Why are the Spurs forcing the issue?
The need to change things up in the starting lineup in the first place starts and ends with Victor Wembanyama. While healthy, Jeremy Sochan played as the team’s starting power forward this past season while Tre Jones started at point guard. With Wembanyama now occupying the starting power forward spot, though, that meant one of Jones, Sochan, or Keldon Johnson would have to be pushed to the bench. Devin Vassell is and will continue to be a lock for the starting lineup, as he’ll be one of the two best players on the team. And being that the Spurs are utilizing Wembanyama at power forward early in his career to preserve his health, Collins will also likely be a starting lineup lock for now.
Sochan is not a natural point guard, nor has he played the position in a starting role for the large majority of his basketball career. But he has the size, athleticism, playmaking talent, and ball-handling ability to suggest that he could be a PG in some capacity in the future. The Spurs choosing to start Sochan at PG serves to accelerate his development playing in such a role. In other words, he’s being thrown into the proverbial fire regardless of how ready he is. If we take everything outside of Sochan’s development out of the equation, I’d argue this experiment makes quite a bit of sense from that perspective.
In his rookie season, Sochan was praised by most and mocked by others for switching to one-handed free throws in actual NBA games—something that is very obviously a rarity— and it cannot be stressed enough just how few young or veteran NBA players would be comfortable with such an immediate change. But as a result, Sochan dramatically improved his free-throw percentage and is still hitting one-handed free throws today. I would consider this a good, recent example of the Spurs successfully experimenting with Sochan
In the same vein, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many cases of a young player being selected in the draft as a forward and switching to a lead guard role in their sophomore season, let alone at all. Again, though, despite such a drastic change, Sochan is taking his starting PG role in stride. So, for the record, I think it’s time we more deliberately give Sochan his flowers for once again being so willing to accept such a jarring challenge on a dime. This new role isn't supposed to be easy for him, and his growing pains are showing on the court in an obvious way.
Here’s the big challenge for the Spurs moving forward, though: the team wants to prioritize maximizing Sochan’s potential on offense—both on and off-ball—but they also need to ensure that his development doesn’t come at the expense of the other young Spurs’ progression. That is where the point Sochan experiment, at least to the extent we’re seeing it now, begins to quickly unravel.