Blake Wesley is the core piece Spurs fans are forgetting about

Blake Wesley - San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns
Blake Wesley - San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

The San Antonio Spurs walked away with their second win of Summer League play this past Wednesday over the Los Angeles Lakers with a final score of 109 - 99. Second-year swingman Malaki Branham led the way on this occasion with an impressive 32 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal, with all indications pointing toward him entering "too good for Summer League" territory. Julian Champagnie had another impressive outing as well, putting up 28 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks for the Silver and Black.

While Branham and Champagnie have received most of the buzz since the win, though, Blake Wesley also put up a sneaky-impressive performance as the Spurs' lead ball-handler, finishing the game with 18 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal.

In the midst of some outstanding performances from both Jeremy Sochan and Malaki Branham this past season, the emergence of Julian Champagnie and Dominick Barlow, and the ever-growing anticipation of Victor Wembanyama's Spurs debut, it feels as if Wesley has gotten lost in the mix a bit and is maybe even being forgotten about on some level.

Blake Wesley could be the Spurs' lead guard of the future nobody is talking about

It's easy to forget at this point, but Blake Wesley was a 1st round pick in the 2022 NBA Draft for good reason. The former 4-star recruit, who was left off of ESPN's Top 100 recruits in the 2021 class, joined the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, where he quickly (and perhaps unexpectedly) became the team's primary option and clear-best player. In the 35 games he played, he averaged. 14.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. He started in all of Notre Dame's ACC games as a freshman and was named to the ACC All-freshman team and All-ACC team.

By the end of the college basketball season, Wesley had gone from someone that likely originally had a multi-year college path to the NBA to a one-and-done and almost surefire 1st round pick. That kind of a rise is incredibly impressive on its own and should not be glossed over, but it's his long term upside that likely has the Spurs excited. Particularly considering the sheer amount of draft capital that the Spurs hold, the team won't just draft anyone. They very clearly have a plan and a vision for Wesley that I think fans may be beginning to overlook a bit.

Between a knee injury that sidelined him multiple weeks, being pulled between San Antonio and Austin, and receiving inconsistent playing time while he was with the main team, it can feel like Wesley's standout moments were few and far between, but they were there. His speed and twitchy athleticism jump off the screen and it's something he'll use for years to come as an advantage creator.

At this point in Wesley's career, he's mostly defined by several small areas of improvement on both ends of the floor that add up to be significant. He likely fell all the way to pick #25 because, in this way, he's still such a "project player." Some projects are worth the investment, though, while others simply feel like "being a year away from being a year away" so to speak, and Wesley is certainly one of the worthy investments.

Without getting too far into the weeds, here's what I think the Spurs' long-term vision of Wesley could look like: a starting level guard that can hit spot-up shots playing away from the ball, use his twitchy athleticism and playmaking talent to create advantages for his teammates, and be a pesky, versatile defender both on and off the ball. Spurs general manager Brian Wright has very clearly prioritized two-way versatility since first selecting Devin Vassell in the 2020 NBA Draft, and while that term can mean different things depending on the player, it certainly applies to Wesley as well.

How does Blake Wesley reach his ceiling?

Again, Wesley's game is still defined by several areas of improvement, albeit correctable ones. Priority number one for Wesley needs to be to continue building functional strength, and seeing that he reportedly added 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason, he seems to be on the same page. While his length and athleticism give him sizeable defensive upside, his current lack of physicality gives him quite a bit of trouble fighting through screens and defending up a lineup. That same lack of strength also gave him issues finishing around the rim dating all the way back to college.

Even with him still developing his strength, however, it's clear that Wesley knows how to use his quick-twitch athleticism to his advantage with the ball in his hands. He leans on that athleticism so much, in fact, that he still tends to look out of control at times. While he manages to get paint touches, on some occasions he'll get the ball poked away, on other occasions he'll get stuck in "no man's land" without a plan and force an errant shot or pass, and sometimes he'll initiate more contact around the rim than he can handle.

Learning to play with pace and improving as a decision-maker will come with more time, but unlike his strength, this likely can't be fixed in the gym. Getting meaningful NBA reps as a lead ball-handler will be crucial in his development, even if those reps come off the bench. This is one reason among a few that lead me to believe there's a strong chance the Spurs will stand pat with their current guard rotation of Tre Jones/Blake Wesley/Devonte Graham rather than trading for a big-name guard like Damian Lillard or Tyler Herro, for example.

Lastly, Wesley will have to continue improving as a shooter. His touch around the rim, midrange game, and decent three-point shooting efficiency from this past season (despite a low volume of shots) all serve as promising indicators that he can slowly improve as a shooter over time, but his free-throw shooting remains a concern. While he only shot just over 1 free throw per game this past season, he only made 59% of those shots--a number that will have to improve if he wants to be a viable option in the playoffs down the road.


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