4 Players who must rise to the occasion for the inconsistent Spurs

After a rough start to the season for the San Antonio Spurs, these 4 players have a chance to rise to the occasion and solidify their future with the team.

Devin Vassell - Los Angeles Lakers v San Antonio Spurs
Devin Vassell - Los Angeles Lakers v San Antonio Spurs / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages
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Malaki Branham

Other than Tre Jones, Malaki Branham is the only recent Spurs draft pick selected outside of the lottery to have earned a meaningful role with the team in San Antonio, and, like Vassell, quite a bit is being asked of him in only his second season with the squad. Branham started the year quite slowly, similar to his rookie season, and in fact, he only started in three of the Spurs’ first 14 games. Since the Spurs’ second loss against the Los Angeles Clippers this past November, though, Branham has begun to come alive and has started in 11 of 12 games since.

In those 12 games, Branham has averaged 9.2 points, 2.5 assists, and 2.3 rebounds on 46/34/100 shooting splits. Furthermore, of the six Spurs players recording over 18% usage, only Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson have recorded a lower turnover rate than Branham. The young guard was drafted for his ability to dribble, pass, and shoot, and early signs are showing that he’s making an impact in all of those areas. The best thing Branham can do to make an impression on the front office is to do exactly that: prove that he can do what he was drafted to do right now.

Needless to say, the Spurs’ offense through 26 games has been very, very rough. But adding another player into the starting lineup that is capable of drawing defensive attention is a small step in the right direction, particularly if the Spurs continue with their “point guard by committee” strategy. The first step in Branham garnering such defensive attention is making shots, and while he’s starting to find his rhythm, improving to league average from three (about 37%) will be critical. Getting to the free throw line more and continuing to create for others effectively are secondary, albeit still very important steps as well.

Even now, Branham has already earned a spot in the starting lineup in the eyes of the coaching staff. If he can capitalize on that opportunity by creating and taking advantage of his scoring gravity while remaining passable on defense, that should be enough to convince the Spurs' front office to keep him around even in a roster-crunching situation.