After the San Antonio Spurs traded starting center Jakob Poeltl, there was a question about who would replace him. In the short term, the answer is, of course, Zach Collins. But barring draft lottery luck, the long-term solution wasn't immediately evident. After the Spurs signed Charles Bassey to a surprisingly cheap four-year contract on Tuesday, perhaps it is.
Bassey was initially signed to a two-way contract and played well with the Austin Spurs, leading to the team signing him to a long-term deal. In his second season, the 22-year-old has established himself as a highly productive backup center with intriguing athletic tools and plenty of room to develop.
Bassey is a long-term prospect for the Spurs.
Interestingly enough, the Spurs signed Bassey to what essentially amounts to a rookie-scale deal with nearly identical salary and structure to a late first-round pick.
Think of him as the team's fourth first-round pick, along with Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham, and Blake Wesley. After all, he's still the age of a college senior, and locking him into a long-term deal with plenty of team control makes sense. If he performs well as the team's backup five over the rest of the season, he would likely have drawn increased interest in free agency, thus making it more costly to re-sign him.
Fortunately, the Spurs had more than enough money, and with the trade deadline behind them, they no longer had to preserve their remaining cap space for a potential deal. As a result, the Spurs opted to use a small portion of that space to sign a promising young player to a four-year contract. It's a low-risk deal with negligible guaranteed money, but one that could look brilliant in a couple of seasons.
The Bassey deal is the latest in a growing line of business-savvy long-term contracts negotiated by GM Brian Wright. There's Keldon Johnson's team-friendly contract, and Wright also signed incumbent starting center Collins to an affordable three-year deal when his value was at an all-time low.
If the Spurs indeed draft Victor Wembanyama, they could trade Collins for draft assets, paving the way for Bassey to become the team's long-term backup center. Or, if the team fails to land Wembanyama, they can continue with Collins and Bassey and see if Bassey can eventually unseat the veteran in the starting lineup. A lot can happen in four years of development.
Bassey has played well enough on a two-way deal to warrant a long-term contract from the Spurs. Moreover, San Antonio's decision to re-sign him to an affordable deal deserves an A+ for their front office.