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 Jeremy Sochan performance and his outlook for the future.
2022-23 Stats: 56 games, 11 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 45.3% FG
2022-23 Salary: $5.06 million
Contract Status: 3 years, $18 million remining (1 year, $5.32 million guaranteed)
I’ll be honest: when I looked up Jeremy Sochan’s stats, I fully expected him to have scored more than 11 points per game, and that’s in large part because his exciting rookie season can be defined by two distinct stretches. Everyone knows the story by now: on a cold December evening in my adopted hometown of Houston, Texas, Sochan broke out a one-handed free throw form to try and fix a key issue that had been holding him back.
Up until that point, he had shown flashes of his potential as the first rookie to start on day one for Gregg Popovich since Tim Duncan, but the offensive weaknesses that had been all over his college scouting reports were there for the whole NBA world to see. Two horrible numbers in particular stood out: 18.4% three-point shooting and 42.9% from the free throw line for just 7.5 points per game through 24 games.
Then, following that Houston game (where he hit just 1-4 free throws with his new form), everything changed. He hit 7-10 free throws the next game against New Orleans, and the rest was history. In his final 32 games played for the season, his free throw shooting skyrocketed to 78.4% — a whopping 35.5% leap — and as a result other parts of his game rose as well. He found more confidence in taking threes, adding 1.5 more attempts per game — he still hit them at a poor rate of 28.2%, but that’s still a 10 percent improvement from before, so we’ll take the baby steps — and his scoring average increased to 13.5 points per game. He was far from the Spurs’ most efficient or reliable scorer, but the midseason turnaround was eye-opening.
On the other end, he was the pesky defender that was advertised, and he also was the first Spurs rookie since Duncan to average double-digit scoring, along with Malaki Branham. (You read that right: neither Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili or Kawhi Leonard averaged double-digits their rookie years, but Sochan and Branham did.) Finally, Sochan’s play earned him a Rising Stars Challenge appearance and a spot on the All-Rookie 2nd Team, another first since Leonard.
Ultimately, a stubborn sore knee brought his season to an early end, but it isn’t anything that should be cause for future concern. If he had his way, he would have kept playing, but Pop took the cautious route and shut him down considering there was zero reason to risk anything. It was disappointing that we didn’t get to see more of Sochan, but overall it was a fun and exciting rookie season for the 9th overall pick.
Sochan lived up to the billing of a top 10 pick and then some, and the most exiting part is there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Everyone probably knows what the biggest area he needs to improve on by now is: three-point shooting. While he improved over the course of the season, he was still well below average. That will probably be his biggest assignment this summer, and there is zero reason to believe he won’t embrace the work and come back better. (Afterall, he was willing to endure some teasing and mockery to fix his free throws.)
Contractually, he has one guaranteed year remaining, but it’s hard to imagine a world where the Spurs don’t pick up his third-year team option this offseason (and fourth next year). He’s the most promising rookie they’ve had since Leonard, and the good news is however the draft goes, he’s versatile enough to be moved around. He has the ball-handling skills of a guard and could theoretically slide over to a point-forward position should the Spurs win the lottery and land a certain prospect who would most certainly be a day-one starter at power forward.
If they don’t pick first and end up choosing a ball-handler instead, Sochan can easily stay where he’s at. That versatility, combined with his proven work ethic and determination to get better is what makes him such a high-upside player, and I for one can’t wait to see what he looks like in Year 2.
March 14 vs. Orlando Magic: 29 points, 11 rebounds, 11-19 shooting (3-6 from three)
Final Grade: B+
Up next: Malaki Branham