Could Dominick Barlow become the Spurs' next great undrafted success story?

San Antonio Spurs v Chicago Bulls
San Antonio Spurs v Chicago Bulls / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

The San Antonio Spurs are home to a talented 19-year-old power forward who might play a significant role in their journey back to NBA relevance in the next couple of seasons. Although Jeremy Sochan perfectly checks all the boxes on that description, Dominick Barlow is the lesser-known rookie we're placing under the microscope.

Despite an intriguing season suiting up for Overtime Elite in their inaugural campaign as an alternative option to the NCAA, Barlow went untouched in the 2022 NBA Draft. PATFO snagged Barlow off the open market and took him to Summer League, signing the youngster to a two-way contract after an encouraging showing in Las Vegas.

As anticipated, Head Coach Gregg Popovich has opted to leave the sixth-youngest player in the association with the Austin Spurs for much-needed seasoning. Outside eight points in limited garbage-time minutes during an emergency two-game promotion to the 2-1-0 this week, Barlow has made most of his noise dominating the G League, and that's where we'll stay.

His first three months in Austin were an adjustment period full of exciting peaks and aggravating valleys, but the last three weeks have been an all-out breakthrough for Dom. The teenager has averaged 19.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game on .559/.333/.944 shooting splits since January 16th, a stat line that looks impressive on paper without any context.

Turn on the tape from his last eight outings, and you'll see a prospect with enough untapped potential to make a scout salivate. Barlow's repertoire is still a little rough around the edges, though he flashes another captivating skill on a near possession-by-possession basis.

The rookie can dive or pop in the pick-and-roll, drain midrange jumpers or spot-up threes, score with his back to the basket, and is a smooth athlete that looks comfortable taking fellow frontcourt players off the dribble. He makes timely cuts, finishes through contact at the rim, sprints in transition for lobs and layups, and has touch on floaters. And his burgeoning feel for passing out of the post is only a bonus.

Barlow also has the prerequisite physical tools to become a versatile two-way contributor. Standing six-nine with a seven-three wingspan, flippable hips, broad shoulders, and agile feet, the 215-pound forward has guarded every position on the floor. That switchability is a rare and coveted quality for the modern big man, a trait you can't teach.

Pair his positionless defense with rim-protecting instincts, and you have a one-of-a-kind developmental project. Barlow has blocked 14 shots across his last three appearances for Austin, and he has nine games with at least two denials this season. Inexperience has resulted in ill-advised fouls and missed rotations. Still, the positive signs have outweighed any fleeting red flags.

Is Dominick Barlow a faultless prospect? Of course not. There are several holes in his game, chiefly inconsistency, which is one of the many reasons he never heard his name called during the draft almost eight months ago.

The Spurs are familiar with undrafted success stories. Avery Johnson and Bruce Bowen turned their misfortune of being shunned by the league into motivation to recalibrate their games. That sacrifice turned them into vital cogs for San Antonio teams that took home championships and ultimately rewarded them with the honor of a jersey retirement ceremony.

Whereas those celebrated franchise heroes arrived in San Antonio battle-tested from years of trial and error around the NBA, Barlow will require all the resources the Spurs can offer to fine-tune his craft on both ends. The Silver and Black are investing in the gifted stripling, and if he arrives at his immense ceiling, they will be grateful for sticking it out for all the growing pains.

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