FIBA World Cup could be massive stepping stone for Sandro Mamukelashvili

The Georgian center has a chance to put himself on the map with his national team this summer.

San Antonio Spurs v Milwaukee Bucks
San Antonio Spurs v Milwaukee Bucks / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages

Sandro Mamukelashvili became a fan favorite after the San Antonio Spurs claimed him off the waiver wire late last season. With several injuries leaving the team shorthanded, the former second-rounder earned regular rotation minutes and ended his first go-round under Gregg Popovich as a mainstay of their countless patchwork starting lineups.

The second-year center averaged 10.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game with the Silver and Black, but his nightly numbers were far from the only thing that turned heads across the NBA. His combination of ballhandling, playmaking, and three-point shooting are rare among frontcourt players, and Mamu proved his skillset was no fluke.

While it seemed like Mamukelashvili might be the odd man out when San Antonio started free agency, the front office ultimately re-signed him to a one-year contract. This deal offers the 24-year-old a full-season audition to carve out a long-term future with the Spurs, but he must compete against Charles Bassey for the right to run with the second unit.

This airtight positional battle will sort itself out when San Antonio opens training camp in October, but Mamukelashvili will have an enormous advantage over his colossal counterpart. Though most players are involved in organized scrimmages and workouts to stay fresh during the offseason, Sandro will be in game shape thanks to his participation in the FIBA World Cup.

The near-seven-footer is the engine of the Georgian national team, and he led them in points, boards, and minutes at EuroBasket last summer. Despite his country entering this tournament ranked 32nd in the world, Mamukelashvili and crew are in a favorable group that includes Venezuela, Cape Verde, and Slovenia, which gives them a solid chance to make the knockout rounds.

Regardless of where Georgia finishes in the FIBA World Cup, the additional touches and shots Mamu receives from this international experience could pay dividends for him next season. The Spurs have several difficult decisions ahead of them, but configuring their depth chart will be a no-brainer if their backup center returns to San Antonio with a new and improved arsenal.


Home/Spurs Roster