The Spurs made a big move this offseason by trading Dejounte Murray. It was a transaction made with an eye toward the future, and it could pay off, but it also had some repercussions in the present, leaving San Antonio without a starting point guard for the first time in years.
While the franchise is rightly thinking beyond next season in this new path it has embarked on, the front office will have a big decision to make in the coming weeks choosing between two options when it comes to playing the role. main guard, each with their own positives and negatives.
Playing with young guards might speed up their development but slow down others.
There is no need for another big move. The Spurs could simply decide to guarantee Tre Jones’ contract and stay. Jones could be the starter and the rest of the ballhandling and playmaking could be split between Josh Primo, Blake Wesley and Malaki Branham. It’s what seems to make the most sense, as racing doesn’t seem to be the biggest priority at the moment.
There are some advantages to choosing this direction. Getting a better idea of how good Jones could be in an extended role before he hits free agency could be a wise move. He may never be the engine of a great offense, but he could become a good interim starting point guard. His assists to turnovers ratio was stellar last season and he now has enough experience with the system to lead the team to their sets. In reality, creating good looks consistently and at a high rate for those who can’t do it on their own might be difficult for him, but if Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson get better at creating for themselves, a big if, no doubt, starters could being able to put enough points on the board to compete most nights.
Things could get ugly when the second unit checks in. Wesley should do better with NBA caliber than he did in college, but he’s still very raw. Branham is more polished, but he is better at creating for himself than creating traps for others. Rookies shouldn’t really be trusted to be the primary ball handlers, at least early in their freshman year, so the success of this strategy owes much to Josh Primo.
Primo had chances to prove his ability to be the starter last season, especially in the second half. The results were mixed. His ballhandling just wasn’t good enough most nights, and he took some unnecessary risks on occasion, resulting in careless turnovers. Even in the G League he coughed up the ball almost as much as he helped his teammates, so the problem is real. He clearly has work to do before he becomes a reliable creator, but it might be worth the development of him being thrown into the fire in his second season. The vision is there and his ability to use his length to block shots with the ball could eventually make him an elite defender. Investing in it would not be the worst idea.
If the Spurs decide to stick around and give Jones and Primo the primary ball-handling duties, the immediate results probably won’t be great, as the team’s offense should suffer as they figure out how to fulfill their expanded roles. Lack of shot creation elsewhere on the roster could be exposed and finishing finishers could be delayed.
However, the potential benefit of accelerating the development of young shooting guards by giving them more responsibility could be worth it, if the coaching staff is willing to be patient.
Bringing in a veteran might stop the shooting guards from developing, but it would help the rest of the team.
The Spurs could use their cap space to sign a more experienced primary shooting guard or try to acquire one through a trade. Doing so wouldn’t necessarily mean letting Tre Jones go, as he could split the minutes with the new addition. The main motivation for going down this path would be to make sure the strikers and Jakob Poelt have someone who can feed them.
The biggest problem with this approach is that it’s hard to find good targets. The ideal candidate would be an experienced floor general who would be happy to create for others while also looking good when needed, but those types of players are usually snatched up by good teams. The best shooting guards available right now are Collin Sexton, who is more of a scorer than a playmaker for others, and Dennis Schroeder, who has had chemistry issues on most teams he’s been on. Someone like Facundo Campazzo could be worth it if passing and experience are the focus, but his limitations are obvious. The talent pool of traditional starters available is really shallow.
A trade opens up another avenue to get what the Spurs need, but there aren’t many realistic goals if they decide to go down this path, either. TJ McConnell would be perfect, but the Pacers would probably want to pick him again, since he has a reasonable contract. Mike Conley could be an option if the Jazz look for a complete rebuild, but he probably won’t be happy playing for the Spurs if they’re not contending for the playoffs. A return of Cory Joseph wouldn’t be the worst, but only as a last resort and if the Pistons just want to get rid of him for nothing. Vasilije Micic would be intriguing, but the Thunder appear in no rush to part with the NBA rights to the FIBA star.
Simply put, the ideal goals would likely require more investment than San Antonio would be willing to make at this stage of rebuilding, while the achievable goals might not represent a large enough improvement to be worth delaying development. of the young guards. If a good fit is available, it might be worth making a trade for them, but finding the right candidate can be difficult.
One of the first decisions Spurs will have to make on their new rebuilding path will involve choosing between forward-looking uncertainty and short-term competition when it comes to the point guard position heading into next season. Both have their clear drawbacks, so it will be interesting to see which side they lean on, as it could tell us a lot about their current priorities.