre-Spurs pro career

Paul went undrafted in the 2013 NBA draft, but he hoped for a second shot at a contract by joining the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 2013 NBA Summer League. No such contract was offered, so Paul decided to sign with the BC Nizhny Novgorod team in Russia. He averaged 6.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 0.5 steals in very limited action while in Russia. In early February, he decided to leave BC Nizhny after just twelve games with the squad to return to America. Upon his arrival to the U.S., Paul agreed to a contract with the Canton Charge, the Cleveland Cavaliers' D-League affiliate.

Paul's first season with the Charge was cut short just weeks after his signing, as he suffered a season-ending injury.

He was waived in March of 2014. After waiving him, the Charge decided to re-acquire Brandon Paul for the following season, but, again, Paul suffered an early injury that would keep him off the court for months. The Charge waived him in April 2015 and would not re-sign him.

After healing from his injuries, Paul signed with with Spanish club Joventut Badalona in September of 2015. He would start 25 of 33 games for the squad, leading them in scoring with an average of 13 points per game.

Once his season with the Spanish team was up, Paul returned to America once more to participate in the 2016 NBA Summer League. He played for the Charlotte Hornets and the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers actually signed him to a non-guaranteed contract in July, but would waive him in October after only appearing in four preseason contests.

Paul didn't give up on his pro career here, though. After being cut from the 76ers, he trekked over to Turkey, where he would sign with Anadolu Efes for the remainder of the 2016-2017 season. He averaged 8.6 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, and 0.6 assists per game with the Turkish club.

2017 Summer League and Spurs signing

Still intent on making an NBA roster, Paul left Turkey to play in the NBA Summer League again. He joined the Dallas Mavericks for the Orlando league and switched over to the Cleveland Cavaliers to play in the Las Vegas league. This was the turning point for Paul's pro career. To put it simply, Brandon Paul dominated. He averaged 15.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.7 steals in summer league play.

While the world was focused on big name rookies like Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith Jr., and Markelle Fultz, RC Buford swooped in and snagged Brandon Paul on July 14, 2017.

That single move by Buford has made all the difference so far. In the preseason, Paul made his debut for San Antonio against the Memphis Grizzlies. While only playing limited minutes, he showed what he was capable of on the basketball court, showing off a soft touch from deep and impressing many with his defensive abilities. A lot of skepticism remained, as nobody had seen Paul play in a real NBA game yet, but he would soon remove all doubt.

After a slow start and little to no minutes in the Spurs' first six games, Paul had his coming out party in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

With the other guards struggling to hit shots, Gregg Popovich gave Paul the keys to the offense, and he delivered. He poured in a team-high 18 points on an extremely efficient 75% shooting. Since then, he has received consistent minutes in the rotation and has contributed in a multitude of ways. His best all-around game to date came against the Phoenix Suns, where he totaled 11 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals.

What's next?

This question is really one best asked to Brandon Paul himself, but I think anyone who watches the San Antonio Spurs consistently can see that Paul is destined for big things if he stays on the right track. His game is tailor made for San Antonio's system, and fills the hole in the rotation left by Jonathon Simmons.

I recently wrote an article talking about Joffrey Lauvergne and how he is what the Spurs are missing most in addition to Kawhi Leonard. I still believe this, but after seeing Paul play these last few games, I think I can add to that statement. Yes, Lauvergne is needed. Yes, Kawhi is needed. Yes, Tony Parker is needed. But, Brandon Paul is needed just as badly as any of them.

No Spurs team has been without a guy who can bring a huge spark off the bench. It's come in the form of Malik Rose, Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Jonathon Simmons, and many others. Brandon Paul could be that guy this year. It's going to hurt having to watch Simmons play for an opposing team this year, but, if Paul can keep up his stellar play and work ethic, he may ease that pain a little quicker than most Spurs fans thought.

So, to answer the big question, that's who Brandon Paul is. He's a self-made player. He's a key part of the rotation. He's an energy guy. He's a diamond in the rough. Simply put: he's a Spur.