With the San Antonio Spurs' three first-round picks in the 2022 NBA Draft, it's about time we take a look at who should be relegated to the infamous Austin Spurs Transformation Program (ASTP), where such alumni like Keldon Johnson, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, and Josh Primo hail from.
Spurs fans know the drill. A Spur is drafted, he spends three-fourths of his first season in Austin gaining incredible skill and opportunity he wouldn't otherwise have in the big club, fans complain. Then, the next season arrives, fans clamor about how good the new guy is and "should have been in San Antonio last year" while not realizing he's at this level because of the Austin system. It's a tale as old as time.
I am simply here to take a look at which one (or two or three) players the Spurs would help most by spending time in the ASTP.
3. Jeremy Sochan
Short and sweet -- Jeremy Sochan does not belong in Austin. He is too skilled and he plays a position in which the big club needs the most help. Almost all of his skills are translatable to the NBA and will be played at a moderate to high level from the start. Simply put, I don't expect Sochan to spend a night in Austin.
2. Malaki Branham
This is where things get a bit interesting. On paper, Malaki Branham is somewhere on I-35 between Austin and San Antonio. He has a fantastic skillset which includes great efficiency, solid playmaking, and overall great IQ that translates into things such as off-ball movement, vision, and shot selection.
These are very desirable things to have in a wing player such as Branham. Sure, he's not the most explosive player, nor is he going to be a sniper from three, but he does have what seems to be an NBA-ready skillset that could help flesh out the bench in San Antonio. Austin could be a great vacation home for him though, as he does have room to grow and develop these weaker areas.
This strikes me as a situation where we see Malaki travel back and forth playing spot minutes off of the bench in SA while wreaking havoc on the younger guys in Austin every now and then. There is a chance we never even see him in SA just as much as there's a chance he never sets foot in a G League contest.
1. Blake Wesley
Your 2022-2023 Austin Spurs MVP! Kidding, kinda. Blake Wesley is another odd case. He has some incredibly fun highs paired with some very low lows. In the Summer League, Wesley shot horrid from all areas while still boasting 17/4/3.6 and recording 1.6 steals per game across 5 contests.
He showed incredible perimeter defense at times, real shooting touch, and some very strong athleticism while also displaying his weaknesses in almost exaggerated fashion at points. While he is fantastic in the pick and roll, he is left-hand-dominant to a fault which caused him to have his shots blocked more than almost any player the Summer League saw this year.
Wesley was also extremely hot and cold from beyond the arc, and while these flashes really excited Spurs fans, the cold streaks were present and plenty enough to signify much improvement is needed. Thankfully, Austin was built for this kind of guy.
Take a raw talent like Wesley and turn him into something greater than another program might have. I see Wesley spending a lot of time early in Austin but having the chance to possibly transition later in the season to San Antonio full time like Keldon did. Either way it happens, Pop and the front office probably know what they're doing.