3 Members of the Spurs young core primed to have breakout seasons

Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson
Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages
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The already young San Antonio Spurs got even younger this summer, including adding a pair of teenagers in the NBA Draft. One of them was number 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama, who will usher in a new era in Spurs basketball following a several-season rebuild and a search for their next franchise player. He could be that player right out of the gate for San Antonio, but he'll need help turning a team that went 22-60 last season into a playoff team.

But with so many young players on the roster, a lot of them are still figuring things out. Even then, it seems more likely than not that at least a couple of them will take a major step forward in their development next season. That would raise the Spurs' ceiling in both the short and long term and give the team an opportunity to see which players have a chance to be a part of their core going forward.

That will make the 2023–24 season all the more important for San Antonio since it could inform their roster moves for years to come. Next, we'll take a look at several breakout candidates for next season, starting with one of the Spurs' three 2022 first-round selections.

3.) Malaki Branham 

Spurs 2022 20th overall pick Malaki Branham showed tantalizing flashes of the player he could be during the second half of last season, even as a teenager. Post-all-star break, he averaged a solid 12.6 points, 4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 21 games, including 16.8 points per game in February while shooting 38.6% from three. Branham accomplished that by knocking down open threes and scoring off cuts, drives, and floaters—all things that he should be better at in year two.

While starters Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson will likely play more minutes next season, the Spurs will also play lineups without a traditional point guard, including ones with Branham. Even as a fourth or fifth option in those lineups or a secondary option in second units, he could make a big leap next season using the same skills that were on display during his rookie year.

Playing with Wembanyama, Branham could benefit from the attention that he will draw by scoring off cuts to the rim or draining open shots from the perimeter. He may also play more with the ball in bench lineups, where he showed promise using ball screens to score. Based on that, Branham has a chance to average around 15 points per game next season, not necessarily a star turn but still a dramatic improvement nonetheless.

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