Dominick Barlow is showcasing his defensive versatility with the Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs grabbed Dominick Barlow off the market moments after he went unclaimed in the 2022 NBA Draft. Though he was and still is the least familiar face among a class of newcomers that welcomed Malaki Branham, Blake Wesley, and Jeremy Sochan to the Alamo City, he has left a positive impression during the homestretch of the regular season.
While the undrafted rookie spent most of his time suiting up for the Austin Spurs before the All-Star Break, he earned a call-up to the association for an exceptional string of performances in the G League. Barlow was in and out of the lineup over the first month of his promotion. But he has been an everyday rotation player since the team fell out of playoff contention.
These newfound minutes have allowed Barlow to show the coaching staff what he can do at the highest level of competition, and nothing has stood out more than his physical tools and enticing defensive potential. The six-nine teenager has nimble feet, flexible hips, giant hands, broad shoulders, incredible straight-line acceleration, and a seven-three wingspan.
Barlow has utilized his athletic abilities to switch onto guards and contain their drives, hold his ground in the paint versus traditional bruisers, erase shots at the basket with punctual weakside rotations, chase down would-be layups in transition, and deflect careless passes that initiate fastbreak offense for a Spurs team that loves pushing the pace in the open court.
As the youngest person on the roster, it is no surprise that the 19-year-old has made mistakes and has much to learn before cementing himself as an impactful contributor. With that said, Spurs fans should be optimistic after head coach Gregg Popovich praised Barlow on Sunday night following the first double-double of his burgeoning career.
"[Barlow has come] lightyears," Popovich said. "He’s the least experienced player, and he just absorbs things. Tonight he had three, four, five blocked shots. He gets off his feet pretty quick, and he’s trying to create an NBA career for himself."
The first-year forward has been ineffective on the boards, foul-prone, and occasionally turned around on both ends. Barlow must also add muscle to his thin frame and develop his limited offensive arsenal. But he possesses unique defensive versatility, which makes him a valuable asset in a league that continues to shift toward bigs that can cover multiple positions.
With the NBA instituting a new collective bargaining agreement that gives each franchise a third two-way contract beginning next season, the Spurs have no reason not to bring back Barlow for another audition. He might be the most indispensable frontcourt project, and San Antonio would be wise to invest in an affordable, low-risk, high-reward prospect amid a rebuild.