Spurs 2019-20 Season Review: Weatherspoon quietly working in Austin

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 08: Quinndary Weatherspoon #15 of the San Antonio Spurs looks on in the second half against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 08: Quinndary Weatherspoon #15 of the San Antonio Spurs looks on in the second half against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

As is customary among San Antonio Spurs rookies, Quinndary Weatherspoon spent most of his rookie year grinding away in the G-League.

The 49th pick in the NBA draft is about as far away from a sure thing as you can get. Most teams are looking to acquire a draft and stash player, or someone who they think can fill an end of the bench role in a few years. The San Antonio Spurs may have gotten more than that with Quinndary Weatherspoon.

Of the Spurs 2019 rookies, Weatherspoon often felt like the forgotten man. He wasn’t a first-round pick like Luka Samanic and Keldon Johnson and didn’t come from a perennial blue-blood program. Despite being named to the All-SEC team three times in his college career, he wasn’t drafted early and slid right into the waiting arms of the Spurs.

We all knew that Samanic would likely spend the entirety of his rookie season with the Austin Spurs. He needed to pack on serious muscle before going toe to toe with NBA big men. But it was a bit surprising to see Weatherspoon spend his whole rookie year there as well.

A four-year starter at Mississippi State, Weatherspoon wasn’t as raw as Dejounte Murray or as inexperienced as Derrick White when he was drafted. But a combination of the Spurs’ developmental philosophy and a lack of available minutes limited his NBA exposure to a grand total of 15 minutes before the season was suspended.

Ask any young guard, the difference in pace between the college game and the NBA is night and day. At the next level, everything moves faster, and as the deepest position in the league, young point guards are thrown into the fire right away. After struggling with turnovers in college, Weatherspoon clearly needed more time in the G-League before he was ready to step up to the next level.

More of a scorer than a playmaker, Weatherspoon recorded more turnovers than assists on a per-game basis in three out of his four years with the Bulldogs. It wasn’t something that got better with age, he was turning the ball over 2.9 times per game and only setting up his teammates 2.8 times per game as a senior. A near-even split, but still something that he clearly needed to work on before Gregg Popovich handed him the keys to the offense.

The good news is that even playing against tougher competition, Weatherspoon took major steps forward in reducing his turnovers and ended his rookie year with the highest assist to turnover ratio of his career. On a roster with plenty of viable scoring options, he was asked to facilitate more than he had been in college. The end result was a new career-high of 5.2 assists per game to go with just 2.7 turnovers.

Throughout his rookie year, Weatherspoon gradually improved as a pick and roll operator and built nice chemistry with Chimezie Metu. The two developed a nice two-man game in their time in Austin. Metu’s offensive versatility, combined with Weatherspoon’s natural inclination to score, created serious problems for opposing defenses.

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As a scorer, Weatherspoon is similar to Keldon Johnson in that he would much rather attack the basket than shoot from outside. He changes pace well, agilely slithers between defenders and shows no hesitation when going to the rim. But like Johnson, he still needs to improve his shot from outside before he can be counted on as a rotation piece.

After knocking down nearly 37 percent of his long-range attempts in college, he regressed a bit during his rookie season and shot 33 percent from behind the arc for the Austin Spurs.

It could be the increased distance that did it but given San Antonio’s track record of developing young players shooting ability and his already smooth stroke, there is very little reason to worry about his ability to hit NBA three’s as he continues to improve.

His future with the San Antonio Spurs is unclear. With established guards like Patty Mills, Derrick, and Dejounte in his way, there’s little chance that Weatherspoon will see anything more than garbage time minutes next year. Even if Bryn Forbes, Marco Belinelli, and DeMar DeRozan all leave this summer their minutes would likely go to a mix of Johnson and Lonnie Walker, not Weatherspoon.

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Like every San Antonio Spurs rookie before him, Weatherspoon will have to bide his time and focus on his own development. The team is trending towards a rebuild so he could be in line for NBA minutes sooner than anticipated if he continues to show promise as a role player.