This series looks at each of the Spurs’ eleven under-30 players with an eye toward how they can improve in or expand their role on the team. Rather than focus on individual skills, for the most part, we’ll concentrate on what the team needs from each player on offense and defense to identify a key opportunity to have more impact.
If Quinndary Weatherspoon had been on the Spurs at the start of last season, he might’ve been the starting point guard on opening night. That’s not a shot at Bryn Forbes, who did an admirable job filling in with the team’s depth at the position decimated by injury. It’s a recognition of just how much more ready Quinndary is than a typical late 2nd round draft pick for the best league in the world.
He may not have a ton of upside, but after four years of college basketball at Mississippi State, he is capable of playing both on and off the ball, with a strong understanding of how to attack a defense from anywhere on the floor. He’s an efficient scorer at all three levels and particularly good at exploiting small cracks in the defense.
Though he’s not an especially gifted distributor, having averaged fewer than 3 assists per game in college, he sees the floor well and has shown the ability to get the ball where it needs to go. There’s a very good chance that his assist numbers will improve as he slides into more of a facilitator’s role once he’s not the best scoring option on the floor: an aspect of his game that was more clearly visible in Summer League.
His impact as a playmaker will remain limited, though, until he can reduce his turnovers, which outstripped his assists in 3 of his 4 seasons in college, including his senior year, and again at Summer League. That issue would likely get worse before it got better if the Spurs asked him to step in immediately as a lead ball handler, but fortunately that shouldn’t be the case.
Quinndary is a very good shooter, having put up an effective FG% of 57.5% his senior year, thanks in large part to hitting nearly 40% of his threes. About 20% of the possessions he used were spot ups, and he scored 1.217 points per possession on those shots: an encouraging sign that he’ll be able to contribute without having the ball in his hands. That makes him a good candidate to replicate much of what Bryn did at the beginning of last season for the Spurs.
Quinndary can handle the ball well enough to deal with some pressure and initiate offensive sets while primarily serving as a floor spacer. Bryn is also an underrated screener, frequently doing the dirty work down low to free up LaMarcus Aldridge for post ups or runs to the rim. That’s something Quinndary should excel at, too, as he definitely has the frame and toughness to be successful, but he’ll need to show he’s a knock-down shooter before he can replicate the gravity that helps make Bryn effective in that role.
Like Bryn, Quinndary isn’t going to consistently create separation with his first step, nor is he likely to do much damage one-on-one. But he’s strong, crafty, and poised with the confidence to take and make any shot. It’s unlikely he’ll ever be as good a shooter as Bryn, but he ought to be a little better with the ball in his hands, whether in the pick-and-roll, off a hand-off, or attacking a close out.
He should also be a better defender. Even after showing significant improvement over his first 3 seasons, Bryn still has some limitations on that end of the court. He’s not quick enough to deal with some point guards or big enough to guard most smaller wings. While Quinndary checks in at the same height, 6’3”, he’s 15-20 pounds heavier with a larger wingspan. He’s not much quicker than Bryn in terms of lateral agility, but he’s a strong defender who makes up in physicality what he lacks in quickness.
His length and toughness on the perimeter would’ve been invaluable during the first couple months of last season while Derrick White recovered from his preseason heel injury and got reintegrated into the lineup. The Spurs had the 2nd worst defense in the league over that time, with a defensive rating of 113.4, in large part because they couldn’t keep anyone out of the paint. Quinndary would’ve helped in that regard, potentially allowing the team to avoid falling to 11-14 (behind every team but Phoenix in the Western Conference).
Sadly, for both him and the Spurs, he wasn’t drafted in a year when the team desperately needed another ball handler. Instead, he’s coming to a team with two starting caliber point guards, both of whom have star potential, not to mention Patty Mills: the team’s heart, soul and longest tenured player. They also have Bryn, DeMar DeRozan, Marco Belinelli and Lonnie Walker IV lined up to get some minutes at the two. There’s essentially no chance, short of another catastrophic string of injuries (fingers crossed) that Quinndary gets even spot minutes or clean up duty in San Antonio this season.
On a lot of other teams (14, by my count), Quinndary would have a shot at breaking into the rotation this year, but that’s just not the case with the Spurs. He’ll benefit from a season in Austin, as does just about every Spur, hopefully focusing on reducing his turnovers and leaning into his primary role as a shooter, secondary attacker and perimeter defender. Both Bryn and Marco are unrestricted free agents next summer, and there’s a good chance both will be gone this time next year. That would leave a deep and talented guard rotation of Dejounte, DeMar (assuming he opts in), Derrick, Lonnie, Patty and Quinndary for the 2020-21 season.
Looking at that group, it’s obvious how important Quinndary’s ability to space the floor will be. If he joins Patty as a high volume three point shooter off the bench, it will bring some much needed balance to a collection of players with an incredibly diverse set of strengths and weaknesses.
Assuming he can, Quinndary’s trajectory over the next few seasons should look very familiar. He’ll spend most of his time in the G League this season, have a breakout Summer League performance next year which will earn him a spot on the big league roster, then slowly work his way up from the end of the bench to a key piece of the rotation who can be trusted in big moments. Four years from now, he’ll sign a nice contract with another team and likely thrive in an expanded role in a new city. There’s no guarantee, obviously, but Quinndary has all the makings of another Spurs’ success story.