The San Antonio Spurs are heading into the offseason with a checklist of things they need to add. A reliable power forward, more young talent, perhaps a new head coach, and a smart draft are all on the list. One thing that often gets overlooked is the bench. Basketball is not a five-person game. It requires having 10 or more guys who can go out and get the job done on any given night.
Benches are not sexy, but they do get the job done. The best bench players are on the court for over half the game, and the best bench units might not start the game but are often tasked with finishing it. The average Spur off the bench averages 18.5 minutes per game, which is the ninth-most in the league. That’s only 1.3 minutes less than the first-place Grizzlies in the category, so it’s all pretty jumbled at the top.
While the Spurs do not lead the minutes category, their bench puts up the third-most points, the seventh-most assists, and is in the top ten in pretty much all of the statistical categories aside from rebounding. The Spurs' bench is one of the better ones in the league, and with the predicted emergence of Josh Primo next season, the internal improvement alone should be enough to keep their second unit near the top of the league.
How should the Spurs handle the bench this summer?
Of course, we have to assume some faces won’t be back. Lonnie Walker seems to be on the way out, and if Doug McDermott gets traded, then a bench player may have to elevate his game to be a starter, which would help the team but not the bench unit. That being said, Josh Primo, Tre Jones, and Zach Collins are all solid backups at worst and could be starters on some teams at best.
With an already established top 10 bench in the league, it has to be asked: what will the Spurs do with all their money? They have the most cap room in the league, but they should not spend big bucks to find the sixth man.
San Antonio should spend money on established talent for the starting five and keep using the bench to develop talent at a slower pace. With three first-round draft picks, we can reasonably assume only one of them will be a day one starter, so that’s two more young pieces to bolster an already great second unit.
Tre Jones can lead the way as the floor general, and Josh Primo can and should be the primary scorer off the bench. Collins has shown flashes, and adding even more fresh talent from the draft could bring San Antonio into the undisputed top five overall bench units in the league.
The Spurs should not dedicate a lot of extra effort to finding bench talent. That comes naturally from the draft and from internal improvement. Besides, they already have a great core to relieve the starters, so why stress when there are bigger fish to fry?