The Austin Spurs have a 1-2 record three games into the NBA G League season. While it’s still really early in the season, we’ve gotten a good look at 2019 first round picks Keldon Johnson and Luka Samanic, 2019 second round pick Quinndary Weatherspoon and a handful of other interesting prospects.
Thoughts on Key Players on Austin Spurs
Keldon Johnson has been living up to his “Baby Russ” nickname by displaying a high motor. While he has only attempted (and missed) four three-point shots so far this season, he has aggressively attacked the basket and showed touch from midrange. His finishing skills are smooth and impressive. Johnson had eight rebounds in two of the three games, which is a good sign because he averaged almost six rebounds per game as a freshman at Kentucky last year. He has a knack for getting rebounds from his own misses and it’s no doubt that rebounding will be a great tool for him once he makes the jump to the next level. With his rebounding, ability to score within the offense, finishing ability and solid defensive reputation, Johnson may be my new favorite future Marco Belinelli replacement in the rotation.
Luka Samanic has really looked the part of an exciting prospect at times. Everything about his game looks smooth, including his jumper. From the way he handles the ball, makes flashy passes with ease, and even moves his feet and arms defensively on the perimeter, Samanic flashes a ton of potential. While his lack of strength is holding him back on defense and he is turning the ball over too much, Samanic still clearly has the highest upside of any player on Austin’s roster.
Drew Eubanks has good timing and instincts, and the body of a potential NBA backup center. He is a decent shot blocker, plays within himself and Eubanks is a more powerful finisher than Jakob Poeltl. The 22-year-old displays sneaky athleticism, has array of moves around the basket and has shown willingness to shoot the ball from the perimeter.
Secondary Prospects on Austin Spurs
It’s easy to see why Dedric Lawson’s athleticism graded out as poor. He has looked heavy, slow and lumbering most of the time. While his rebounding and ability to finish at the rim is a plus, Lawson would have to change his body drastically to become a legitimate NBA prospect. In Austin’s second game against Rio Grande Valley, he did show some range on his jumper and had himself a nice showing. Unfortunately, he did little to nothing in limited minutes the next game against Memphis.
Chimezie Metu played the Clint Capela role well as a shot blocker and finisher in his one game this year. He even showed flashes as a passer and ball-handler, but just didn’t have the same polish Samanic displayed in those categories. Metu wasn’t horrible but I am starting to give up on him as an NBA prospect.
Quinndary Weatherspoon had a big showing in Summer League. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been super impressive in his first two games in Austin. It is notable, however, that he is averaging 12 points per game despite not being able to find any rhythm thus far in his G League career.
Austin Spurs Game Recaps
Austin Spurs vs. Rio Grande Valley Vipers – Nov. 8, 2019
Last season, no team attempted more threes per game than the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. On the flip side, the Austin Spurs led the league in points in the paint per game. It was a battle of polar opposites and those traits translated to this matchup. The Vipers made 15 threes to Austin’s five, yet Keldon Johnson set the tone for Austin by attacking the basket relentlessly. With 25 points on 11-for-13 shooting, Johnson and the Austin Spurs were comfortably beating the Vipers for a majority of the game.
Austin was up ten points with under eight minutes to go in the game. Then an onslaught of Vipers threes came raining down. Angel Rodriguez, Jacobi Boykins, Isaiah Hartenstein and Gary Clark each poured in 20-plus points to lead the Vipers to a 120-112 win.
Austin Spurs at Rio Grande Valley Vipers – Nov. 9, 2019
Everyone who torched Austin in the first game did more of the same this game. Jacobi Boykins and the Vipers went on a run late in the third quarter, cutting Austin’s 13-point lead down to six to begin the final quarter. Austin responded by playing better defense in the fourth quarter and getting stops down the stretch. Austin allowed 12 less points in the fourth than the night before and ultimately that was the difference in the game as Austin won 131-124.
The real story throughout this game was rebounding, as Austin had 54 boards compared to Rio Grande Valley’s 27. Keldon Johnson continued to attack the basket and led Austin again with 24 points, this time on 9-for-13 shooting. Drew Eubanks and Dedric Lawson were a force in the paint as well and contributed with 23 points a piece. Amazingly, Johnson, Eubanks and Lawson combined for four more rebounds than the entire Vipers team.
Austin Spurs vs. Memphis Hustle – Nov. 13, 2019
This game was a dud for the Austin Spurs, as Memphis out-hustled Austin to a 112-97 victory. Josh Jackson, the 4th overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft, starred for Memphis and was likely the best player on the floor. Although his efficiency took a small hit, Keldon Johnson scored 20 points off the bench in just 25 minutes on 8-for-15 shooting.
Kenny Williams and Matt Farrell struggled shooting the ball all night. With those two struggling and Johnson coming off the bench, Luka Samanic, Drew Eubanks and Quinndary Weatherspoon were the aggressors looking to score. The results varied. Weatherspoon finally made a couple of threes and Samanic displayed a few nice spin moves going to the basket, but the two combined for 10 turnovers and struggled on the defensive end.
Getting to Know the 2019-20 Austin Spurs
The Austin Spurs are once again coached Blake Ahearn. Ahearn won a G League championship in 2018 in his first year as head coach. New staff hires include Reece Gaines, the former NBA shooting guard and the toughest college basketball player Dwyane Wade ever faced, and Australian native Matthew Nielson, who is rejoining the organization as an assistant coach in Austin.
Intriguing undrafted rookies on the team include former North Carolina Tar Heel Kenny Williams, Bill Self product Dedric Lawson, and Scottie Pippen’s nephew, Kavion Pippen. Savvy veteran Jeff Ledbetter will be returning for another season. Expect last year’s rookie standouts Drew Eubanks and Chimezie Metu to likely split time between Austin and San Antonio. Also, expect 2019 NBA Draft picks Luka Samanic, Keldon Johnson and Quinndary Weatherspoon to spend the year in Austin.
Austin Spurs Outlook
Keldon Johnson already looks like he can play a role in the Spurs rotation. That said, he needs to show that he is capable of knocking down the three-point ball and turn the ball over less before he is called up to the show. Luka Samanic brings an impressive skill-set, but will he be able to hone and polish his craft in the G League as a rookie? Samanic needs to continue to be aggressive on offense and cut back on turnovers. I would like to see Drew Eubanks continue to be aggressive. However, he needs to focus on fundamentals and minimize his mistakes. Eubanks has the athleticism to improve on defense and carve himself a career in the NBA as a backup center. Weatherspoon will likely play better as he settles in.