San Antonio Spurs: How quickly can Primo join the rotation?

Josh Primo - UCLA v Alabama
Josh Primo - UCLA v Alabama / Sarah Stier/Getty Images

San Antonio Spurs guard, Joshua Primo, was selected 12th overall in the 2021 NBA draft-- a move that surprised many despite his talent. He now holds the distinction of being the youngest player selected in the 2021 draft as well as the youngest player to ever be selected by the Spurs at just 18.5 years old. 

Thankfully, it appears that he's already won over many hopeful Spurs fans. Despite his age, Primo impressed audiences in the summer league to the point that it led to questions about how quickly he might join the Spurs rotation. It's a fair question given San Antonio's depth at shooting guard next season, with Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, and Bryn Forbes all on the roster. With Primo buried in the depth chart, he’ll likely spend significant time in the G-League next season where he can continue to develop. 

The Spurs took the same approach with current players such as Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, and Lonnie Walker. They all benefited from the additional development and are now key members of the Spurs, and Primo could make similar gains. There, he could work on incorporating new facets into his game, specifically playing more with the ball in his hands and creating for others. 

Assuming that he plays well, Primo’s time in the G-League could be limited to next season, similar to the experiences of Murray, White, Johnson, and Walker. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll be ready to join the rotation after next season. After all, San Antonio will again have several decisions to make next offseason, which could affect how soon Primo joins the rotation. 

The first decision involves the 2022 draft, where San Antonio could conceivably have their highest draft pick in decades. While selecting yet another guard seems unlikely, they'll be choosing from top-tier talent, and Primo likely wouldn't dissuade them from drafting another if they feel they're the best player available. 

Presuming San Antonio selects a forward or center, Primo’s path towards a spot in the rotation will largely be determined by Forbes' and Walker’s roles going forward. Therefore, their second decision involves free agency in 2022 where the Spurs will have to address their multitude of guards and lack of roster spots. For that reason, re-signing Forbes appears unlikely, though not totally out of the question given his shooting ability and history with the team. Walker will also be a restricted free agent next summer and will be playing for a good contract.

The Spurs could decline his qualifying offer if he were to play poorly, thus making him a free agent, and then move forward with Primo as his replacement in the rotation. However, if Walker plays well, he could draw interest from other teams in restricted free agency. Assuming he doesn't receive a big offer sheet, he would likely be re-signed, though could still be traded later on.

Primo may not see the floor for the San Antonio Spurs yet, but the wait could be worth it

With both White and Walker back for the 22-23 season, Primo would still struggle to find playing time, though could begin to see spot minutes at shooting guard. That said, I believe that he could find some playing time during his second season as the team's de facto backup point guard. With his size, ball handling, shooting ability and after having spent a season working on his playmaking, he could serve as a secondary shot creator off the bench. 

For him to start seeing consistent minutes, though, San Antonio will eventually have to decide who to trade to open up playing time on the perimeter. Because White is already several years older than most of the Spurs young core, I believe he would be the obvious choice and could garner a solid return for the front office. The Spurs have some time before they'll have to make any big decisions, however. In the meantime, they will likely take Primo’s development slowly despite him being selected in the lottery. 

While he may not be quite as raw as Luka Samanic was when he was drafted by the Spurs in 2019, Primo certainly still has some work to do, and it could take at least a full season for him to be ready for a rotation spot. Fortunately, though, he is an intriguing prospect that has the potential to be a steal down the road. He has impressive size for a guard--standing at 6'5" with a 6'9" wingspan--and is a solid athlete, but will need to get stronger and add weight to his thin frame. 

Primo is also already an above-average three-point shooter who can knock down shots both off the dribble and spotting up. Additionally, he appears to be capable of attacking the basket off the dribble and finishing around the basket with some crafty shots.

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With an expanded skill set, he has the potential to both play and defend multiple positions. That being said, Spurs fans may have to wait at least a season, and possibly two, for that to come to fruition. While that might be disappointing to some, he could ultimately prove to be worth the wait. 

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