The trade deadline has passed, and now we have some clarity on how the Spurs roster will look for the rest of the season. Aside from a potentially minor signing with the open spot San Antonio will have when Goran Dragic presumably gets his buyout, this is it.
Tomas Satoransky, Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford are here to stay, so it’s important to figure out how they fit. Let’s take a look at their skill sets and how they can help the Spurs.
Tomas Satoransky provides guard depth, and not much more
Satoransky was an interesting rotation piece in his first few years in the NBA but has had an awful season. He’s averaging the worst numbers since he was a rookie and, at age 30, it might be hard for him to suddenly rediscover his game. He couldn’t really do much of anything at a high level for New Orleans team that desperately needed help at guard, so it would be surprising if he got minutes outside garbage time for San Antonio.
At his best, Satoransky was a solid playmaker who could hit an open three and use his size to defend several positions. He had good athleticism that is now waning and his shot has completely abandoned him, so it’s unclear if those attributes are there anymore. He’s still 6’7”, and veteran players like him don’t just forget how to play, but the scoring seems mostly gone. Even during the Olympics Satoranky was great at setting up others but really struggled with his shot, so at this point, he might simply be a caretaker ball handler that runs the offense and occasionally creates for others on drives.
The Spurs have Tre Jones to cover that role, and assuming Josh Primo is done with the G League and will continue to get reps as the main ball handler, there might not be room for Satoransky at all. It’s still good to have a veteran ready to step in if there are injuries, and Satoransky’s disastrous outside shooting does seem like an outlier compared to his career numbers, so he could be useful as a secondary playmaker who can play off the ball if the backcourt absences pile on, but expecting more might be too optimistic.
Romeo Langford has upside, but he might need more minutes than the Spurs can offer
The Celtics were probably ecstatic to get Langford, who was near the top of his class in high school and had tons of perceived potential even after an underwhelming year in college, with the last lottery pick in the 2018 NBA draft. For Langford, however, it wasn’t a great landing spot.
Boston had two entrenched young starters at the wing in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, along with a versatile guard in Marcus Smart getting big minutes. The Celtics also had Gordon Hayward during Langford’s rookie year and Evan Fournier during his sophomore season ahead of him in the rotation. For the first two season of his career, what the team needed was floor spacers who thrived without the ball in their hands, and that simply wasn’t Langford, so he barely played. Then, Josh Richardson joined the team this season, so Langford continued to play limited minutes despite really working on becoming the 3-and-D player the team wanted him to be. Unfortunately, something similar could happen in San Antonio.
Langford’s defense is really promising, his shot has progressed and there is some intriguing potential as a secondary pick and roll ball handler, but it’s hard to know what’s real and what isn’t until he gets serious minutes. The problem is the Spurs, might not have enough for him. Despite making a move that signals an embrace of a true rebuild, the Spurs are not tanking, so none of the starters are going to get shut down, at least for now. Richardson is likely to get a sizable bench role at the wing, once again burying Langford behind him. San Antonio could severely reduce Lonnie Walker IV’s playing time if the intent is to not bring him back next season, but that’s not how they normally operate, and they have already given some of his minutes to Josh Primo. There just isn’t a lot of playing time available.
The best option right now might to be to send the 22-year-old to Austin to really give him the chance to develop and gain confidence he never got in Boston. He’s still eligible to be assigned, and he has only played seven games for the Celtics’ affiliate, so it’s not like he has learned everything he possibly could from the G League experience. Before trading him, Boston picked up his fourth-year option, so he should be on the roster next season, which makes focusing on the future the smart thing to do.
Josh Richardson should bring some stability to the bench
The departure of Derrick White really left a hole in the Spurs’ rotation, which so far has been filled with more Josh Primo and Tre Jones, and some Keita Bates-Diop sprinkled in. As soon as Josh Richardson becomes available, however, it’s very likely a lot of the minutes that are available will go to him.
It might seem counterintuitive to make a move that signals the desire for a rebuild and then give a 28-year-old playing time that could be going to younger prospects, but there are two reasons why Richardson should, and probably will, get rotation minutes with the Spurs. First, rebuilding doesn’t necessarily mean tanking. If the Silver and Black feel like staying in the play-in race is worth it — and the players clearly believe so — giving minutes to a glue guy who can really balance out the bench makes perfect sense. Second, having capable veterans around can actually accelerate the development of young players, as it allows them to not overextend themselves.
Richardson can guard the opponent’s best perimeter threat, freeing Walker from a task that he has struggled at times to fulfill and letting him focus on providing scoring. Richardson might not get as many open looks as he got in Boston when Tatum and Brown drew defensive attention, but he knows how to relocate to create room for himself and should provide adequate spacing for his teammates. While not the biggest of wings, he’s strong enough to help on the boards. He shouldn’t be asked to create a lot, but he can give the team a few possessions on the ball as an extra ball handler, lessening the burden of guys like Jones and Primo. He can help in a lot of areas, as long as he’s happy to play a similar offensive role to the one he had in Boston instead of trying to recapture his past glory.
All the new additions can help the Spurs to varying degrees, but Richardson really has the potential to help the most this season simply by allowing the young players to focus on their strengths, which really has value. In the right role, he can be exactly the type of stabilizing presence the second unit needs.