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Why the Charles Bassey signing is more meaningful than it seems for the Spurs

A front office that made questionable decisions in the past has done a much better job lately of showing vision. The Charles Bassey signing is a perfect example of that evolution.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs have signed center Charles Bassey to a four-year, $10.2 million deal. In the grand scheme of things, such a small move that effectively fills the last roster spot on a tanking team seems meaningless, but in this case, it reveals that San Antonio’s front office is not only embracing the rebuild but also making shrewd moves that could help the team in the long run.

Before going into why the signing is smart, let’s break down what came before it. The Spurs signed Bassey to a two-way deal after the 76ers released him. He excelled in the G League immediately, so they gave him some playing time. In those minutes he was impressive at times but also looked a little unpolished. When Jakob Poellt and Zach Collins were healthy, he lost his minutes and despite the promise he showed, he remained on a two-way deal while San Antonio used the last roster spot first on Alize Johnson and Stanley Johnson to plug other injury-induced holes in the rotation. Then after trading Poeltl before the deadline and waving Johnson, the Spurs signed Bassey to a four-year deal, even though Gregg Popovich has recently been relying on Gorgui Dieng to back up Collins.

The reason why the sequence of events is interesting and encouraging is that the Spurs, despite having other roster issues and seeing some struggles from Bassey to produce in the short term, recognized that they had a good prospect in the young center, never gave up on him and eventually signed him to a very affordable contract that will keep him in San Antonio for a while, if he pans out. They used their two-way deals smartly to keep him around, they used their G League affiliate to make sure he got minutes and after taking care of the more important and pressing issues at the deadline, secured the services of an athletic 22-year-old big man who has been dominant against solid competition on what is a fantastic and probably familiar-sounding deal.

Essentially it’s as if the Spurs retroactively manufactured another late first-round pick from the 2022 draft, because of Bassey’s age and the structure of the contract. For reference, there’s one player from that pool, Ochai Agbaji, that is actually older than Bassey and a few that are only a few months younger. The rookie scale deals for first-round selections are for four years, with the last two years being non-guaranteed, just like Bassey’s contract. The amount Bassey will be paid in those two guaranteed years is very similar to what a low first-rounder gets paid. The only difference with a rookie contract is at the end of it the Spurs will have full Bird rights to the big man but won’t be able to make him a restricted free agent, which shouldn’t be a huge issue under normal circumstances. It’s simply a fantastic display of scouting and roster management from the front office.

Whether it will pay off will come down to how Bassey progresses, but there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic. The big man has a strong motor, above-average physical tools and a seemingly good work ethic. His major issues are defensive positioning, decision-making on offense and a lack of a consistent jumper, which are usual problems for young centers. The Spurs have a strong development program between Austin and San Antonio, so hopefully, he’ll be able to improve enough to become a good backup sooner rather than later. The beauty of this deal, however, is if he doesn’t no one should be too upset, since the franchise didn’t commit long-term or had to use an asset to get him, other than the low opportunity cost of a two-way deal. Scouting, patience and good roster management got them Bassey.

Signings like this one are unlikely to have a big impact on the overall success of the rebuild in San Antonio. If the ping pong balls don’t bounce their way or the Spurs pick the wrong guys in the next few drafts, where they’ll have multiple picks, nothing else will matter. The health of the players they have in their core now and will add in the future could also be a huge factor. There’s a lot that they can’t control and a lot that could go wrong.

It’s still good to see a front office that has made some questionable calls in the recent past nail even a small move like this one. The Charles Bassey signing shows resourcefulness, a good eye for talent, and the patience to develop it. All of those attributes will be essential in the future when the Spurs will be confronted with much bigger decisions, so it’s encouraging to see them on display now.