3 Roster-crunching decisions Spurs must make before the regular season

2023 NBA Summer League - San Antonio Spurs v Portland Trail Blazers - Julian Champagnie (left), Blake Wesley (center), Victor Wembanyama (right)
2023 NBA Summer League - San Antonio Spurs v Portland Trail Blazers - Julian Champagnie (left), Blake Wesley (center), Victor Wembanyama (right) / Ethan Miller/GettyImages
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Spurs should consider adding depth at center

Outside of the point guard position, which is likely where the Spurs have the most questionable depth at the moment, the team has a good amount of options at every other position. But if we shift the focus slightly to talent as opposed to sheer depth, I think there could be some room for improvement at the center position. Assuming for the sake of this exercise that Zach Collins will be the team’s starting center with Victor Wembanyama playing at the power forward position, that leaves Dominick Barlow, Charles Bassey, and Sandro Mamukelashvili coming off the bench at center.

While it doesn’t take too much mental gymnastics to imagine players like Cam Payne, Malaki Branham, Keldon Johnson, and even Doug McDermott (among others) occasionally slotting in the starting lineup at their respective positions, things get a bit dicier when asking one of Barlow, Bassey, or Mamukelashvili to fill in for Collins on any given night.

The benefit of playing Collins next to Wembanyama in the starting lineup starts and ends with the sheer physicality he provides on defense. While Collins can match up with more traditional post-up bigs on the block, Wembanyama will be able to preserve his health and energy on that end of the floor and act more as a help defender around the rim, where he’s already proven to excel during his time with Metropolitans 92.

I would argue that Bassey is likely the most viable option after Collins to fulfill the need for a defensive-minded, physical big man, but as he’s coming off a fractured left patella, there is little to no guarantee that he—or Collins, for that matter—will hit the ground running and remain healthy throughout the season. And while Barlow and Mamukelashvili are interesting players worth keeping around in their own right, they don’t strike me as players that would serve Wembanyama well as the team’s fill-in starting center at the moment even if they have the upside to eventually get there.

Assuming Khem Birch will be waived, the Spurs could probably afford to bring in a veteran center that is serviceable in a starting role when needed but that will also aid rather than hold back the development of Barlow, Bassey, and Mamukelashvili. The Spurs could also opt to trade one or a few of those young players for a definitive upgrade at the center position, but I see that as the less-likely path at this stage.

Because adding a player to a roster that already needs to be trimmed is counterproductive, this is the trade scenario I least expect to happen any time soon, as it would likely require a multi-team trade where the Spurs can send out multiple players. But in the less-than-likely event that the Spurs do look for another veteran to add to the team before the start of the season, I expect that player to be able to fill in at center and take on challenging defensive matchups around the rim.