It’s been 86 days or 2,064 hours since the San Antonio Spurs last played basketball, in case you’ve been counting. Over the course of those 12-ish weeks, the trajectory of the franchise has changed drastically. Excitement around the team is at an all-time high, and that hype should follow the team into their summer league run.
The Spurs will travel to Sacramento for two games in the California Classic Summer League. Fans will get to watch a number of rookies, returning players with something to prove, and guys who are looking to earn a spot in the NBA. Noticeably missing from the roster in Sacramento is number-one overall pick, Victor Wembanyama, who will join the team in Vegas on July 7th. Both California Classic games can be watched on ESPN.
San Antonio will face the Charlotte Hornets on July 3rd at 7 p.m. CT for their first game. The number-two overall pick in the NBA Draft, Brandon Miller, headlines a tough Hornets team that is loaded with young talent. Nick Smith Jr., Amari Bailey, James Nnaji, Bryce McGowens and James Bouknight are all players to watch for Charlotte. Miller will have a lot to prove after being selected over Scoot Henderson, who many projected to be the better NBA player.
After a Fourth of July break, the Spurs will be back at it with a matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers on July 5th at 7 p.m. CT. The Lakers roster has less NBA experience, but features some interesting players who will be looking to catch on with the team. Watch out for D’Moi Hodge and Colin Castleton as two undrafted free agents who could make a big splash.
The Spurs roster brings a lot of talent to the table as well. It can be broken down into the following groups:
Returning NBA players
- Dominick Barlow
- Malaki Branham
- Julian Champagnie
- Blake Wesley
Out of the four returners, Wesley and Barlow likely have the most to prove. Branham has earned his spot on the team with his strong play toward the end of the season. Champagnie just signed a 4-year, $12 million contract and shot the lights out the end the year.
For Branham It will be important to see improvements from him on the defensive end, and shooting the ball from deep. Branham has all of the tools to dominate the summer league, as a solid shot creator and improving playmaker. The best case scenario here is that he plays so well that the Spurs don’t need to send him to Vegas.
Champagnie has apparently grown two-inches (??) since last season. It will be interesting to see if his movement shooting can continue to improve. If the 6-9 wing can consistently hit shots, and pull out defenders with his gravity, he could play a big role with the team in the regular season.
If there is anyone who has a lot riding on this summer it’s Wesley, who has a real path to playing time next year. The sophomore guard must improve as a finisher at the rim, and cut down on turnovers if he is going to handle primary ball-handling opportunities. According to Wesley, he’s added 10-pounds of muscle already this summer. If true, that could help him finish at the rim where he shot just 38% last season per Synergy.
Barlow has yet to sign a new deal with San Antonio, but will play a big role in summer league. Last season he came on strong as an interior defender and finisher at the rim. He also has soft touch in the mid-range. Will the big man be taking threes this summer? In a roster looking for versatility on both offense and defense, Barlow has a chance to show how he fits that need.
Rookies with training camp invites
- Sidy Cissoko
- Charles Bediako
- Seth Millner
- Sir’Jabari Rice
San Antonio is bringing an exciting crop of rookies to the summer league. All eyes will be on Cissoko who has gotten quite a bit of hype for a second-round draft pick. He played well for the G League Ignite last year, averaging 11.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting 45.5% from the field. The big question with Cissoko is his three-point shooting and defensive consistency. He features a lot of tools at 6-7, but never really put it all together last year. The major thing to watch for Cissoko is how much he fouls, and how the Spurs unleash his passing ability.
Bediako and Millner are on exhibit-10 contracts, and will be with the team through summer league and into training camp. Bediako is a menace in the paint who can erase shots at the rim, and throw down thunderous dunks. Millner is a sharpshooting wing, who hit 42% of his threes at Toldeo last season.
Rice was one of the most exciting players in college basketball who could light it up off the bench at Texas. He’s an older rookie, who will be 25-years-old when the season begins, but will be on a two-way contract with the Spurs. Rice was a knockdown shooter at UT, shooting 37% from three. That shooting prowess made defenders consistently fall for his stellar pump-fake. It will be fun to see him fool opposing defenses in the summer league.
- Josh Carlton
- Justin Gorham
- Sadik Kabaca
In classic Spurs fashion, the summer league will have some international flair. They’ve brought three intriguing prospects from Turkey, France and Lithuania. Kabaca is who I have my eye on. At 6-10, the forward hit 44% of his three point attempts with Galatasaray last year. He’s got a great feel for the game and is a talented passer.
Carlton played for the Houston Cougars in college and is a physical big man at 240 pounds (or 108 kilos using the metric system.) He will add some needed veteran physicality to the squad. Gorham is another former Cougar who averaged 11 points and 8 rebounds in international play last year.
- Chaundee Brown
- Justin Kier
- Javante McCoy
Austin’s influence will be felt on the summer league roster, particularly in Brown and Kier who are alumni of the Spurs’ G League program. McCoy will join the team from the South Bay Lakers. Last season he averaged 14 points while shooting 37% from three. McCoy and Kier bring shooting, while Brown is a big guard at 6-6 who can play inside.
Undrafted rookies looking for deals
- Logan Johnson
- Erik Stevenson
Johnson and Stevenson are both 5-year college guards who played for good basketball programs. Johnson spent his senior year at St. Mary’s, and Stevenson was one of West Virginia’s best sharpshooters. Stevenson in particular will be interesting to watch. He was a proficient pull-up shooter in college shooting 42% on those attempts. His shooting could earn him a spot in the NBA. If he gets hot in the summer league, expect teams to be excited about the 6-4 guard.
There is a lot of talent to be excited about on the Spurs summer league roster, and a handful of players who should see time with the NBA team come October. This summer will be an important test for players who want a chance to be a part of what the team is building around Victor Wembanyama going forward.