Should the Spurs send Blake Wesley back to the G League?
Expectations were relatively reasonable when San Antonio selected Blake Wesley with the 25th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft last June. He was an unrefined one-and-done talent with special athletic tools, but finding a blueprint to success for that archetype of prospect requires patience. And that is especially true for a teenager assuming a new position.
Wesley began the season buried at the bottom of the depth chart, though he found himself thrust into the bench unit when San Antonio abruptly cut ties with Josh Primo. The rookie burst onto the scene in his debut, netting ten points and four assists in 16 minutes on October 28. But an MCL strain interrupted his encore, leaving him on the injury report for two months.
The Notre Dame product took a seven-game excursion to Austin following his lengthy knee rehabilitation process, eventually earning a call-up to the 2-1-0. Despite all his offensive fireworks against lesser competition, Blake has struggled to stay on the court for Gregg Popovich, bouncing back and forth between San Antonio and their G League affiliate.
You can see his inexperience as a decision-maker, with questionable shot selection in early-clock situations, mountains of live-ball turnovers, errant passes, and missed reads. Wesley possesses a blazing first step that gets him wherever he wants, whenever he wants. However, his lack of touch at the rim and finite vertical explosion has kept him from scoring efficiently.
Couple his unpolished traits on that end with poor defensive habits, and it makes sense that Popovich has only turned to the teen in garbage time or as a last resort when he needs a healthy body on the floor. Wesley misses rotations, piles personal fouls by getting too handsy, sends sharpshooters to the line, and opponents cut backdoor when he ball-watches.
Blake has looked lost on both sides of the ball during his first go-round in San Antonio, and Popovich has rightfully held the rook accountable for his mistakes. Everyone would likely love to see more of Wesley, but what else can the 73-year-old playcaller do? After nearly three decades of having a short leash for youngsters, why shatter that precedent?
Trading Josh Richardson and waiving Stanley Johnson seemed to open a couple of rotation spots, but the arrival of Devonte' Graham promptly shut that door for Wesley. While Graham is a known commodity, he might be a helpful resource as a floor-spacer, and if PATFO can mend his trade value along the way, who knows what they can get in return for the soon-to-be 28-year-old this offseason.
Regardless of their abysmal record and place in the league standings, the Spurs are still trying to field an operational basketball team. Unfortunately for Wesley, that probably means San Antonio has no leeway for additional dysfunction that might derail the learning curve of their other burgeoning prospects.
Touches and on-ball reps are indispensable ingredients to developing any lead guard, and with just 136 minutes in his last 11 games, it might be time for the Spurs to demote Wesley for the sake of his progress. Another stint in the G League could provide the first-year floor general with a pressure-free environment where he can hone his skills without the consequences that come with costly blunders in the NBA.
Wesley has already shown a knack for getting to his spots off the dribble, collapsing the defense with his burst, and wreaking havoc in transition. If he can sharpen his court vision while repurposing his length and motor more constructively on defense, Blake could be the next name in a long line of late-first-rounders to use their Austin experience to carve out a role in San Antonio.