September 25, 2022

Spurs took a huge step forward this offseason by trading Dejounte Murray. It was a trade made with eyes on the future, and it could pay off big, but it also had repercussions in the present, as it left San Antonio without a playmaker for the first time in years. .

As the franchise rightly thinks about next season in this new direction it has embarked on, the front office will have to make a big decision in the coming weeks choosing between two options to fill the lead role, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Playing young guards could speed up their development but slow down that of others

There’s no need for another big move. Spurs could simply decide to secure Tre Jones’ contract and stay put. Jones could be the starter and the rest of the ball handling and playmaking duties could be split between Josh Primo, Blake Wesley and Malaki Branham. That seems to make the most sense, as competition doesn’t seem to be the biggest priority right now.

There are a few advantages to choosing this direction. Getting a better sense of Jones’ quality in an extended role before entering free agency might be a wise move. He’ll probably never be the driving force behind a big attack, but he might be able to become a good starting point guard. His assist to rotation ratio was outstanding last season and he now has enough experience with the system to get the team into their sets. In fact, creating good looks consistently and at a high pace for those who can’t do it themselves might be difficult for him, but if Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson get better at creating for themselves – a big if, to be sure — the starters might be able to put enough points on the board to compete most nights.

Things could go wrong when the second unit checks in. Wesley should do better with NBA-caliber spacing than he did in college, but he’s still very raw. Branham is more polite, but he is better at creating for himself than creating others. Rookies shouldn’t really be trusted to be primary ball handlers, at least at the start of their freshman year, so the success of this strategy would largely go to Josh Primo.

Primo had the opportunity to show his ability to start last season, especially in the second half. The results have been mixed. His ball handling just wasn’t good enough on most nights, and he sometimes took unnecessary risks, which resulted in sloppy turnovers. Even in the G League, he spat the ball almost as much as he helped his teammates, so the problem is real. It clearly has some work to do before it becomes a reliable creator, but it might be worth having its development fired in its second season. The vision is there and his ability to use his length to block shots on the ball could eventually make him an elite defender. Investing in him wouldn’t be the worst idea.

If Spurs decide to stay put and give Jones and Primo primary ball handling duties, the immediate results are unlikely to be great as the team’s attack will likely suffer while they figure out how to fill in. their expanded roles. Lack of move creation elsewhere in the roster could be exposed and finishing improvement delayed.

The potential benefit of accelerating the development of young guards by giving them expanded responsibilities, however, could be worth the headache, if the coaching staff is willing to be patient.

Bringing in a veteran could block guard development, but help the rest of the team

Spurs could use their cap space to sign a more experienced main guard or try to acquire one via trade. That wouldn’t necessarily mean letting Tre Jones go, as he could just be sharing minutes with the new addition. The main motivation for going this route would be to make sure the forwards and Jakob Poelt have someone who can feed them.

The biggest problem with this approach is that it is difficult to find large targets. The ideal candidate would be an experienced field general who would be happy to create for others while also being able to put on a good image when needed, but these types of players are normally picked up by good teams. The best little guards available right now are Collin Sexton, who is more of a scorer than a playmaker for others, and Dennis Schroeder, who has had chemistry issues on most of the teams he’s been on. Someone like Facundo Campazzo might be worth a shot if passing and experience are the focus, but his limitations are obvious. The talent pool of traditional initiators available is really shallow.

A trade opens up another path to get what Spurs need, but there aren’t a ton of realistic goals either if they decide to go that route. TJ McConnell would be perfect, but the Pacers would probably want a return because he has a reasonable contract. Mike Conley could be an option if the Jazz go for a full rebuild, but he probably won’t be happy playing for the Spurs if they aren’t in playoff contention. A Cory Joseph return wouldn’t be the worst thing, but only as a last resort and if the Pistons just want to pay him for nothing. Vasilije Micic would be intriguing, but the Thunder seem in no rush to part ways with the NBA rights to the FIBA ​​star.

Put simply, the ideal goals would likely require a bigger investment than San Antonio would be willing to make at this point in the rebuild, while the achievable ones might not represent a big enough upgrade to be worth the cost. potentially retarding the development of young guards. If a good option becomes available, reaching out to them might be worth it, but finding the right candidate might be difficult.

One of the first decisions Spurs will have to make in their new rebuilding path will be whether to choose between forward-thinking uncertainty and short-term skill when it comes to the point guard position ahead of next season. Both have their obvious downsides, so it will be interesting to see which direction they lean, as it could tell us a lot about their current priorities.