The 2022 San Antonio Spurs Starting Point Guard Is …

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#11 Josh Primo (Credit: Daniel Dunn/USA TODAY Sports), #14 Blake Wesley (Credit: John Locher/AP Photo), and #33 Tre Jones (Credit: Jon Shapley /San Antonio Express-News) | Edit: Jonas Clark/Project Spurs

On a recent episode of The Spurscast, Paul Garcia and his guest Matt Lerma discussed the San Antonio Spurs’ rotation options ahead of the 2022 season. This conversation included the subject of Josh Primo as the San Antonio Spurs’ best starting point guard option. After the team traded both Derrick White and Dejounte Murray in 2022, the position is up for grabs for the first time in more than 20 years. When discussing options for the Spurs’ rotation, one must consider what is the team’s objective at this time.

If San Antonio is looking at the big picture, they may be attempting to develop the team for the future. This could mean playing guys where they may not fit naturally. While the team collects losses, they’re at least building toward the long term. This strategy would also likely allow the Spurs to be in play for a high draft pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Should they be aiming for wins, however, then the rotation would look similar to last spring, minus Murray. A strong scorer in his first season, Primo would appear to be the best fit, but there’s a little bit more to it.

Is Josh Primo a Point Guard or a Shooting Guard?

Primo’s more logical fit appears to be at shooting guard where he looks more comfortable. Closing out his rookie year, he started the final 12 games last season at the position. He moves well and is a rather elite scorer playing off the ball. Last season, he shot 92.9 percent from the perimeter off of assisted shots, and 52.5 percent from inside the arc off of assisted shots. This isn’t to say he can’t create his own shot, but those are far from scrub percentages.

Playing from the two allows Primo to continue getting comfortable on the floor without having to worry about running the offense as well. In just his second year in the system, focusing on his role could have a greater payoff down the road. The team’s long-term plan for Primo, however, could be at the point. What better time to get him minutes in the role than this season? At media day this week, he was asked about possibly running the offense this season.

“I feel like, absolutely,” Primo responded when asked about taking over the point guard position. “I’m ready for that, to be able to handle the ball more. Be a leader in terms of being a floor general, and that’ll be fun. It’ll be a good challenge for me.”

There will be enough challenges for Primo and the Spurs this season as it is, they don’t need to pile more on. As the preseason begins this Sunday against the Houston Rockets, we, unfortunately, won’t get a look at Primo conducting the offense. Diagnosed with an MCL sprain, he is expected to miss the entire preseason. The good news is that he should be back in time for the season opener.  This opens the door to allow for a good look at the team’s best option at the point, third-year guard Tre Jones.

Can Tre Jones Be the San Antonio Spurs Starting Point Guard?

A 6’1” guard out of Duke, Jones is a traditional point guard. Playing on the starting roster with RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Zion Williamson, he knows how to get elite scorers involved too. On the Spurs in 2021, Jones finished third on the team in assist average, dishing out 3.4 assists per game. He trailed only Murray and White in assists on the team, despite playing half as many minutes per game.

The knock about having Jones on the floor at any time is that he hasn’t yet been a real scoring threat. Playing in the G League bubble to start the 2020-2021 season, the Duke product flashed great offensive potential. Across seven appearances, he averaged 18.1 points and 9.7 assists per game with the Austin Spurs. Jones was a major factor in the team forming a formidable trio along with Robert Woodard II and Luka Samanic. San Antonio fans got a taste of that production last December in a contest with the Detroit Pistons. Coming off the bench, Jones recorded 11 assists to go along with eight points and five rebounds in the win.

Asked this week about the potential of earning the starting point guard role, Jones noted his offseason work on scoring, notably from the arc. He also knows that the opening at the position can be huge for him personally.

“We’ll just have to see how camp goes,” Jones said. “… as far as my role goes, I’m going to try to take on that role as being a leader for this group, especially at point guard. Continue to try to do everything I was going through – set up our team, set up guys in the right spots they need to be in, and let the rest take care of itself… There’s a big opportunity now, for sure big opportunity there.”

If Jones were to be the Spurs’ starting point guard, that would likely produce a starting lineup with him along with Keldon Johnson, Jakob Poeltl, Devin Vassell, and Primo. That rotation saw the floor for 49 minutes last season. Together they averaged nearly six fewer points per 100 possessions than their opponents. With a lot of inexperience, that unit was extremely turnover prone. The only areas it excelled were at blocking shots (+3.8) and assisted shots (+3.8). With Johnson, Vassell, and Primo primed to step up as scorers this year, however, mere chemistry and opportunities could help those numbers improve. Playing this rotation now allows it to continue to develop for the 2023 season.

Could Blake Wesley Steal the Starting Point Guard Role?

The lone dark horse candidate to swipe the starting point guard role from Jones or Primo is rookie Blake Wesley. In his lone season at Notre Dame, Wesley stood out as a scorer. If that is what the Spurs are looking for, it would give him an early edge on Jones. As a distributor, he averaged 2.4 assists per game, influenced heavily by a nine-assist performance against A&M-Corpus Christi last December.

Perhaps the major factor working against Wesley in the conversation is his lack of “corporate knowledge” of the Spurs’ system. Head coach Gregg Popovich is known for being tough on his players throughout his 26 seasons at the helm. He’s notably been especially hard on the point guards. The approach has worked well for the team, however, producing All-Stars in the aforementioned Murray and the great Tony Parker.

Over the last decade, the organization has sent its young players to the Austin G League affiliate to get a crash course in the system. That process stems back to Murray and includes Jones and Primo. There’s a good chance that Wesley gets the same treatment. If so, it will be worth monitoring how often the Austin offense runs through him. While he may be a near non-factor in this year’s competition for the starting point guard spot, Wesley could find himself in the mix next year.

Who do you think should be the team’s starting point guard in 2022? Do assists even matter to play the role anymore? Be sure to comment below.

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