The San Antonio Spurs as a team have quite a bit to prove considering they’re expected to win near 30 wins this season. However, there are some players who have more to prove than others. These three may or may not surprise you as two of them are familiar faces who have been with the team since they were rookies.
Anyone who has been following the Spurs the last couple years knows the plight of Samanic quite well by now. Samanic has the potential to be a floor-spacing driver who can stay in front of wings and big men on the defensive end. At least, that’s what he’s done at the G-League level. He’s never had the opportunity to show what he can really do having to sit behind the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, Gorgui Dieng, Trey Lyles, Drew Eubanks, and Jakob Poeltl.
Samanic should see the floor in San Antonio with only Poeltl to be a guaranteed starter and minutes grabber. Samanic will likely be competing with Zach Collins (who also made this list!), Eubanks, Thad Young, and Jock Landale to be playing at either of the frontcourt spots. The Spurs absolutely need to play Samanic to truly understand what they have in him and if he is going to translate to the NBA.
in 39 games with Austin, Samanic averaged 16.2 points per game, 1.8 assists per game, 8.3 rebounds per game, and shot 30.5% on triples. He will have to shoot much better from long distance, but if he does that, then you can bet he will earn himself some minutes.
Walker has shown flashes of potential brilliance but has yet to truly break through. Walker seemed to be in the dog house for parts of the past few seasons, but also improved his consistency last season. He got up to 11.2 points per game, 1.7 assists per game, and 2.6 rebounds per game while shooting 42% from the floor and 35.5% from deep.
He will be competing with Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Devin Vassell, and Bryn Forbes for minutes so shooting at a high level will be key for him. We know he’s a better defender than Forbes but still has to prove he can hit shots and space the floor for the floor generals who are going to be playing alongside him.
Walker has to get himself out of the doghouse, play loose, and take advantage of all his minutes. With the Spurs expected to play much faster and get into transition more often, which is Walker’s perfect storm of events to earn more minutes and possibly a new contract after the season.
Collins has been plagued by injury in his young career and his contract with the Spurs reflects that. He’s on a non-guaranteed deal after this season and he is basically going to use this season as an opportunity to prove he can stay healthy and play up to his pre-injury level. Coach Popovich recently gave a timeline on Collins’ recovery timetable and it looks like we won’t see Collins until a few months into the season.
However, he is a big with stretch potential and could challenge Samanic, Young, and Eubanks for significant playing time. We won’t get to see much out of Collins at the beginning of the season, but he could be the perfect big man to give the lineup a new look if things are going south by the time he’s recovered from his fractured foot.
He hasn’t played a full season since 2019 so you could make the argument that Collins has the most to prove. He’s not only playing to continue on with the Spurs, but to possibly stick in the league.