Welcome to Pounding the Rock’s 2022-23 player reviews! The series will look at all 16 players that finished the season with the Spurs (minus Khem Birch since he never suited up), so we won’t be reviewing players like Stanley Johnson or Isaiah Roby. In the next edition, we will be taking a look at Charles Bassey’s performance and his outlook for the future.
2022-23 Stats: 35 games, 5.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 64.4% FG
2022-23 Salary: $2.6 million
Contract Status: 3 years, $7.6 million remaining ($2.6 million guaranteed)
Charles Bassey is yet another example of the Spurs doing Spurs things and turning one team’s reject into their own treasure. After being drafted in the second round by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2021 and signing a multi-year contract, he was waived just before the start of last season and quickly picked up by the Spurs on a two-way contract. 76ers fans weren’t happy with Doc Rivers about the move — which seemed kind odd for a team that already has an MVP candidate at center — but Spurs fans would soon learn why.
Bassey already had some ties to San Antonio, having spent his first two years of high school playing at St. Anthony Catholic High School, but it didn’t take long for him to make his presence known here as a pro. He dominated in his Austin Spurs debut, posting a 33-point, 15-rebound performance. Soon after, playing time in San Antonio became available after Zach Collins suffered a stress fracture in his leg, and Bassey Mania was on. In just his fourth game for San Antonio, he became the second player in NBA history to record 14 rebounds, 4 blocks and 4 assists in less than 20 minutes of action and the first to do it off the bench. From November 7 through December 13, he appeared in 21 of 22 games while averaging 4.8 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 67.2% from the field.
He then went an extended period of time playing mostly for Austin, including a 40-point, 16-rebound explosion, proving the G League is beneath him at this point. That stretch coincided with both Collins and Jakob Poeltl being healthy and available, but once Poeltl was traded at the All-Star break, the Spurs did what many fans had been clamoring for, signing Bassey to a guaranteed contract and moving him to the main rotation. He proceeded to play the best stretch of his career, averaging 7.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and a block over the next 11 games, but then, misfortune struck.
After landing awkwardly following a blocked shot against the Magic in March, it was reported he had suffered a fractured patella and would be out for the rest of the season. It was unfortunate and poor timing since he was just finding his footing as a rotation player in the NBA — as Gregg Popovich put it, “he was just learning how to play,” — but fortunately for him, his new contract is multi-year and guaranteed through next season, so he doesn’t have to worry about still having to prove himself over the summer and should return in September healthy and ready to truly begin his NBA career.
Since Bassey is the first player we’ve reviewed that is under contract next season and likely isn’t going anywhere, we’ll take a look at what he can work on going forward. Perhaps his biggest weakness was being a little shy about taking open jumpers that were available to him. He’s not necessarily expected to be a true stretch-five like Collins, but he has shown both in the G League and NBA that when he doesn’t hesitate, his offensive game can be stretched out to the three-point line.
In ten games in Austin, he took 1.6 threes per game and made them at a 37.5 percent clip. He shot threes at a much lower rate in the NBA — just 8 attempts across 35 games — but he still made three of them. It’s a tiny sample size to be sure, and there were times Pop had to get on him for passing up open looks. Even if he doesn’t become true three-point threat, he still took almost 40 percent of his shots from between three feet out and the arc and made them at a near 50% rate. The mechanics to be more than an around-the-rim shooter are there, now he just needs to hone his skills and find the confidence to take outside shots.
While defense is and likely will remain Bassey’s calling card — he led the team in block percentage this season, swatting just over 1 in every 20 shots that came his way — offense is where he can really take his game to the next level. And if he can do that, he has two more unguaranteed years on his contract after next season waiting to be picked up. With the backup center position possibly his to lose at this point, he’ll have every opportunity to earn those extra years, and if he does, the Spurs will have yet another diamond-in-the-rough story on their resume.
March 4 vs. Rockets: 14 points, 7-8 shooting, 8 rebounds, 3 assists
Final Grade: B+
Up next: Devonte’ Graham