Spurs prioritizing youth opportunities as they prepare for the future
I am undoubtedly incredibly biased, but I think the San Antonio Spurs are doing an impressive job of prioritizing player development for their young players while taking the losses in stride. The results haven't always been what we might have hoped for, but no Spurs fan who has been paying attention to the team for the last year or so should be shocked by how things are going. The important thing is how the Spurs are approaching this rebuild.
Gregg Popovich said it best when he applauded the team's attitude, saying, "You’ve got to be happy for them, they play hard. They are enjoying playing with each other. They are learning how to play the game. Several guys are getting more and more confident in their game. And they have shown that if they play like that, they can win basketball games." The wins will come, but how the Spurs get there matters just as much.
We still have to be honest about how the Spurs are playing. They've got the worst net rating in the league (-9.9 points per 100 possessions) and have their worst defensive rating in franchise history. We're a hundred miles from where the Spurs were in the early 2000s. But there's hope.
Tre Jones, Keldon Johnson, and Devin Vassell have played well in their expanded opportunities. Vassell looked like a legitimate Most Improved Player candidate before knee surgery sidelined him. Jones has emerged as one of the better passers in the league, with an impressive 3.6:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. And Johnson continues to find ways to contribute even as his three-point shot has struggled to remain consistent.
On the rookie front, Jeremy Sochan is doing everything the Spurs could ask, and Malaki Branham looks like one of the steals of the draft. After an incredibly sluggish start to the season, Branham is starting to take off, showing flashes of the scoring ability that made him stand out at Ohio State.
Meanwhile, Sochan continues to explore every possible way to improve. It doesn't matter if he gets made fun of for his one-handed free throws because the results speak for themselves. His "do whatever it takes" mentality is exactly the attitude a rookie should have, and it's undoubtedly helped him play himself into the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend.
We can't ignore Dominick Barlow or Blake Wesley, either. They're doing most of their work for the Austin Spurs, but they've been impressive in the G-League. Look for them to start cracking the rotation later in the season, potentially after the Spurs free up some roster spots at the trade deadline.
This season hasn't been pretty. It's been downright painful to watch at times. But you can see San Antonio laying the foundation for success. A backcourt of Jones, Branham, and Wesley. Johnson and Vassell on the wing. Sochan, Barlow, Zach Collins, and -- if he stays -- Jakob Poeltl patrolling the paint is a roster worth your attention. Add someone like Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson, or Brandon Miller, and the Spurs could be cooking with gas.
It's going to take time but stay patient, Spurs fans. Trust the vision, and know the Spurs are approaching this rebuild correctly. It's going to be a long, slow grind through the end of the regular season, but it'll all be worth it.