Welcome to Pounding The Rock’s 2022-23 player reviews! The series will look at all 16 players who finished the season with the Spurs (Khem Birch is not included since he never suited up), so we won’t be reviewing players like Jakob Poeltl or Josh Richardson. In today’s edition, we will be looking back at the season Dominick Barlow had with San Antonio and his outlook for the future.
2022-23 Stats: 28 games, 3.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, 53.5% FG
2022-23 Salary: Standard two-way contract
Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent
After playing for Overtime Elite in lieu of college, Dominick Barlow went undrafted in 2022 before joining the Spurs’ Summer League team and later signed a two-way contract. Not too much was thought of it at the time other than the Spurs were shoring up their forward depth after it had been a glaring weakness the last few seasons. In fact, Gregg Popovich even joked later in the season that when he first saw Barlow, he thought his scouts had found some random bagger at H-E-B due to his slender build.
Barlow spent most of the first half of the season in the G League with the Austin Spurs, where he averaged 16.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks and assists in 18 games. Before February, he only appeared in four games for San Antonio, but he proceeded to play in 24 of their final 30 games as minutes opened up at the big men positions following the trade of Jakob Poeltl and injury issues began piling up, particularly for Jeremy Sochan and Charles Bassey.
At first, Barlow looked lost and out of place on both ends, but as time went by he began to find his footing at the NBA level. He showed flashes of his potential, using his length and athleticism to block shots and get to the rim, and he even flashed an efficient baseline jumper to show he isn’t one-dimensional on offense. One of the of the first signs that he was getting the hang of this whole NBA thing was a solid showing against the Cavs on February 13. His stats weren’t flashy, but he looked like he belonged and wasn’t overmatched despite matching up against either Jarrett Allen or Evan Mobley most of the time.
His true breakout came at the end of the season, posting double-double in two of the Spurs’ final three wins. He posted 12 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes in their win in Sacramento despite going against the league’s leading rebounder in Domantas Sabonis. Then, in their season finale win in Dallas, he posted career highs with 21 points and 19 rebounds, falling just one rebound shy of beating out Dwight Howard to become the youngest player to ever record a 20-20 game. That would have been some elite company right there.
Barlow will hit free agency with many possibilities, but despite his late season breakout, it’s still hard to tell if he has a future with the Spurs. They have the option to extend him a qualifying offer and make him a restricted free agent, which can always be rescinded, but is he truly NBA ready? It’s just hard seeing the Spurs using one of their 15 guaranteed spots on him with such a small sample size.
Assuming they retain Zach Collins and Tre Jones, that leaves just three roster spots open after their first round draft pick. Consider that at least four of the top six draft prospects are power forwards, combine that with Sochan and Bassey returning next season and that Sandro Mamukelashvili is likely higher in the pecking order of players the Spurs may look to retain, and there just may not be room for Barlow on the main roster next season.
At a minimum, he has earned himself another two-way contract, be it with the Spurs or elsewhere (and beginning next season teams will have three slots for two-way players instead of two), but that might be the only way he returns to San Antonio. If another team comes along with a standard contract, he should take it, but if not, the Spurs will probably happily take him back on another two-way so he can keep honing his skills.
April 9th vs. the Mavericks: 21 points, 19 rebounds, 8-11 shooting
Final Grade: C
Up next: Gorgui Dieng