The Spurs closed their participation in the Utah Summer League with a 2-1 record after an 84-81 loss to the Jazz, as their Lonnie Walker IV-led second-half comeback attempt fell short in the final seconds.
First round picks Luka Samanic and Keldon Johnson and 2018 second rounder Chimezie Metu got the night off against the host team while Walker, Quinndary Weatherspoon and Drew Eubanks returned to action after resting against the Summer Grizzlies on Tuesday.
It was a sloppy first half for San Antonio, as the players looked either out of rhythm or tired. The Spurs started showing signs of improvement in the second quarter and were decidedly sharper in the final two periods. Lonnie Walker came alive in the third quarter and scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half. Unfortunately his would-be game-tying shot didn’t fall and the Jazz escaped with a victory.
Let’s take a look at the individual performances from the players under guaranteed contracts.
Lonnie Walker IV
Walker started the night slow, looking unfocused and out of rhythm. His on ball defense was solid from the start but poor decision-making on offense negated any positive impact he was making on the other end. Fortunately things changed for him in the second half.
Lonnie seems to be a natural scorer, and he’s at his best at this point when he embraces his strengths. When he is aggressive good things happen. After looking tentative and attacking without a plan early on he decided to take over in the second half, flashing the potential that made him a first rounder.
Walker confidently used his mid-range jumper to punish the Jazz for trying to prevent his drives, which set up the rest of his game. He had six straight points to start the fourth quarter and even hit a pull up jumper in secondary transition from beyond the arc to put the Spurs down three with over six minutes to go.
The Summer Jazz decided to guard him much closer after that, but he still managed to set up a Eubanks dunk with a hockey assist after being pressured and hit a floater to cut the deficit to just two with 13 second to go. He also drew a foul on a three-pointer in the next trip down the court, but the officials ruled it was not in the act of shooting.
Lonnie is not a good playmaker for others at this point (zero assists) and he still needs to work on his handle to become the go-to scorer he seems destined to become, but he’s looking better already as a pull-up threat, which is encouraging.
Weatherspoon had another strong offensive game, finishing with 13 points and two assists. Like the rest of the team, he started slow but looked better in the second half.
The 22-year-old had the opportunity to refine his game in college and it shows. Without being particularly explosive he manages to get by people in the half court on shiftiness alone and he has a dependable outside shot.
He’ll need to figure out how to transition into a smaller role to have a chance to have a long NBA career after being a high usage player in college, but he has some intriguing tools on offense.
Weatherspoon seems to be a much better on ball defender than he is off the ball, where he can be too flat-footed on closeouts. The Jazz took advantage of his lack of focus at times. If he can become more attentive in those situations, his disruptive presence on the defensive end along with his polished offensive game could allow him to outperform his draft position.
Eubanks continued to show that he’s a solid scorer, getting buckets in the post against Willie Reed and making himself available to guards who were driving to the rim. He even showed off his range with a jumper in the first half.
Early on he seemed to be the only Spur who was ready to play, which is exactly what you would expect from a 22-year-old second-year player with some NBA experience. He finished with 15 points for the game on just 10 shots and could have had a more efficient night if he had hit more than three of his eight free throws.
Eubanks did have a lot of trouble keeping Reed (eight offensive rebounds) off the boards throughout the game and is simply not a deterrent as a rim protector, so his performance was far from perfect. He’s probably never going to be elite in those areas, as he’s a little undersized for the center spot, but he’ll need to do a better job in Vegas to truly show he deserves a chance to be the team’s third string center in the regular season.
- Jeff Ledbetter is not an NBA player but it’s easy to see why the Spurs like to have him around with the kids in Summer League. The guy always plays hard. His constantly making hustle plays and he rarely makes mistakes. Ledbetter is fun to watch.
- Thomas Robinson (12 points and nine rebounds) would be an intriguing prospect if he were 23 years old instead of 28. He still has the NBA body and athleticism that got him drafted fifth overall in 2012 and he now seems to have accepted his limitations. Another good guy to have around during the summer, even if his chances of making the roster seem non-existent.
The Summer Spurs will make their debut in the Las Vegas Summer League against the Magic on Friday at 10 p.m. CST.