The Spurs went into last season with very little depth at point guard, trusting on bigger secondary ball handlers that could have been classified as wings to pick up the playmaking slack. Things have changed now. At this moment in the offseason, they have four players 6’4” or under on their roster and three of them are 6’1”.
The good thing is that all four of those players have very different skill sets, which will give the coaching staff a lot of options to choose from, especially when trying to build lineups that suit Victor Wembanyama. Let’s weigh their pros and cons and see who should get the starting nod, from the most likely to the least likely to be on the floor at tip-off on opening night.
Tre Jones is the safe choice for the starting job
Jones is the easy answer if the Spurs want to use a traditional lineup. He was the starter last year and did a great job considering the circumstances. He brings a level of maturity beyond his years to the table along with a solid understanding of how the offense is supposed to work. Jones doesn’t turn the ball over, plays within himself and defends tenaciously on every possession. He’s not the best scorer, but the starting unit will have guys who will need shots, so that’s not a huge knock on his case. As long as he pushes the pace and attacks when the defense allows him to, he would fit what the Spurs need, for the most part.
The only issue with Jones is his shooting. In his three-year career, he has shot 27 percent from beyond the arc on a limited number of attempts. His lack of range is not a huge issue if the team plays fast and he has the ball in his hands a lot, but if the offense changes to suit Victor Wembanyama, Jones might be asked to slow down and play off the ball. Since he’s not even reliable from the corners, that’s a big issue. He’s somewhat made up for it in the past by being a good cutter, but it could be a problem if Wembanyama and whoever else starts at forward struggle with their outside shots.
Cam Payne could be a low-ceiling short-term solution
The Spurs did acquire a point guard who can shoot recently. Cam Payne turned his career around by refining his outside shot. Over the last three years in Phoenix, he has made almost 38 percent of his looks from beyond the arc on a decent number of attempts not just as a spot-up option but also as an occasional pull-up threat. He’s not the type of player to be the engine of an offense but if things run through the high post and through Wembanyama, Payne could be a good option as an off-ball player who can set the table and just hit open shots.
Is a soon-to-be 29-year-old career backup on an expiring contract who the young Spurs really want as a starter, though? Payne might hit some shots that create room for others but he’s clearly not a long-term answer. The case can be made that neither is Jones, but next season is not one in which the Spurs will return to contention and Jones is younger and has potential. Starting Payne could help build up his value on the trade market, which could be enticing, but the priority should be giving minutes to players that are likely to be on the roster in the future, and he’s just not one of them.
Devonte’ Graham could be a fun wildcard
It’s hard to believe it now, but at one point in his career, Graham averaged over seven assists a game. His role has changed over the years, but he can make the right pass if the ball is in his hands. If he can rediscover his inner point guard while also remaining a threat to go off from beyond the arc, he could be a perfect fit with a starting unit that will need someone to keep defenses honest off the dribble without dominating the ball constantly. Granted, it’s overly optimistic to assume Graham will suddenly become the best version of himself on offense while not being a huge liability on defense, but if he pulls it off, he wouldn’t only help the 2023/24 Spurs but also his trade value tremendously.
The downside is relying on someone who is as inconsistent as Graham. When he’s feeling it, he can be the type of pull-up threat that opens things up for everyone else in the pick-and-roll, but when he’s struggling, he can be a huge detriment on offense because his first instinct seems to be to shoot no matter how cold he is. That type of mentality seems better suited for a bench role. He’s also not likely on the team’s long-term plans despite having a year left on his contract after next season, so it’s not a priority to have him spend time with Wembanyama, which hurts his case.
Blake Wesley isn’t ready, but maybe a trial by fire will help him get there
If the Spurs were a more traditional rebuilding team, giving Wesley the starting job and as many minutes as possible despite his struggles as a rookie would be easy to advocate for. He’s only 20 years old, he has elite quickness and he has good size and wingspan for the position. Sure, he’s out of control most of the time and his length hasn’t translated into defensive disruptiveness yet, but investing in his development is more important than getting immediate contributions. By the time his rookie contract is about to end, the front office will need to know if he’s a part of the core or just another late first-rounder that didn’t pan out and the best way to do that is to just throw him into the deep water and see if he can swim. Again, it’s what rebuilding teams in the first stages tend to do.
Alas, the Spurs are not a typical rebuilding team. Before bottoming out they accumulated a lot of young talent, so they can’t just focus on one or two pieces. They also need to know how good Tre Jones can be and whether Malaki Branham can be a shot creator. Jeremy Sochan will need some reps with the ball in his hands to prove that he can be the point forward his skills suggest he could become. And Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson will need plenty of touches as the two best scorers on the team. The coaching staff could simply decide that giving Wesley an opportunity to prove himself in San Antonio instead of Austin is a good idea, but it seems unlikely that they’ll lean that way considering all the other development projects they have to monitor.
So which of the four point guards should get the starting spot, Spurs fans?
Who should be the Spurs’ starting point guard next season?
This poll is closed