The Spurs’ training camp roster seems finalized. The team will have to make some cuts before opening night but we have a good idea of who will be around for the 2023/24 season. There’s a nice mix of veterans and young players that could allow Coach Pop to create some really fun lineups.
Before diving into what those units could look like it’s important to note that we still don’t fully know who could potentially be moved or waived, so some names might end up not being available. Other than that, the only rule is that the groups have to be fun or unique. We are not looking for the optimal starting five here. Keep in mind that entertainment is the goal. With that said, let’s jump in.
Gigaball lineup: Vassell - Johnson - Sochan - Wembanyama - Collins
Who needs point guards? The Spurs could run a gigantic lineup consisting essentially of forwards and centers if they wanted to and it would probably work well on offense despite not having a primary creator. Zach Collins did a good job of creating looks for others from the high post last season and Jeremy Sochan showed some budding ability as a facilitator. As for scoring, Johnson and Vassell can create in a pinch and Wembanyama should get some opportunities to get his own shot up. The three-point shooting would be lacking and Tre Jones’ steady hand could be missed, but there could be several mismatches to exploit even with suboptimal spacing.
The defense is more of a question mark. This group could be extremely disruptive because of the collective length of everyone involved, but a quick guard with a good pull-up jumper could force a switch and punish Keldon Johnson or Collins. A zone could work better and if this unit is only around for a few minutes in certain matchups, it could wreak havoc before the opponent adjusts, as long as everyone is on the same page.
It’s tempting to see this as the potential starting lineup, and it could be if Pop is feeling extra experimental, but as long as it gets at least a few minutes or run every game, fans should be happy.
Shooters galore: Graham - Bullock - Champagnie - McDermott - Mamukelashvili
The Spurs have shooters to spare this year. This group shot 38 percent from beyond the arc collectively last season and did so while attempting a lot of long shots. The unit would also have different types of shooters, as Graham can hit pull-ups, Bullock and Champagnie are great at catch-and-shoot opportunities, McDermott is a movement shooter and Mamukelashvili is a decent pick-and-pop big. In theory, there would be a severe lack of pressure applied to the defense inside, but with so much space for Graham to operate and with McDermott’s smart cutting and Mamu’s solid high post passing, the group should be able to generate looks close to the basket. If all else fails, swapping in a dive man like Charles Bassey or potentially Wembanyama at center could fix things.
Once again, the biggest issue would be the defense. Mamukelashvily doesn’t offer much rim protection and Graham and McDermott could be targeted. Bullock and Champagnie can hold their own but are not stoppers. This type of specialized lineup should not be on the court for long stretches, but maintaining the basic idea behind it while swapping in other more versatile players should be easy.
Run, run, run!: Jones - Branham - Johnson - Sochan - Bassey
The Spurs played at the second-fastest pace in the league last season. They will probably slow down somewhat this season if they don’t rest as many guys and try to establish a more methodical attack, but they still have the personnel to thrive on the fastbreak and early offense.
This unit has four players who can simply grab a rebound or an outlet pass and push the ball up the court. Jones proved to be great at setting up others early in the clock and Sochan beat his man down the floor consistently throughout his rookie year for easy buckets, so those two would be the linchpins. Branham got reps as main ball handler last season and Keldon Johnson is really hard to stop when he has a head of steam, so those two could be great running partners. The lineup would be missing three-point shooting, but could make up for it by simply attacking before the defense is set.
The big question is why Wembanyama isn’t in this unit, since he has shown the ability to push the pace by himself after grabbing rebounds already. The answer is that having him run up and down the floor constantly while potentially having to battle opposing centers on the boards could really tax his body. Having an energy big who can give his all for 15 minutes like Bassey simply makes more sense, at least for now.
Cleanup duty: Wesley - Champagnie - Cissoko - Mamukelashvili - Barlow
Every team needs a fun garbage time lineup that makes blowouts in either direction at least somewhat fun to watch. For a while the Spurs lacked one, but this season that shouldn’t be a problem. There are enough young players and likable veterans to create some interesting units that can simply come in with no pressure and entertain.
Blake Wesley has mostly been a trainwreck so far, but that man is as fast as anyone in the league, and in the rare times in which he’s under control, he’s electrifying to watch. Cissoko is just a ball of potential who could show flashes of a well-rounded game as a rookie if he doesn’t spend all the year in Austin. Barlow has a high motor, long arms and the athleticism needed to create some highlights. If those three are available and get run together when games are out of reach, there should be enough intrigue to keep fans watching.
Finding the guys to round up the lineup is a little trickier. Julian Champagnie could be a rotation player, but he will have a lot of competition, so he might need to prove himself by showing what he can do in a bigger role on offense in garbage time. Mamu was always entertaining to watch last season, so if he’s not in the rotation but still on the roster, it would be great if could get at least some minutes of action to do his thing.
Those are some of the most fun lineups Gregg Popovich could trot out next season. What are some combinations you would like to see, Spurs fans?