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What Summer League taught us about the young Spurs

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Now that Summer League is over, it’s time to assess how the big names on the Spurs’ roster fared in Utah and Las Vegas.

NBA: Summer League-San Antonio Spurs at Minnesota Timberwolves Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

What did you think of the performances of the rookies Josh Primo and Joe Wieskamp in Summer League? Did it change your perception of them?

Marilyn Dubinski: Primo definitely showed why the Spurs were so high on him and swung for the fences, even if it was maybe a year and/or 15-20 picks early. Fans can sometimes get obsessed with what kind player should be picked in certain parts of the draft (i.e. lottery pick must mean immediate contributor), and I’ll admit I really wanted them to address a position of need in the draft. But now, between seeing the long game they’re playing with the rebuild and the tantalizing potential, skills, and confidence Primo flashed (in admittedly just a few games), I can see why they chose him and am willing to wait and excited to watch his development over the next few years.

As for Wieskamp, he is what he was expected to him to be: a three-point shooting specialist. His shot wasn’t there in Summer League, but that happens sometimes. It’s no surprise to see him signing a two-way contract, and it’s possible he could have a role in a future season when the Spurs have their roster shaped out and room for specialists.

Mark Barrington: I didn’t know anything about Primo when he was drafted, so this was my first real look at him. He certainly looks like he has incredible potential, but it’s really hard to make a judgment based on just two games against a Summer League opponents. I could see flashes of why the Spurs took him, and two or three years from now, we might be looking at this as the steal of the draft ... or a wasted opportunity to get a solid player who could have helped the team right away. But I think it’s a good thing that the team wasn’t thinking short term on this pick, because the Spurs aren’t going to be good in the short term, and it makes more sense to pick a guy who can make a big difference a few years away that a guy who can make a medium-sized difference right away.

Wieskamp looks about like I expected. A guy who can shoot, but has no other NBA-level skills. That’s fine, if he can continue to develop his shot and also work on other aspects of his game, he can become a solid backup. Even if he’s nothing but a shooter, he can become a poor man’s Steve Novak, which isn’t terrible for a second rounder.

Bruno Passos: I was generally impressed by Primo who, despite looking like a work in progress at times, showed confidence and tough shot-making well beyond his years. The hope was that he’d go out there and tease the potential that the Spurs front office saw when they made the surprise pick at 12, and I think he did that. Now we wait and see when he outgrows the G League fishbowl and makes a case for time on the varsity squad. I was a little disappointed with the mechanics of Wieskamp’s shot, which wasn’t as quick as you’d hope for a player coming in as a specialist. I imagine speeding that up will be part of his development program as he joins the Spurs on a two-way.

Jesus Gomez: Primo impressed because of his ability on the ball. In college he played more of a complementary role and did it well, showing he could be really good at spacing the floor and shooting while moving, so it was fair to expect him to look confident doing that but no so much with the rock in his hands. But he looks comfortable as a ball handler, which is encouraging when it comes to his upside. He still has a lot to improve upon, but he could legitimately turn into a primary scorer thanks to his versatile game.

Wieskamp disappointed a little, and his mechanics might need a tweak, but he’s simply not the type of player who will thrive in Summer League. He needs others to set him up and order to be at his best as a team defender, and the environment just wasn’t conducive to that. I expect him to look better in Austin.

What did you think about the performance of the sophomores, Devin Vassell and Tre Jones? Do they seem ready for a bigger role?

Dubinski: Vassell looked confident leading the group before his hamstring became a problem. He didn’t look like he’s ready for an offense to be completely centered around him, but that’s not going to happen this season anyways, and he has still definitely improved in many areas. Perhaps most importantly, I loved seeing him take on a leadership/mentor role instead of getting down by his injury. For fans who like “Spursy” players, Vassell is your guy. Jones was probably the most pleasant surprise of SL and appears ready to compete for a main rotation spot this season. That’s quite a leap for the former second round pick, especially not showing much in limited minutes last season.

Barrington: Vassell didn’t look like his conditioning was right, but he’s definitely improved his confidence, and the experience of just being out there chucking up shots was probably a valuable one for him, and he also showed that he’s a very good defender in his limited play. He’s also great at post-game interviews, which is an underrated skill. Tre Jones showed he’s ready for a bigger role with the big team, and he’ll get a lot more time to prove it with Patty Mills gone to Brooklyn. I’m a little concerned about the concussions, but hopefully that won’t be a recurring issue.

Passos: Vassell’s injury was a bit of a disappointment but it was good to see what he could do with the ball in his hands more. That should translate into a bit more creativity as as secondary creator, and we already know what he can bring as a disruptive defender. Tre Jones not only showed poise but that he should also be able to put pressure on the rim at times, which could really open up things for that second unit offense. Most of his impact came from taking advantage of fairly poor Summer League rim protection, but I liked what he showed when he had to finish through contact. Given the lack of on-ball creation on this roster in general right now, it feels like Jones has a nice path cleared out for him next season.

Gomez: Vassell looked like he was too good for Summer League immediately, mostly due to his defense, but he also showed that his ball handling has a long way to go before it allows him to be a featured on ball creator. Which is fine, since they Spurs have others who fill that role.

One of those guys might be Jones, who not only looked like a smart floor general but also like an aggressive driver who could put pressure on the defense at times. He was one of the most impressive players not only on the Summer Spurs but in the events in general. I do wonder if his dominant run has to do with Summer League play being suited for speedy guards, but he performed well enough to earn the benefit of the doubt and hopefully a real chance at rotation minutes.

Who caught your eyes among the other players participating? Not necessarily just on the Spurs’ roster but in general.

Dubinski: I didn’t get a chance to watch much SL beyond some Spurs here and there, so I can’t really say anyone else caught my eye. I did notice that Chimeze Metu and the Kings won the championship, so good for them? Oh wait, he didn’t participate in that game after he punched a Mavs player for an admittedly dirty foul that probably felt too familiar to him after suffering a broken his wrist last season when Jonas Valanciunas threw him to the ground for hanging on the rim. That’s basically the only takeaway I have on any non-Spurs, which is sad, I know.

Barrington: I always appreciate the effort of the guys in Summer League. Those guys play their asses off and many if not most of them will never be on an NBA roster. I liked what I saw from Nate Renfro, although I doubt he will end up playing on one of the 30 franchises. He just knows how to play, and always makes the correct rotations and plays hard. There’s no room on the Spurs roster for him, but maybe he’ll at least get to a training camp this year. No disrespect to the guy, but it’s just so damn hard to make it in the Association, and his limited offensive repertoire might end up costing him his chance.

Passos: Summer League is largely a guards’ game, especially when they’re second-year players who are familiar enough with their team’s system and the overall pace of the game. It was fun to see that logic applied to big wings, like Patrick Williams and Jaden McDaniels, who got to have the ball in their hands more. McDaniels in particular is someone I’m expecting to become more of a name through next season with his two-way skillset. I also very much enjoyed watching rookie big Jericho Sims jump superhumanly high for dunks. That was great.

Gomez: I’d love to be super original and draw attention to an underrated player most people haven’t heard off, but I didn’t watch enough games to do that this year. So instead I’ll go with Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun, who both looked really impressive, albeit with some understandable flaws. The Rockets might have gotten two core players in just one draft, which could really accelerate their rebuilding effort. Other than those two, I liked what I saw from my favorite non-elite prospect from this class, Isaiah Jackson. The Pacers are too stacked at center for him to get minutes this year, but once he learns how to not go for the block every single time, he’ll be an interesting player because of his insane athleticism.