After barely playing over the team’s first 30 games, San Antonio Spurs rookie Joshua Primo has begun to see consistent playing time recently. While his increase in minutes may be temporary and a result of other players spending time in the NBA's health and safety protocol, he has a chance to earn more minutes for himself this season.
Assuming he can make the most of those minutes, he can begin to carve out a role for himself that can extend into next season, when he figures to play a much bigger role. With that being said, let's examine why Primo is poised for a big year in 2022.
Primo, who is the youngest player in the NBA, has proven to be a more polished player than many might’ve expected. That bodes well for him going forward, even though he's spent time in the NBA G League this season despite being taken 12th overall in the 2021 NBA Draft. After all, most of the Spurs' recent first-round picks have spent time there during their rookie season, and it's become an important step in the team's development strategy.
That means Primo is getting the same treatment as other recent Spurs rookies despite being younger than each of them. It could also mean that Primo starts seeing increased minutes later this season much like other Spurs rookies did during their first year. For instance, both Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson spent a large chunk of their first season in the NBA G League before becoming key rotation players later on in those seasons.
Thus, I predict the same outcome for Primo, who could take minutes away from players like Lonnie Walker and Tre Jones in the second half of the season. While those players are currently ahead of him in the rotation, his shooting ability, playmaking potential, and defensive instincts will likely earn him spot minutes.
It's not a stretch to think that Primo could quickly surpass both of those players in the rotation by the start of next season as he continues to hone those skills. Factor in his versatility, and he could see minutes at both guards spots, which would also allow him to play with either Dejounte Murray or Derrick White when the other is on the bench.
Playing primarily off-ball next season, Primo could thrive as a knock-down shooter off the bench while also playing solid defense and providing an additional ball-handler. That's why I feel like he has a great chance of cracking the rotation next season, which increases the chances of him having a breakout sophomore season.
The Spurs likely also have plans to incorporate Primo as soon as next season. They've already shown their belief in his potential when they selected him in the lottery when most expected him to be taken late in the first round. Furthermore, his play in the NBA Summer League, preseason, NBA G League, and in the NBA, have proven the Spurs were right to have faith in him.
With Bryn Forbes becoming an unrestricted free agent, San Antonio can choose to let him walk and have Primo fill his role. The same could be said of Walker, who will be a restricted free agent this offseason, as well as Jones, whose contract is non-guaranteed after this season. While both players could return next season, the Spurs have Primo as a replacement just in case they don't.
All in all, Primo could be in for a big 2022 if he is able to make the most of his minutes over the second half of this season. Additionally, with Primo's skill set, he could join the rotation by the start of next season and be able to contribute with his shooting, passing, and defensive ability.
Primo could make several rotation players expendable given his theoretical fit. Ultimately, it appears to be only a matter of time before he breaks out, and Primo is poised for a big year in 2022