The San Antonio Spurs kicked off their Summer League schedule with a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Salt Lake City.
Although the stakes aren’t quite as high, the Summer League is oftentimes as entertaining for fans as regular season games. For the San Antonio Spurs, the offseason is when youth takes over and the future is prioritized. With one of their youngest rosters in recent memory, the Spurs brought a talented squad to Salt Lake City and claimed an impressive victory in the first of three games in the tournament.
Led by sophomore Lonnie Walker IV, San Antonio toppled Cleveland 97-89 by playing a refined style of play that emphasized efficiency over volume – the same strategy that the team used during the 2018-19 regular season. San Antonio shot 63 percent from the field, 41.7 percent from deep and 70.6 percent from the charity stripe.
Although they lost the turnover battle 22-14, San Antonio recovered by playing for each other and remaining composed. The rookies took advantage of their limited playing time with the 19th overall pick, Luka Samanic standing out by putting up 11 points, seven boards, two blocks, two assists and a steal in 22 minutes. As a great sign of things to come, Samanic wasn’t even the best player on the team on Monday evening.
It’s only the first game of Summer League, so there’s plenty of time for things to shift, but there are a few sticking points that illuminated over the rest in the resounding victory over the Cavs.
Next: Lonnie Walker is amazing, but he’s not totally ready
Lonnie Walker is amazing, but he’s not totally ready
All eyes are on second-year Spur Lonnie Walker IV as the team’s marquee player at the 2019 Salt Lake City Summer League. Selected with the No. 18 pick in last year’s draft, Walker developed through the G League and limited playing time throughout the season in San Antonio.
As he honed his skills and filled out his body as a rookie, Walker enters Summer League with a handful of expectations, many of which he fulfilled against Cleveland on Monday evening. The 20-year-old led scorers with a 20-piece on 66.7 percent shooting from the field along with eight boards, two assists and a steal. Walker displayed a full arsenal as a primary ballhandler and pick-and-roll initiator while attacking the rim with tenacity and showcasing a killer pull-up jumper from the mid-range.
Walker came out a bit shaky and committed three turnovers in the first half. It was evident coming out of the gates that Lonnie needs to work on his awareness. His chaotic playstyle calls for a bit of recklessness in attempts at making big plays, but this kind of experience is great for expanding his on-court IQ.
There’s a lot left for Lonnie to learn – his second season is only just beginning. Regardless, the Spurs are seemingly prepared to give him the keys to the team this Summer as he logged a team-high 28 minutes with his teammates clearly feeding him the ball.
Summer League isn’t the end all, be all for a young player going through the motions, but it gives him the opportunity to prove himself. In Walker’s case, he’s proving himself to Gregg Popovich more than anyone else because of the Spurs’ undetermined rotation heading into next season.
If he can show that he belongs in the team’s normal cycle of players, Lonnie will be Skywalking his way through the NBA in no time.
Next: Quinndary Weatherspoon is the real deal
Quinndary Weatherspoon is the real deal
San Antonio is notorious for finding quality talent in the second-round of the draft, so their selection of Mississippi State guard Quinndary Weatherspoon immediately caught the attention of spectators everywhere. Standing at 6-foot-4 with a stocky build, Weatherspoon boasts an elusive skill set including exquisite shooting range and high-octane perimeter defense.
Aside from the aforementioned Walker, Weatherspoon was a clear standout in the victory over Cleveland. The rookie made five of his eight attempts from the floor for 13 points including a deep buzzer-beating triple that he banked off glass at the end of the third quarter. Extending the team’s lead and putting the Spurs in position to pull away in the fourth.
More so than his scoring, Weatherspoon’s defense stood out. He finished with a plus/minus of 8, tying Ben Moore for the third best ranking on the team. Coined by many as a ‘glue-guy,’ Weatherspoon takes the phrase to another level by sticking to his defensive assignment and cutting off drives while remaining shift and aware enough to contain the perimeter.
He didn’t log a steal or a block in the game, which could be considered off-putting for a defensive hound, but it’s evident that Weatherspoon has some dog in him. Many times throughout the contest, he fought through screens or shifted above them to ensure that his assignment was uncomfortable.
R.C. Buford found another diamond in the rough with Weatherspoon. San Antonio’s latest two-way addition could end up finding a role for the Spurs once the team’s veteran guards like Patty Mills or Marco Belinelli decide to move on or retire.
Next: There’s a real chance that Drew Eubanks cracks Pop’s rotation
There’s a real chance that Drew Eubanks cracks Pop’s rotation
Without another roster spot to spare, the Spurs will look internally to find their next backup center. Assuming that Popovich keeps both LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl in the starting five next season, San Antonio’s backup bigs will compete for minutes at the backend of the rotation.
Considering the performance he put on in the victory over Cleveland, that may end up being second-year center Drew Eubanks. In only 18 minutes of playing time, Eubanks scored 13 points on an extremely efficient 75 percent from the floor and made a game-high 7-of-8 free throws. His feel for the game has been evident through his transition to the NBA and that hasn’t wavered.
Eubanks knows his limitations and uses his specific talents to his advantage. He’s an excellent screener and set up multiple teammates for easy buckets by leveraging his broad shoulders and bulky build into strong picks. The 22-year-old showed off a confident jump shot and a limited yet effective post game.
Smart players set themselves apart in Summer League and the Spurs are on notice. Eubanks is always ready to give his all no matter how much playing time is allocated to him. He spent a decent amount of time around the rest of the team despite being on a two-way contract and has clearly picked up a few ideas from his peers and coaches.
With performances like this through the Summer, it wouldn’t be surprising to find the former Oregon State Beaver donning the silver and black on the main stage come October.