Grades: San Antonio Spurs at Detroit Pistons – Game #36

In a clash of the two teams at the bottom of the NBA standings, the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Detroit Pistons by a final score of 130-108. The win improved the Spurs to 6-30, while the Pistons dropped to 3-35.

Led by Victor Wembanyama’s six points, five rebounds and four assists in less than six minutes of playing time, the Spurs dominated the first quarter. Heading into the second, the Spurs had a 31-19 advantage.

San Antonio was able to keep their foot on the gas and the good guys were never truly challenged the rest of the way. The only drama that remained involved the Wembanyama Triple-Double Watch.

All in all, the Spurs have to be very pleased. Sure, the Pistons are historically bad but the Spurs took care of business and looked much more cohesive than they’ve appeared at any point this season. 

Stats: Spurs at Pistons

spurs pistons grades

Spurs at Pistons – Final Grades

Victor Wembanyama

Wembanyama notched his first career triple-double in only 21 minutes of action — an amazing accomplishment for a 20-year-old. The Frenchman was really good defensively; his help-defense was quick and he was a constant presence in the paint. Wembanyama also flashed fantastic hands, was great on the boards, ran the court hard and was a beast in the paint offensively. However, all that said, what really stood out tonight was the rookie’s passing. His total of ten assists included a handful of legitimately spectacular passes and he managed to finish the game without a turnover. To be a great player, Wembanyama has to be at least a good passer. Against the Pistons, he exhibited signs that he could eventually become a special, generational passer. If that happens, Wembanyama’s already inconceivable ceiling would become twice as high.

Grade: A+

Devin Vassell

Vassell hit only one of his five three-point attempts but he was otherwise really strong. I really liked his defensive intensity. Passing-wise, Vassell consistently found the right man at the right time. He hit 5-of-7 two-pointers, limited his mistakes and his shot-selection was nearly perfect. Well played game by Vassell.

Grade: A-

Jeremy Sochan

Sochan performed his role well. Defensively, his man-to-man D was solid and he moved his feet well in rotations. Offensively, he created shots for himself by getting out on transition and moving well without the ball. There were a few questionable decisions here and there but Sochan did a relatively good job of playing within the team concepts on both ends of the court.

Grade: B+

Tre Jones

Jones is looking good as the starting point guard. It’s already clear that he’s very adept at reading when Wembanyama has distracted the defense and darting to the basket to score before the defense can recover. Jones is also very helpful with regard to getting Wembanyama involved early and rewarding the very big man when he runs the court. With the rookie handling a lot of the playmaking, Jones was off the ball more than usual — but he still produced. Defensively, he was mentally engaged at all times.

Grade: B+

Julian Champagnie

Yes, Champagnie is still struggling to figure out how to get involved as a starter. He got three shot attempts in 21 minutes — and he had to force a couple of those shots. Champagnie will obviously need to find an offensive niche if he’s going to remain a starter. The good news is his defense was better than usual and he was helpful on the boards.

Grade: B-

Keldon Johnson

Johnson efficiently led the Spurs in scoring. He was able to score 17 points on eight field goal attempts by getting to the free throw line eight times. Johnson finished without a turnover, could be relied upon to make wise decisions and even played some of his most energetic defense of the season. The Spurs would be thrilled if this is the brand of basketball they could get out of him on a daily basis. 

Grade: A

Dominick Barlow

Don’t look now but Barlow is beginning to figure out this NBA thing. He looked like a fish out of water when he was first elevated to the rotation — but now he’s starting to look really good. Early on against the Pistons, his rim protection was poor and he wasn’t holding down the fort in the paint. Eventually, though, his defense improved and he started altering shots in the lane. Offensively, Barlow’s passing looked better than ever, his touch on jumpers and in the paint was sublime, and his hands were supple. Add in strong work on the boards on both end and this was clearly Barlow’s best game as a pro.

Grade: A

Cedi Osman

Osman looked like the smartest player on the court for many of the 21 minutes he was on the hardwood. His passing was excellent and he was expertly reading passing lanes. Osman’s toughness also shined on the boards, on drives to the hoop and on defense. When he plays like this, it’s clear he could be a very valuable player off the bench.

Grade: A-

Malaki Branham

Branham is still trying to figure out the backup point guard role. He had some lowlights on defense and his running of the show as rudimentary, at best. Branham was also just 2-for-7 from the field and was responsible for the bench’s only turnover. Despite his flaws, I did like that he wasn’t shy about firing open looks. That’s the first bullet point of his job description.

Grade: C-

Doug McDermott

McDermott helped put the Pistons to bed by way of his fiery shooting hand. His movement without the ball was too much for Detroit’s youthful bunch to comprehend as he finished with 14 points in 15 minutes. McDermott’s minutes had been dwindling lately but his 4-for-5 shooting from three-point range will probably be enough to lift him back into the everyday rotation.

Grade: A

Blake Wesley

Finishing at the basket and avoiding turnovers are two of Wesley’s main issues as a young player. Against the Pistons, he was 4-for-4 from the field and didn’t turn the ball over. His defense was also stout in the six minutes he played.

Grade: A-

Mamadi Diakite

Diakite’s free throw stroke looked smoother than the last time I saw it.

Grade: Inc.

Sandro Mamukelashvili

It’s now safe to say Mamukelashvili has lost his spot in the rotation to Barlow … at least for the time being.

Grade: Inc.

Pop

Pop made sure Wembanyama got the ball early and often. I really liked the play-calling and I didn’t have an issue with the rotation. Jones clearly has to start for now and I like that Pop is giving Champagnie a chance to figure out how to coexist with his fellow starters.┬áLet’s hope these last three ballgames are a sign that the Spurs are on the cusp of turning around their season.

Grade: A-