Based on my projections, Josh Primo will finish this season with 950 NBA minutes. Since the 2019 NBA Draft, the only top-12 picks who have played fewer minutes in their rookie year are Jalen Smith, James Wisemen, James Bouknight, and Zion Williamson. The Spurs are taking their time developing Primo, and that’s perfectly fine.
Back to my claim that Primo and Murray will never make up the starting backcourt, I think the aftermath of the Derrick White trade speaks volumes to that. Since White was traded to Boston, Devin Vassell is averaging 31.1 minutes per game, Lonnie Walker is averaging 26.1. Meanwhile, Primo is getting just 18.5.
Clearly, Vassell’s development and playing time are taking the front seat, which makes a lot of sense considering he is far and away the best player out of those three. On the other hand, Lonnie Walker IV has stepped up his performance recently, and he is the longest-serving player out of those three, so naturally, he receives a decent number of minutes.
Vassell has established himself as the starting shooting guard for the next decade if he remains in the Silver and Black. Still, Primo is also hopefully a Spurs lifer, so it’s weird that I’m calling for one of the best prospects in the organization to ride the bench.
The Spurs have sent a star to the bench before
Except the Spurs have done this before with huge success. Manu Ginobili was the Spurs’ second-best player for many, many years, often surpassing Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldrige to play second fiddle to Tim Duncan or Kawhi Leonard.
Having the bench being led by a bonafide star is a recipe for success. The Spurs pioneered this idea, and it has been copied with lesser results by the early 2010s Thunder having James Harden come off the bench despite being the third-best player on the team.
Both Manu and Harden averaged well over 20 minutes as a sixth man, and it’s entirely possible Primo could find similar success in that role. Dejounte Murray is a ball-dominant point guard, and I hope Primo develops a similar playstyle. The two simply do not complement each other.
What Primo lacks on defense he makes up for with 3-point shooting, and Murray is the opposite. Having Murray and Vassell deliver and then bringing in a scrappy backcourt of Tre Jones and Joshua Primo would be the ultimate one-two punch for NBA defenders, who simply would not be able to keep up.
While it’s hard to convince a future star like Primo to remain a bench player for his entire career, having Manu mentor him might be the icing on the cake. To some players, individual glory can be shoved to the side when a championship is dangling in front of you.
That was the downfall for the James Harden Thunder, but it was also the reason Manu is remembered as one of the best teammates of all time and one of the greatest foreign players to ever pick up a basketball. For what it’s worth, Primo has Canadian citizenship.
While fans dream of a Primo and Murray backcourt, the fraternity between Tony Parker and Ginobili should be the goal. If Primo allows it and is willing to sacrifice for the team, I can honestly say (not just to make you, the reader, happy) that the Spurs might be on the precipice of reigniting a dynasty.