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 Blake Wesley’s performance and his outlook for the future.
2022-23 Stats: 37 games, 5 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 32.1%FG
2022-23 Salary: $2.4 million
Contract Status: 3 years, $9.9 million remaining (1 year, $2.5 million guaranteed)
The third player drafted by the Spurs in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft at 25th overall, Blake Wesley was also the most under-the-radar pick of the three. Everyone knew who Jeremy Sochan and his defense (and hair) was, and Malaki Branham was a known shooter, but Wesley was primarily known for being a raw but talented athlete. Nothing stood out besides his speed and athleticism, but what everyone did see was his potential (you’re going to be seeing that word a lot in here), and it was on display early in the season.
After not appearing in the first five games of the regular season, Wesley burst onto the scene, posting 10 points and 4 assists in his NBA debut and flashing that potential and exciting style of play that had everyone anxious to see more. Unfortunately, we’d only get eight more minutes of Wesley in the next game before he suffered a torn MCL and missed the next 35 games. He eventually returned after healing and a stint in Austin to get back into game shape, but his play from then on showed his tiny sample size of a hot start may have been just that rather than a sign of things to come, at least in the short term.
At first, it was easy to blame his struggles on lost time from the knee injury, but despite playing in 33 of San Antonio’s final 34 games, the struggles persisted throughout. The weaknesses from his scouting reports were on full display, such as poor decision-making and ball-handling for a shooting guard. He committed about two turnovers for every three assists he dished out, but perhaps most concerning was his shooting numbers, and a quick look at his shot chart shows why (courtesy of 3stepsbasket.com, click the link for an interactive version).
32.2% from inside the paint is in the bottom percentile of the entire NBA, and he hardly shot any better from anywhere else inside the arc. For the season overall, he hit just 30.1% from two, but where he did show some promise is from three, where he shot 38.5% in 1.5 attempts per game, and as shown above, he thrived in the right corner and on the wings. Overall, it probably wasn’t the rookie season Wesley was hoping for, but another year of growth and some minor tweaks to his mechanics could do wonders going forward.
It would be a stretch to say this was a lost season for Wesley, but his injury certainly denied him of the time to play, grow and learn that Sochan and Branham — both of whom enjoyed midseason breakouts after some early struggles — were afforded. Wesley still has another guaranteed year left on his contract, and while the Spurs could choose pick up his third-year team option this year, it wouldn’t be too surprising if they wait and see what he looks like after a fully healthy season before making that decision. The good news is they have until the end of October to decide.
Still, it’s only fair that he gets the same chance as his classmates to show what he’s all about. The next step in realizing his massive potential will be learning to combine control with his speed and athleticism. Too often he would get caught acting before he had the ball, taking off before he had a plan or just generally struggling to maintain control. He will also need to shoot better for a shooting guard, especially around the rim. His speed and ability to drive past defenders will only be as good as his ability to finish the play. (To add on to that point, he only shot 59% from the free throw line last season, and considering his style of play should lead to plenty more of those, that’s another area where he’ll need to improve.)
With a full summer to work with the Spurs coach staff and maybe even make another appearance in the Summer League to make up for lost time, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if Wesley experiences a breakout sophomore season. Potential will continue to be key word that pushes him forward, and he seemingly has nowhere to go but up.
April 8 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves: 14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 6-9 shooting
Final Grade: C-
Up Next: Romeo Langford