With Summer League now in the review mirror, we are officially in what is known as the doldrums off the offseason, where very little happens as basketball fans wait out the summer heat (if you’re in the northern hemisphere) for October and a new NBA season to roll around. While there can still be some fringe free agency activity, things will remain mostly quiet, but a few questions still remain unanswered for the San Antonio Spurs.
Will Devin Vassell sign a contract extension?
This seems more like a matter of “when” than “if”. One free agency move that Spurs fans are expecting but hasn’t happened yet is Devin Vassell’s rookie contract extension, which would kick in at the start of the 2024-25 season. A max contract for him would be worth 25% of the salary cap, which would be approximately $34 million per year right now, but that number would rise with the salary cap next year when the contract kicks in.
This is not to say Vassell is a max player or will demand a max contract (it’s just a reference point), but he appears to be the Spur with the highest upside outside of Victor Wembanyama and a part of the main core. If he is indeed a part of their future plans, the Spurs need to tie him down, but there shouldn’t be any panic over how long it takes. They have right up until the start of the regular season to come to an agreement, and players waiting until October to sign extensions is nothing new. Expect Vassell to eventually sign one, whether it’s tomorrow or on October 23, and even if it doesn’t happen this year, there’s always next summer to work with him. (And for anyone worried about his knee, it was reportedly nothing major that won’t have any lingering effects, just an arthroscopic issue.)
What will the starting lineup look like?
With the main part of the Spurs roster likely set, the most debated question has been who will be in the Spurs starting lineup on day 1. Top overall pick Victor Wembanyama will surely start at power forward (he is not ready to bang with NBA centers down low), and Gregg Popovich has already said that Zach Collins will be the starting center, so assuming those two facts remain true, then what? Someone from last season’s main starting lineup will have to move to the bench, be it Vassell, Tre Jones, Keldon Johnson or Jeremy Sochan.
Vassell’s job might be the safest if only because of that aforementioned upside and him being the best shooter of the bunch. Sochan also shares that potential upside trait and can play multiple positions despite being labeled as a power forward, so it might come down to Tre Jones and Keldon Johnson, who will both be returning on new contracts. If the Spurs feel they need a true point guard on the floor, Jones is the man. If they want to get experimental and just want their five best players on the court regardless of position, Johnson would start. Both seem unselfish enough to accept 6th man roles, so it will be fascinating to find out what direction they go.
Who wins rotation minutes?
This is shaping out to be a very deep roster. Let’s start with the big men. We’ve already discussed three likely starters in Wemby, Sochan and Collins, but there’s plenty more where that came from. Also returning from last season’s team are Charles Bassey, Sandro Mamukelashvili and Khem Birch to round out the PF/C positions, not to mention restricted free agent Dominick Barlow, who put on a show in Las Vegas.
Moving to the wings, whether or not Johnson starts, where do minutes for Doug McDermott, Reggie Bullock, Cedi Osman, and Julian Champagnie come from? Malaki Branham is likely safe as Vassell’s backup at SG, but what if the Spurs want to get Blake Wesley more minutes? Does he back up Tre Jones (if he starts)? What about Cameron Payne and Devonte’ Graham at point guard? There will definitely be some deserving players who don’t get main rotation minutes next season because this team is that deep.
How will the Spurs trim down the roster?
One way to solve at least part of the log jam is to get down to the required 15-player limit for the main rotation. Having just waived Lamar Stevens, the Spurs currently sit with 17 guaranteed contracts plus Sir’Jabari Rice on a two-way, with second round pick Sidy Cissoko still unsigned and Barlow a restricted free agent. While Cissoko is likely a safe bet for a two-way contract if only because of the jammed roster (although he’s good enough to make the main roster), Barlow seems above a two-way contract now (or at least he and his agent likely believe so), but will the Spurs bite and offer him a guaranteed contract?
If they do, that would mean three players have to go. Khem Birch is an easy bet since he and Barlow play the same position, and he has yet to suit up for the Spurs, but then what? Are more trades on the horizon? Can the Spurs find new homes for veterans like McDermott, Graham, Payne, Osman, etc. who could fall out of the rotation if the Spurs decide to go young?
It’s impossible to know what their plans at this point are, leaving us a lot to ponder about over the next three months.