In October 2023, the San Antonio Spurs shocked many basketball observers when they signed Zach Collins to a veteran contract extension. The deal is only an additional two years, but that turned his three-year deal into a five-year deal, limiting the Spurs' ability to trade him this season as he is not eligible until April 2024, well past the trade deadline.
The truth, most likely, is simply that San Antonio never intended to trade Collins. They envisioned him alongside Victor Wembanyama as someone who could help stretch the floor but also be the stronger body in the paint, set to bang with opposing centers.
That would have allowed Wemby to play his preferred position of power forward, but that vision has not come to fruition for a myriad of reasons. Mainly because Zach's shooting percentage took a major dip to start the season, ruining the spacing possibilities. He's been solid around the basket but that is not reason enough to hold on.
Dominick Barlow needs time on the floor with NBA players
The Charles Bassey injury placed the Spurs in a situation where they need big bodies anyway, so even if they were able to trade Collins, they probably would hold on to him until the off-season. (Though San Antonio has Mamu on the bench, Coach Pop seems intent on not playing him despite saying he thinks he should play him which is a bit nonsensical but I digress.) That does not mask what fans have seen from Dominick Barlow in the last two games against the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Barlow has not turned the ball over, he has shown a feathery touch around the basket, he knocked down a three-ball, and (as shown above), he showed no fear of meeting a powerhouse like Giannis Antetokounmpo at the basket and coming away, not just unscathed, but vanquished the attempt.
He only scored six points in each of the last two games, but that's because he played limited minutes and did not force shots. His game is night and day from what he showed last season, putting him in a position to earn more playing time with the big guys to continue to grow his skills. He supplies energy from the backup big position that has been lacking since Bassey went down.
At the end of the day, Barlow's play gives San Antonio more flexibility. Their stockpile of picks and assets could be described as a war chest. Adding Zach Collins to the mix gives the Silver and Black an embarrassment of riches to deal with. OKC did something similar, and it seems to be working out for them, but the Spurs have something the Thunder do not: Victor Wembanyama.