Mamukelashvili is acing Spurs audition with phenomenal passing

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

The San Antonio Spurs took a late-season flyer on Sandro Mamukelashvili after the Milwaukee Bucks waived him near the beginning of March. While he had trouble finding minutes for a championship contender, a rebuilding setting has allowed him to showcase his unique skill set in a way that was never possible during the first year and a half of his NBA career.

Because the Silver and Black are out of the playoff picture and exercising an abundance of caution with their core pieces, Mamukelashvili has been a fixture of their second unit. He has appeared in every game since inking a standard contract with the team, and they have let him experiment with the ball in his hands, putting a spotlight on his playmaking chops.

The six-ten center can leverage his height to make deliveries over the top of the defense, and his ambidexterity unlocks endless angles, making him a threat from every inch of the hardwood. He manipulates opponents with his eyes, generates openings with subtle ball fakes, and is comfortable as a ballhandler, roll man, or facilitating hub around the nail.

Mamukelashvili does things most big men only dream of. He snags boards and connects with teammates in transition, tosses meticulous lobs on fast breaks, hits cutters in stride from the elbows, finds shooters with his back to the basket, and flings live-dribble skip passes on drives. His impressive bag of tricks also contains no-look, behind-the-back, and midair dishes.

Despite entering a brand new system with a batch of unfamiliar faces, the former second-rounder has seamlessly integrated into the motion offense and his role as a facilitator off the bench. Gregg Popovich has shown trust in him as a decision-maker, and while he isn't perfect, he has earned well-deserved praise from the stern-faced head coach.

“He understands how to play the game," Popovich said. "He’s a typical European. He’s been well-coached. He moves without the ball. He understands how to change sides and spatial relationships on the court."

The 23-year-old has been inconsistent from beyond the arc and a liability on the other end, but he fights for second-chance opportunities, dives on the court for loose balls, and there is untapped upside the Spurs might be able to unleash. At the very least, he can offer their rotation the positional versatility that is a staple of successful teams across the league.

San Antonio will have several decisions on their plate this offseason, and determining whether or not to re-sign Mamukelashvili is among them. He has averaged 10.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game for the Spurs, and he is a restricted free agent. Assuming the asking price is fair, why not invest resources in another multifaceted youngster?

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