The 2021 Summer League hasn’t gone according to plan for San Antonio up to this point. The Spurs are now 0-5 after relinquishing a 22-point lead to the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday, and their shooting woes have traveled with them from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas.
Not only did they lose another close contest, 89-92, but they saw their double-digit cushion evaporate expeditiously once Devin Vassell exited the game with hamstring tightness. To make matters worse, Jaylen Morris, the only player with a hot hand, also left early with a wrist injury.
As if an unfamiliar group needed any more obstacles to overcome, rookie Josh Primo also sat this one out as a precautionary measure for an earlier calf ailment. And while Tre Jones rolled his ankle in the opening moments of the third quarter, he remained on the court.
All these setbacks kept us from seeing a handful of prospects show their worth in Summer League action. With that said, they allowed second-rounders Joe Wieskamp and Tre Jones an opportunity to shoulder more offensive responsibilities. So, let’s break down their performances.
Devin Vassell (2 Points, 1 assist, and 1 block on 1-of-6 shooting)
Devin Vassell looked like he was on track to break out of his funk as he nailed his first shot attempt of the night on a smooth mid-range jumper. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case as he proceeded to miss his next five shots in a row before asking to come out of the contest with hamstring tightness.
His slow starts have been slightly concerning, though the second-year swingman has routinely found other ways to get himself in rhythm from the field, whether drawing fouls or breaking away for a patented steal and slam. His early departure never gave him a chance to right the ship, and we’ll have to wait and see if he plays on Thursday.
This outing would be a dismal way for Devin Vassell to end his Summer League, but fans should walk away satisfied knowing he was often the best player on the court, even if the numbers didn’t necessarily show that. His self-creation flashed on several occasions, and his defense stood out every single night.
Tre Jones (23 Points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists on 9-of-19 shooting)
You can go ahead and mark Tre Jones down as one of the many players who are too good to be playing Summer League basketball. All these reps as the primary initiator will probably pay dividends down the road. Still, he is undoubtedly head and shoulders above the level of competition in front of him in Las Vegas.
One thing that continues to stand out when watching Tre is his willingness to shoot the three-ball when he’s open. The 21-year-old point guard only hit one of his three attempts from beyond the arc but taking that many shots from that range is progress in itself. And head coach Mitch Johnson talked about how that could unlock the rest of his arsenal.
“We’re definitely telling him to shoot some of those shots,” Johnson said postgame. “You have to keep the defense honest and guarding you. Sometimes point guards are trying to get guys shots when they’re the ones open. That’s just a natural part of his progression, and he’s done a good job with it. It’s going to be something he’s going to have to continue to do.”
Jones also drove the ball into the paint at will, finishing at the rim with a variety of euro-steps, finger-rolls, and floaters off the glass while making mid-air adjustments. And his ability to penetrate and draw the attention of multiple defenders opened up opportunities as a passer. Though he only recorded three assists, his poise in the pick-and-roll was impressive.
Defensively, Tre remained a pest for opposing ballhandlers. He left them little to no airspace when attempting to string together dribble moves and provided solid team defense. There were a couple of costly mistakes and miscommunications towards the end of the game, but the Spurs wouldn’t have been in the running if not for his heroics on the other end.
Joe Wieskamp (11 Points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists on 3-of-9 shooting)
Joe Wieskamp was significantly more impactful in this game than the previous one. He relocated well off-ball and drained some catch-and-shoot triples, which is something fans should expect out of the rookie from day one. And while he made some nice plays, there were a few headscratchers mixed in.
The first-year marksman came up with a steal in the second half but was cut off and immediately entered panic mode, turning the ball over. There is a noticeable lack of comfortability when Wieskamp has the ball in his hands, but there is no better place than Summer League to experiment with players and get them on-ball reps.
His 3-of-9 shooting line probably didn’t instill much confidence from the fans who are still waiting to see his 46.2% college three-point percentage translate to the NBA. And that’s fair for a fan base that endured one of the worst shooting seasons in franchise history a season ago. Yet Wieskamp explained why he remains eager to let the long-ball fly.
“I’m going to keep firing,” Wieskamp told reporters. “That’s what everyone is telling me to do. There’s a learning curve, so every chance there’s an opportunity to get an open shot, I’m going to take it. I’m going to keep firing even if I keep missing. That’s the type of confidence I have in myself as a shooter. I’m just trying to enjoy this experience and make the most of it.”
With no guarantee that Devin Vassell or Josh Primo suit up for the Spurs in the next game, Wieskamp could very well get a chance to shoot the ball at will. And with a silky form and a high release, there’s little doubt Joe can get going in a hurry with as well as he shot throughout his collegiate career at Iowa.
Check out my previous article for more Spurs Summer League coverage live from Las Vegas, Nevada.
I’ll be on the sidelines in Sin City for a few more days, so stay tuned as I monitor the progress of San Antonio’s most important players.