It’s been two games since Josh Primo was waived. Most of the attention regarding the situation has understandably been focused on the off-court factors surrounding it, but now that there have been some answers to the most pressing questions about that aspect of it, it’s time to focus on what the move means on the court for the rebuilding Spurs, so let’s focus on the effects and the potential silver linings of an unfortunate situation.
There are now minutes up for grab for players outside of the rotation
Primo was firmly in the rotation, averaging over 23 minutes per game. Someone will have to get that playing time, and while the Spurs could simply try to spread the minutes between Josh Richardson, Tre Jones, and Devin Vassell and keep the rotation shorter, they could also give other players a shot at claiming them. Two names come to mind.
Romeo Langford makes a lot of sense as a part of the rotation. Although he won’t necessarily offer the playmaking Primo was tasked with handling, he’d bring size and defense, and his low usage game would actually allow others more opportunities on the ball. Richardson was doing a good job of acting as a secondary creator even with Primo around and could probably remain effective even with a slightly bigger role. Gregg Popovich has often kept Keldon Johnson in with the bench, and Johnson has shown that he can be a primary option, so he could get more touches as well. As long as the threes fall for Langford when he’s open, the fit on offense should be good. Defensively, there could be some issues with speedy guards, but if Langford’s work against Anthony Edwards is any indication, he’ll relish the challenge to guard anyone.
The second obvious option is rookie Blake Wesley. While the Spurs seemed content with not having a traditional backup point guard when Primo was around, they might reconsider that stance now. No one will confuse Wesley with Chris Paul or any other old-school floor general at this point, but he wouldn’t need to be one with a bench unit that typically thrives off ball movement and not the work of a high-usage primary weapon. The rookie would just have to provide some ball handling and point-of-attack defense.
Now, Wesley has looked good so far in the few minutes he’s played, but he’d probably be less reliable than Langford, at least initially. The Spurs also have plenty of time to let him grow before having to make a decision on him while Langford is on an expiring contract, so there might be more urgency to see what the fourth-year wing can do while the rookies get minutes in Austin. But if the coaching staff thinks he’s ready, giving Wesley a role with the big club could be worth it if it speeds up his development.
The extra roster spot could be useful if it’s left open
The Spurs, who had to waive someone on a guaranteed contract before the season started to get under the maximum allowed of rostered players, now have an open spot. While it’s possible they just use it soon to add immediate help, there are other things that they could do if they leave it open for a while.
San Antonio could eventually claim someone off waivers, turn a two-way contract into a regular contract, or even potentially bring someone over from Europe or any other leagues without having to worry about waiving someone. If they still have a spot open by Jan. 5, they could use it on players on 10-day contracts to try them out. Other teams could do that too, but they might not be as willing to if it means waiving someone to create the extra spot, especially if that involves getting dead money in the books. The Spurs have already done that, and they have ample cap space to outbid most other franchises, so they have the advantage. Most of the time there’s a reason why the players who aren’t already signed to NBA teams are out the league, but there are always G League standouts or overseas talents that emerge as potential targets, and the Spurs could be the first to pounce when one does.
The extra roster spot could also come in handy in potential trades. Whether a team wants to salary dump a player or do a 2-for-1 deal, the Spurs can easily accommodate that without having to part ways with a second player. They would have likely been open to do the same even if it meant waiving someone making the minimum if the offer was good enough, but now they can keep the rest of their roster intact while doing so. Considering the camaraderie their current group seems to have, that’s huge.
San Antonio was going to be most franchises’ first call anyway for any salary dump, but the extra roster spot makes any trade even simpler to construct and wouldn’t involve any further disruption of team chemistry for the surprisingly good Spurs. While having a quality young player with no off-court issues occupying that 15th slot would have been preferable to having it suddenly open, there are some benefits to the flexibility that comes from being one of the few teams that can add someone without losing someone else.