The 2021 NBA Summer League is underway in Las Vegas, and for a “re-tooling” San Antonio Spurs roster, the tournament is significant. For anyone expecting a smooth process, look away now, because four straight losses for the Summer League team is forecasting anything but.
Losing is never easy, but it arguably hurts more when victory was so close. On Monday night, the San Antonio Spurs fought hard against Minnesota’s summer squad but fell in the end 91-89.
The Minnesota Timberwolves looked more athletic throughout the game, winning with an old-school approach of inside scoring versus San Antonio’s perimeter approach.
Though the Spurs shot better from beyond the arc (42%), the Timberwolves made 50 percent of their shots overall. The Spurs also left seven points at the free-throw line versus Minnesota’s four misses, which proved to be the mathematical difference. It never should’ve come down to a final shot attempt for San Antonio, which on its own was a bad look.
Headlined by the Spurs’ selections from the last two NBA drafts, however, the game provided a glimpse into a promising future for the 2021 draft class, as it was the 2020 picks that shined brightest.
Taken even a pick higher than Joshua Primo in his respective draft, Vassell is making the most of his Summer League debut. In consecutive games, the second-year guard out of Florida State has now scored 20 points or more, picking up 23 points to lead the team against Minnesota.
After a rough first half that saw him shoot just 1-5 from the floor early on, he went made 5-11 in the second half to go along with a perfect 8-8 performance from the charity stripe in 29 minutes of action. It was Vassell’s aggressive 13-point performance in the fourth quarter in the fourth quarter that was really key, highlighted by a dagger three-point shot to tie the game at 89 with 42 seconds left. Vassell seemed to draw his inspiration from Jones who was the real star of the night.
Sitting out the three games in the Salt Lake City primer, Jones displayed the same scoring and passing abilities that got him called up early last February from the G League bubble. The second-year point guard out of Duke scored 16 points and recorded eight assists on a decent shooting night of 42 percent. Of his performance, the only knock was the turnovers of which he committed five of the team’s 13.
Joshua Primo and Joe Wieskamp
It was a rough night for San Antonio’s rookies as they struggled at times to find their role in the action, combining for just 11 points. Wieskamp saw limited action (15 minutes compared to 23 minutes per game in Salt Lake City), though he hit his only shot attempt on the night, a three-pointer.
Two made spot-up 3s for Josh Primo in this game now.
He's got 8 points.
With Jones back, he's getting more attempts catching and shooting.
— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) August 10, 2021
Taken higher than many expected, the attention was on Primo and how he would build on his 14 points per game from Utah. He recorded eight points thanks to an effective 40-percent performance from beyond the arc, only hit 3-11 (23%) from inside.
Like Jones, the turnovers are the biggest detractor from any offensive production, and Primo stayed consistent with his 4.5 turnover average from Salt Lake City with four against Minnesota. The NBA plays at a different speed than college basketball, and the 18-year-old is learning that lesson in spades.
The San Antonio Spurs (0-1) are back in action on Tuesday night, playing the Chicago Bulls in a quick turnaround game. Chicago (0-1) enters the game off of a loss as well, falling to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday 94-77.
Led by 44 combined points from the trio of Patrick Williams, Marko Simonovic, and Devon Dotson, the Bulls had a strong first half but were ultimately outscored 50-30 in the second half. Chicago had no answer for forward Trey MurphySan Antonio Spurs 2020 picks shine in Summer League loss who scored 26 points in that game for New Orleans, hitting 6-9 from deep.
The tipoff between the Pelicans and the Spurs is at 7 p.m. CST on NBA TV.