Blake Wesley has weathered an up-and-down rookie season derailed by a torn meniscus two games into his career and plagued by inconsistency on both ends since returning to the court. The 19-year-old has been turnover and foul-prone in his first go-round with the San Antonio Spurs, but neither of those issues surfaced when he suited up against the Orlando Magic.
The six-five point guard had maybe his best game as a decision-maker on Tuesday night, recording a career-high seven assists and coughing up the ball twice in 23 minutes off the bench. Despite displaying definite signs of development as a playmaker, a record-setting three-point performance at the AT&T Center overshadowed his encouraging outing.
Wesley remained shoddy as a pull-up shooter and team defender, though nitpicking those parts of his repertoire can wait. For now, we should focus on how a teenage prospect learning a new position made strides in a vital area that could impact his long-term ceiling.
The gangly floor general has some of the speediest wheels in the league. And he used his burst to get past the first level of the defense, force help from the weakside, and make simple drive-and-kick passes to wide-open three-point shooters like Doug McDermott and Sandro Mamukelashvili.
Though Wesley might have barreled to the basket at 100 miles per hour at the first hint of an open lane earlier this season, he showed some restraint and slowed things down to survey the floor before delivering a chest pass that hit Keita Bates-Diop in the middle of his shooting pocket. Cleaning up the finer details of his game matters, and making these improvements can affect his trajectory.
He also dished a couple of swing passes that kept the ball moving around the horn until it connected with Mamukelashvili and McDermott for catch-and-shoot triples. Bypassing decent looks for high-quality shots has been a staple of the team-first brand of basketball head coach Gregg Popovich has preached for decades, and watching Wesley buy into those lessons is sure to earn him more minutes.
Even when it looked like Welsey might heave a careless turnover near the end of the first quarter, the rook pulled off an acrobatic midair adjustment to evade a contest and find a backpedaling McDermott for a straightaway three. Impromptu sequences can get young ballhandlers into trouble, but risky maneuvers have a time and place when used judiciously.
The most promising and impressive playmaking flash came on a pick-and-roll possession in the fourth quarter. Welsey lost Cole Anthony on a rock-solid screen from Dominick Barlow, froze Moritz Wagner in drop coverage, and slung a pinpoint pocket pass that led his teammate to the rim.
One game is too small of a sample size to assert Blake Wesley has turned a corner and will never look back. Nevertheless, the young guard is taking steps in the right direction. And he should have another chance to prove himself as a shorthanded Silver and Black squad faces the Dallas Mavericks in the second game of a back-to-back tonight.