Were I to build out my ideal San Antonio Spurs rotation for the coming season (I say “were” as if I don’t have an Excel spreadsheet with said rotation open on my computer right now), I would only write three starters’ names in pen. Those three players would be Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson at the two and three, respectively, and Jakob Poeltl manning the center. Ideally, I’d have rookie Jeremy Sochan penned in also (playing the four), but the coaching staff may not consider him ready to start the season.
In that case, I’d have Doug McDermott’s name in pencil at power forward. That leaves one spot left in the starting lineup, and that may be the most important position for San Antonio to figure out —starting point guard. AirAlamo’s Will Eudy wrote recently about three options that the Spurs could consider for the lead guard position. In this article, I will break down those options, as well as complete a “start, bench, and cut” exercise with the rest of the guards on the roster.
Note: I will list each player’s name, followed by their years of experience in parentheses- “R” signifies that the player is a rookie.
Start: Tre Jones (2) and Devin Vassell (2)
As one of the three names in pen, I’ve obviously got third-year man Devin Vassell on this list, but I don’t want to share too many thoughts on him here. I have written plenty about Vassell recently, including why I think that he may have a case for the NBA’s Most Improved Player and an All-Defense team by the end of the season. Devin very well may be the best player on the roster and will be one of the few constants as the Spurs enter a period of flux.
Tre Jones, on the other hand, is not a constant. Though I do believe he is in San Antonio’s plans for the future, he’s currently on a non-guaranteed contract. Eudy mentions Jones’ “game experience” being a big factor in the article linked earlier, and I agree—he’s the safest option to start at PG. In the 11 games Jones was asked to fill in for starter Dejounte Murray last year, he averaged a very clean 13.5pts-7.5ast-1to. I’d bet Coach Popovich leans on Tre as the starter, at least to begin the season.
Bench: Josh Richardson (7), Josh Primo (1), Malaki Branham (R), Blake Wesley (R), Romeo Langford (3), Joe Wieskamp (1)
The first four names are the ones that matter for the Spurs’ prospects. Richardson for his veteran presence and the value that he may bring in a trade, and the other three guys for their standing as the future, being three of the Silver and Black’s four most recent first rounders. One of the two Josh’s—Primo and Richardson—should serve as San Antonio’s sixth man this season. Regardless of who that is, I expect both to play significant minutes for the good guys (unless Richardson is traded).
Branham and Wesley are harder to project, as both may spend time in Austin with the Spurs’ G League team. However, when they are added to the roster (and I expect that to happen this season), they will serve as integral pieces to the next era of Spurs basketball. I can’t put either in the “start” bucket yet, but one or both may jump up to the “significant minutes off the bench” group by the end of this year.
The last two names are compelling for different reasons. Langford was one of the pieces that San Antonio got in return for Derrick White in the Spurs-Celtics trade last season, so at one point, the front office was intrigued enough by his talent. Wieskamp (the 41st pick in the 2021 draft) never received much opportunity last year, but just signed a two year contract to stay in San Antone. He fills a lot of McDermott’s role should Doug get traded. Both guys are in an uphill battle for minutes this season but are interesting enough to not get the chop.
Cut: Tommy Kuhse (R), Jalen Adaway (R)
If we were doing an exercise on “who would get cut on most NBA teams,” a couple of the names towards the end of the “bench” list may sneak their way to this one. However, the Spurs, undergoing their first true tanking season since 1997, aren’t most NBA teams. Also, San Antonio only needs to get down to 17 players (15 rostered and 2 two-way guys) by the start of the season.
In that case, the Spurs will drop from 21 to 19 players on the roster by cutting two of the three guys on “Exhibit 10” contracts, rookies Kuhse and Adaway. Both guys have experience as four-plus year starters in college but went undrafted (hence the E10 contracts). Unless they were to draw interest from other NBA teams, I’d expect both to hang around with the Austin Spurs.