By Jonas Clark
If you follow the Spurs even mildly close, you know that the organization is at a turning point. To be honest, it’s been a long time coming since the retirement of Tim Duncan in 2016, followed by Manu’s retirement and Tony’s departure for Charlotte and retirement. In Austin, they’ll be replacing Coach Blake Ahearn who was instrumental in the G-League process for San Antonio before joining the Memphis Grizzlies’ coaching staff last month. With six potential free agents (DeMar’s contract is player option) and Pop’s future still in speculation, the silver and black may look a lot different and notably younger starting next season.
Among this off-season’s free agents for the Spurs are Drew Eubanks and Quinndary Weatherspoon, both of the organization’s two-way contracts. I wrote about Drew’s position battle to make the main club in February, and Quinn faces a logjam at the guard position for sure, though how the team rates him versus fellow free agents Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli could increase his chances of getting a full contract with the team. After starting 35 of 36 games played while averaging 14.8 points / 3.8 rebounds / 5.2 assists per game, Weatherspoon is sure to get noticed by other teams, especially after back-to-back 30 point performances to start the new year. I don’t see him coming back on another two-way contract, and the same goes for Drew.
— Austin Spurs (@austin_spurs) January 4, 2020
So with both of their two-way contracts available going into the off-season, the Spurs have some flexibility with the 16th and 17th spots on their roster. One may likely go to the team’s second round pick in the upcoming draft, depending on how they evaluate that selection, as two-way signees are limited to just 45 days on the NBA roster per season. The team may take a similar approach to 2018 when they signed both Lonnie and Chimezie to full NBA contracts then signed 2017 undrafted free agent Ben Moore and 2018 undrafted free agent Drew Eubanks to one and two year two-way deals respectively.
Regardless of how the team manages their two-way contracts, there are three players that I believe are strong candidates the team should consider from Austin that could make serious contributions at the next level.
I’m not standing down from this pulpit until Dedric gets an opportunity with San Antonio. I’m just as high on him now as I was back in December after he consistently showed his versatility. The only Austin Spur to play in all 42 games of the shortened season, Lawson’s major stat line speaks for itself: 13.7 points / 8.2 rebounds / 1.6 assists in 26 minutes per game made him one of the most productive players on the team, ranking 6th in points and 2nd in rebounds. He shot 53% FG ranked 5th, while hitting 33.3% from deep (7th) in the 6th most attempts per game, and showed decent consistency from the line at an even 78%.
A blue-chip college talent, fellow Project Spurs contributor Benjamin Bornstein wrote a 2018 Spurs Prospect Watch of Dedric noting, “Lawson is an excellent ball handler, can create an offense for himself and others and is a good decision maker for the most part. There are times when he is a bit wild on offense, but when he’s settled he is something special.” His ball handling didn’t dip this last year, though his control looked good, averaging just a turnover per game along with his other averages. While he’s not a finished product yet, that makes him a great selection for a two-way contract, giving San Antonio the opportunity to utilize his size and talents when running young lineups, while continuing his development in Austin.
Galen Robinson Jr.
I know the Spurs have a lot of guards, but hear me out. Galen Robinson Jr. is more of a true point guard type, always looking to distribute, as evidenced by his 6 shot attempts per game against his team high 5.4 assists off the bench. Once Keldon officially makes the NBA leap as I expect him to for next season, he’ll join Lonnie and Dejounte as hyper-athletic scorers. Scorers need a distributor.
Spurs fans also want to see more of Dejounte Murray and Derrick White on the court together, but with lack of depth at the point, that was a little difficult. Enter Robinson Jr., who in addition to in addition running the offense still found a way to average 8.1 points despite his low number of attempts.
An undrafted product out of the University of Houston, he Galen is a work in progress, but the Spurs could benefit from the flexibility of having him on the roster, and a two-way contract gives him a chance to be more engrained in learning Pop’s offense at the next level, while practicing his execution in the G-League.
States source: https://stats.gleague.nba.com/player/1629955/
We’re well into the era of the three-ball, and while the Spurs may be one of the most accurate teams from range where they’re currently tied for 7th with the Raptors at 37.1%, but with 8 fewer attempts per game, where they rank in the bottom three in the NBA. This season, San Antonio felt the loss of Davis “The Latvian Laser” Bertans, who the team traded to the Wizards in a three-team deal. It wasn’t just his accuracy (42.9% in 18-19, 42.4% this season), but the spacing he created as a 6’10” ballista. Trey Lyles’ career best 38.7% from 3 though his 2.7 attempts per game are a far cry from Davis’ 4.4 and 8.7 attempts last year and this year respectively. All of this goes to set-up Austin’s Daulton Hommes as a perfect candidate for a two-way contract.
It was a bit of a down year in his first professional season after winning the 2018-2019 Division 2 Player of the Year award. After going undrafted, the 6’8” forward saw his effectiveness take a dip in the G-League, but he set his bar pretty high at Point Loma Nazarene University where he averaged 21.2 points per game and shot a reliable 47% from beyond the arc in 5 attempts per game. Hommes was primarily a three-point specialist with four of his six shots per game coming from deep. His four attempts per game would rank him third on the team in San Antonio, and his 33% average would put him 8th among players with more than one attempt per game.
Daulton is a spot-up shooter, moves well and watching him in shoot-arounds, he’s got a pretty stroke. If more attention from the main club can equate to more time with Chip Engelland, could Hommes return to hitting 40% from range? I think even a one-year, two-way contract is more than worth the cost of discovery.
The Spurs really couldn’t go wrong offering any of these guys two-way contracts. As a fan of the players, I’d like to see them get their shot at the next level, and as a fan of the team, I’d hate to see the organization fail to secure any one of them. From a system stand-point, there’s the advantage of them having played in the Austin system which is rather integrated with what Popovich runs in San Antonio. That means that all three of these guys have a year up on understanding schemes and philosophies over any draft picks or free agent signings; corporate knowledge is key. Deeper than that, retaining these guys on G-League affiliate contracts rather than two-ways leaves them ripe for the picking by other teams come the back-half of next season when 10-day contracts become an option.
As the silver and black continue face the uncertainty of the looming turning, can they leverage some key performers from their G-League team to surround their rising young talent with continuity and familiarity? It would be a true testament to the Spurs development process if so.
Is there someone else on the Austin roster or another G-League team you think the Spurs should consider for a two-way contract this off-season? Do you disagree with my cases for Dedric, Galen or Daulton? Leave a comment below for let me known on Twitter @JarkClonas or through @ProjectSpurs.