Just last February, the San Antonio Spurs point guard room was full. That is what made Derrick White expendable enough to trade to the Boston Celtics. In June, the position group took a hit with the trading of Dejounte Murray and the July release of Lonnie Walker IV (though more of a shooting guard). The team replenished it somewhat by adding another guard in the draft, grabbing Blake Wesley. Just seven games into the 2022 NBA season, however, San Antonio already finds themselves thin at point guard behind Tre Jones.
The Spurs announced on Tuesday that Wesley has been diagnosed with a Grade 3 left MCL sprain. He suffered the injury early in Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. With last week’s shocking release of Josh Primo, that’s a serious blow to the position group.
Jumping out to a surprising 5-2 record, San Antonio looked like they could be a playoff team. Wednesday’s ugly 43-point loss to drop them to 5-3, however, highlighted their lack of depth given recent injuries and transactions. If they want to keep defying the odds, they’ll surely have to fill the gap at the head of the offense. After signing forward Jordan Hall on Wednesday, the roster is full, but a move could be made. Here are three possible directions for the Spurs’ point guard problem.
Recycle Former Spurs Point Guards
It has long been said that head coach Gregg Popovich’s offense takes some time to learn and adjust to. San Antonio’s longtime identity has been established on ball movement and selfless play. With that in mind, the Spurs’ best option might be to look for a possible band-aid with players that have spent some time within the organization. No former San Antonio guards are immediately available via free agency. Of players to play the position over the last few seasons, Murray, White, and Walker aren’t going anywhere. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ Bryn Forbes once filled the role for San Antonio in his first stint with the team but he isn’t the player they need. That leaves one veteran left that would make any sense – Patty Mills.
Mills is currently with the dysfunctional Brooklyn Nets and has seen his role diminished by the presence of Ben Simmons and Kyrie Irving’s availability with the world’s now relaxed COVID-19 restrictions. The Australian veteran is averaging just 14 minutes of action per night, leading to career lows across the board. Starved for draft capital after the trade for James Harden going into last season, Brooklyn wouldn’t shy away from some picks. An important note is that San Antonio would have to wait nearly a month to acquire Mills. He just signed a new two-year deal with the Nets this summer. The earliest they could make a move for him is December 15th.
Take a Chance on an Untested Talent
If the team doesn’t want to bring Mills back for another run, Austin players past and present could be an option. Quinndary Weatherspoon was the team’s second-round pick in 2019 and had a strong first year (14.8 ppg) before injuries derailed his 2020-2021 season and he was released. He was with the Golden State Warriors organization all of last season, winning a ring as part of the championship roster. Golden State released him this summer, making him a free agent. Galen Robinson Jr. has been in the Spurs’ organization for the last three seasons as a pass-first point guard. Austin traded his returning player rights to the South Bay Lakers for guard-forward Chaundee Brown Jr. in September. Still, San Antonio could sign him to an NBA deal.
The Spurs currently have a number of guard prospects in training camp right this moment in Austin, and Jalen Adaway, Tommy Kuhse, and Jordan Goldwire are names worth watching. Kuhse shined with the Orlando Magic in the Summer League before San Antonio picked him up for the preseason. In two games, the former St. Mary’s guard appeared in just two games, averaging six points and one assist per game. Of the selection here, he is the one with some level of “NBA experience”. Like Kuhse, Adaway was on the Spurs’ roster throughout the preseason but never played.
Goldwire could be a diamond in the rough, as raw as he is. A former Duke Blue Devil, he was teammates with the Spurs’ starting point guard Tre Jones as a backup. A pair of active defenders, they were the team’s co-Defensive Players of the Year in 2020. The next year, Goldwire took that to another level. He earned a spot on the ACC All-Defensive Team in 2021 before transferring to Oklahoma to be a starter last year.
Do Absolutely Nothing
Now more than ever, the NBA is a positionless league, and the Spurs have a ton of versatility on the roster already. There isn’t much of a need to press and make a move right away. When Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson return from their injuries, both playmakers can set up the offense. In the meantime, Richardson has enough veteran experience and can run the second unit behind Jones.
With injuries starting to pile up, San Antonio’s over-performance through the first two weeks has them caught between a rock and a hard place. Vassell has already missed the last four games. There is no sense in risking his future to rush him back to the floor. Even when he returns, Vassell could see restricted minutes. The same goes for Wesley who could miss some serious time, according to the RCM Clinic in Utah that works with the USA ski and snowboarding teams. They say a Grade 3 MCL sprain can take between three weeks and three months to heal.
The future is promising for the Spurs, and more talent is yet to come. They could get a serious boost from having a top selection in the 2023 NBA Draft as projected. San Antonio already showed that they weren’t about to roll over and tank this season despite owning what would still appear to be an over-matched roster. Popovich recently invoked the “basketball gods” when talking about the passion that his young team is playing with early on. Maybe, perhaps, the injuries are the basketball gods’ way of telling the Spurs “not yet”.