VEGAS, Nev. — The Spurs played their first Summer League game, and that means we got our first look at the rookies San Antonio took in the first round of the draft.
Well, two of them. Guards Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley played, and played well, but ninth pick Jeremy Sochan came down with coronavirus shortly after the draft. While he has recovered enough to be with the team in Vegas, they're holding him out of competition as he hasn't practiced. Chris Haynes also reported during the game that Sochan is dealing with a bit of a hamstring injury.
The spotlight is on second-year guard Josh Primo, who is the most experienced Spur in Vegas. He was a surprise pick in the draft last year, and the Spurs took him so high with the mindset that they were a year early on the then-18-year-old, who they believe can grow into a lead guard.
San Antonio doesn't typically play their teenagers very much at the NBA level, but Primo started 16 games at the end of last season after Doug McDermott was injured. With the departure of Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV, Primo will be thrust into more of a primary role this season. In Friday's matinee against Cleveland, we got a good look at what he can do with the ball in his hands.
Primo was a facilitator early on, finishing with 5 assists and a bunch of other advanced passes that didn't end in buckets. He found rollers and shooters out of the pick and roll, and when the Cavs doubled him up top, he looked comfortable throwing skip passes over the top to wide open shooters, even one handed skips. He did finish with three turnovers, but a bit of sloppiness is to be expected.
Rookie Blake Welsey was one of the primary beneficiaries of Primo's passing, knocking down three of his four attempts from deep. Three-point shooting is something he said he needed to improve on draft night, and he looked crisp and confident from there in his Spurs debut.
Wesley's bread and butter is knifing his way through the defense, and he showed his stuff there as well. On one play, he drove baseline and whipped a pass to a wide-open Primo for three.
On a transition break he pushed the pace, hit the brakes, hit a crossover, hit the gas again, and got to the rim for an and-1. When the Cavs doubled him up high, he dribbled around it, leapt and hovered under the hoop for a reverse finish. Wesley finished with 20 points on 7-16 shooting and 5 assists while playing some tough defense.
Malaki Branham is a three-level scorer out of Ohio State who can put the ball on the floor and make tough shots. He finished with 15 points on 6-15, and his first basket as a Spur came on a play where he created some nice separation from his defender.
Sochan's absence is a bummer for him, and for the team, and for the fans itching to see him and his brightly-colored hair on the court, but it opens the door to heavy minutes for Domenick Barlow.
The big man went undrafted after playing for Overtime Elite last year, and at 6'10" with a 7'3" wingspan, the coaching staff is intrigued by his potential. Scouts say he has a strong motor and the ability to defend multiple positions, and while he's still growing as a scoring threat, his jumper improved over the last year.
He notched 9 points and 7 rebounds, 3 on the offensive end. There were some rough spots for him and for everyone else, but those long arms looked fairly disruptive on defense.
The Spurs were down big late in the fourth, but Primo put on his primary scorer hat to make things a little more interesting. He scored 8 points in a row for the Spurs, first with a stepback three, then with a tough eurostep and floater, then another three.
San Antonio fell 99-90, but the young fellas showed a lot of promising development flashes. We'll probably be saying that a lot when the season begins in earnest.