The Spurs dropped a heartbreaker to Minnesota, 89-91, in their 2021 Las Vegas Summer League debut. And while returning to San Antonio with a trophy from the league’s annual extravaganza would be nice, final scores hardly matter in the grand scheme of things.
At its core, Summer League is a unique showcase of blossoming talents announcing their arrival and journeymen clinging to the fringes of NBA existence. These athletes are often unfamiliar with each other, and they only have a matter of days to get in sync.
As you might expect, this concoction of players with drastically different backgrounds and goals makes for a somewhat sloppy product. Yet this controlled chaos is where franchises and fans get their first idea of how they fared in the drafting process.
Less than two weeks ago, PATFO bet on an 18-year-old out of Alamba by the name of Josh Primo with the 12th overall pick. And the previous year, they invested the 11th pick on Devin Vassell, a lanky swingman with divine defensive instincts and a smooth shooting stroke.
Don’t forget about Tre Jones or Joe Wieskamp, San Antonio’s most recent second-round selections. All four prospects suited up for the Silver and Black on Monday to varying degrees of success, so let’s dive into their performances as they find their footing in Sin City.
Devin Vassell (23 Points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 turnovers on 6-of-16)
Devin Vassell had the greenest of lights in Salt Lake City, and it appears head coach Mitch Johnson fully intends on getting the 20-year-old wing as involved in the offense as possible. The Florida State product took a team-high 16 field goal attempts, and though his shots weren’t falling in the first half, he found other ways to build some momentum.
A three-pointer from Devin Vassell off some DHO action: pic.twitter.com/4f5sPtjQdv— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) August 10, 2021
As encouraging as it was to see Devin patiently utilize screens to get to his spots, almost every one of his midrange jumpers fell short. And when tasked with creating off the dribble, it was clear he still has work to do if he wants to generate unassisted offense, and head coach Mitch Johnson echoed that sentiment postgame.
“He missed some shots early and was a little out of rhythm as well,” Johnson said. “He’s still trying to evolve into being comfortable handling the ball in pick-and-roll, doing things off the dribble.”
Despite the critiques, Devin played the role of a go-to scorer as well as you could hope coming off a rookie season in which he saw inconsistent minutes as a low-usage off-ball threat. Vassell put pressure on the rim in transition, getting to the line eight times by the end of the night. He also picked off a pair of passes, turning defense into fastbreak opportunities.
Speaking of defense, that’s very much Vassell’s strong suit at this point in his career. His awareness as a team defender is absolutely off the charts for someone who can’t legally buy a drink. His ridiculous length, combined with his quick feet, allows him to make calculated gambles in the passing lanes without leaving teammates exposed.
Josh Primo (8 Points, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 4 turnovers on 3-of-11)
The first word that comes to mind with Primo is potential. And the second word that comes to mind is inconsistency. The 2021 lottery pick wasn’t at his best in his Las Vegas Summer League debut. But as we’ve discussed many times before, patience and perspective are the keys when it comes to dissecting the Canadian teenager.
His on-ball reps left me both starstruck and frustrated. There were times where he strung together wildly impressive dribble combinations that left his defender turned around. There were possessions where he whipped wicked one-handed live-dribble passes that some veterans would never dream of trying in their dizziest daydream.
Nice little Primo dime pic.twitter.com/3CW4MjQwuE— Tom Petrini (@RealTomPetrini) August 10, 2021
He also got a bit ahead of himself and paid the price with turnovers. Poise is a word the coaching staff has frequently used when describing Primo. That said, the rookie nearly turned the ball over with the game on the line, telegraphing his target and forcing a scrambling Tre Jones into a difficult isolation heave from beyond the arc.
The final play from San Antonio’s loss: pic.twitter.com/u1R0Iu6XRB— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) August 10, 2021
Although he committed a few ill-advised fouls throughout the outing, he was solid as a man-to-man defender. Primo missed a few rotations here and there but kept his head on a swivel and was usually in the correct position. All in all, Spurs fans should have a positive outlook on what the youngest player from the 2021 NBA Draft can become.
Tre Jones (16 points, 3 rebounds, 8 assists, and 5 turnovers on 6-of-14)
It sure didn’t look like Tre Jones was coming out of concussion protocols with how well he played on Monday. The undersized floor general ran the offense like a ten-year veteran and showed off a newfound willingness to shoot the three-ball. There were a few low points, though you could argue the former Blue Devil was San Antonio’s best player.
Three for Tre Jones! pic.twitter.com/crQGIl0paE— Tom Petrini (@RealTomPetrini) August 10, 2021
Jones consistently found the open man when operating out of the pick-and-roll, delivering picturesque pocket passes to the roll-man. His ability to see the floor and make skip-passes to the corners was an encouraging sight for a team that was largely devoid of a primary playmaker during their brief stint in Salt Lake City.
The best part of his performance was the remarkable balancing act he pulled off between being a scorer and facilitator. He attacked the rim early and often and never shied away from contact once he got there. His five turnovers were primarily more of a byproduct of his aggression than flat-out poor decision-making.
Tre Jones looks really aggressive going to the basket pic.twitter.com/qE8Gp1WUc1— Tom Petrini (@RealTomPetrini) August 10, 2021
Tre is almost always working at a disadvantage due to his frame, but that never stops him from getting under his opponent’s skin. Jones is a fierce point of attack defender, and his quick reflexes and plus-athleticism help him stay glued to assignments. And he noted how important it is for him to set an example for his teammates.
“I’m trying to a be a leader for our team,” Jones told reporters. “I knew if I picked it up on that end, then the other guys would as well. And once we picked it up on the defensive end, it led to us playing much better on the offensive end, but we just came up short there.”
Joe Wieskamp (3 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 turnover on 1-of-1)
There’s isn’t much to say about Joe Wieskamp in this one. The six-seven sharpshooter nailed his only shot of the night and recorded three boards in 15 minutes. He was also associated with a defensive miscommunication that led to a thunderous jam from Isaiah Miller.
Isaiah Miller puts an exclamation point on the third quarter— NBA (@NBA) August 10, 2021
: #NBASummer on ESPNU pic.twitter.com/8ZPlNZsrM9
Hopefully, better nights are ahead for the 21-year-old two-guard. The defense never gave him an ounce of breathing room once he knocked down his first three-pointer early into the contest. And unfortunately, Wieskamp didn’t find another way to contribute.