Grades: Spurs vs. Wizards – Summer League Game #5

The San Antonio Spurs improved their summer league record to 4-1 with a 96-85 victory over the Washington Wizards. Victor Wembanyama won’t play anymore in summer league but the 7-foot-5 French phenom was on the bench enthusiastically cheering on his teammates. The Spurs and Wizards were locked in a back and forth affair until Malaki Branham took over offensively and gave San Antonio an unrelinquishable fourth quarter cushion. 

Malaki Branham

28 minutes, 29 points, 2 rebounds
12-for-20 from the field, 5-for-6 on threes, 0-for-2 at the line

For the game’s first 17 minutes, Branham was skittish. He was scoreless and a repeat of his 1-for-17 nightmare looked to be a possibility. Thankfully, though, Branham caught on fire shortly before halftime. After intermission, he was an offensive machine. Utilizing expert footwork, a quick release and spicy hesitation moves, Branham finished with 20 points in the second half and buried all four of his three-point tries. It was great to see him get going and flash the three level scoring upside that has made him an exciting prospect. 

Grade: A

Julian Champagnie

30 minutes, 18 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 turnovers, 5 fouls
4-for-13 from the field, 2-for-8 on threes, 8-for-9 at the line

Champagnie wasn’t shooting it straight from three-point land. To his credit, he found a way to make up for his long distance inaccuracy. Champagnie authored great passes, particularly on the move and out of pick-and-roll sets. He also craftily got to the charity stripe. Defensively, Champagnie was locked in and aided the Silver and Black’s cause by pulling down eight defensive boards. All in all, I thought Champagnie impressed by illustrating how he can impact the game even when his jumper isn’t cooperating.

Grade: B+

Blake Wesley

26 minutes, 14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 turnovers, 4 fouls
5-for-16 from the field, 1-for-3 on threes, 3-for-6 at the line

It was another chaotic outing for Wesley. There was a stretch in the first half where it looked like he forgot how to dribble a basketball and was making bad pass after bad pass. Thankfully, Wesley found more control in the second half. His touch, though, remained untamed. Unless he had a breakaway dunk, all of his shots were flat and hard. I liked Wesley’s defense for the most part and he gave effort on the glass. Overall, this wasn’t an aesthetically pleasing game from San Antonio’s starting point guard — but he was reasonably effective and it looked like he was able to learn and grow.

Grade: C+

Dominick Barlow

25 minutes, 20 points, 7 rebounds
9-for-15 from the field, 2-for-3 at the line

To begin the game, Barlow appeared to be the only professional athlete on San Antonio’s side. He was looking to score and was able to keep the good guys afloat. Barlow’s jumper looks great and he’s finishing well at the rim. His interior defense waned at times but his perimeter defense was outstanding. Whenever challenged outside of the paint, Barlow moved his feet exceptionally well and kept everything in front of him. For a big man, it’s becoming clear that he’s a very switchable defender. Big picture-wise, Barlow continues to prove he’s worth investing in.

Grade: A

Sidy Cissoko

27 minutes, 1 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 fouls
0-for-5 from the field, 0-for-2 on threes, 1-for-1 at the line

The good: Cissoko is the best passer on this summer league team. Not only does he have really good court vision, the Frenchman excels at manipulating the defense with his body movement and his eyes in order to create openings for teammates. Defensively, this might have been his best outing yet. He played smart on that end and only had two fouls. Cissoko also remains a much better rebounder than advertised. The bad: Putting the ball in the hoop remains a challenge for the teenager. In five summer league games, he’s gone without a made field goal in four of them. Cissoko doesn’t look like a lost cause scoring-wise but he clearly needs work in that department. 

Grade: B

Seth Millner

17 minutes, 3 points, 4 rebounds, 3 fouls
1-for-8 from the field, 0-for-3 on threes, 1-for-2 at the line

I appreciated Millner’s effort but he just looked too small and too unathletic for what he was attempting to do. Mixing in more passes also would have been helpful. Millner does have a good looking jumper — he just has to learn how to speed it up if he wants to play professional basketball. 

Grade: C-

Justin Kier

11 minutes, 2 points, 4 assists
0-for-2 from the field, 0-for-1 on threes, 2-for-2 at the line

As a pass-first summer league point guard, Kier is fine. He gets everyone involved and pushes the pace well. Kier had a couple passes that proved he can really see the court well. Unfortunately for him, he just doesn’t have the physical tools to score or defend at even a halfway acceptable level.

Grade: B

Josh Carlton

10 minutes, 4 points, 3 rebounds, 2 turnovers
2-for-2 from the field, 0-for-1 at the line

Carlton played hard — like we’ve come to expect out of him. He always seems to be in the middle of the action when he’s on the court. Sadly, his most memorable play of the night was when he failed to catch a highlight-worthy pass from Cissoko.

Grade: B

Justin Gorham

8 minutes, 3 rebounds, 2 fouls
0-for-1 from the field

Gorham is known for rebounding and he pulled down three boards in his eight minutes. Nice work.

Grade: B

Sadik Kabaca

7 minutes, 3 points, 2 fouls
1-for-1 from the field, 1-for-1 on threes

Kabaca is known for his three-point shooting and he splashed a beautiful rainbow shortly after entering the game. He didn’t do much else right but he’s a center with a nice jumper, which will keep him employed somewhere for a long time.

Grade: B-

Charles Bediako

4 minutes, 2 points, 3 rebounds
1-for-1 from the field

While Bediako only got four minutes, this was the best he looked all summer league. He was defending the hoop with gusto, rebounding with physicality and moving capably. I actually wanted to see a bit more of him tonight.

Grade: B+

Javante McCoy

4 minutes
0-for-1 from the field

I think McCoy is hurt and that’s why he has performed so poorly in summer league. It looks like his knee is bothering him.

Grade: C-

Matt Nielsen

Nielsen was much better about trying to keep a starter or two on the court at all times. He also seemed to push the right buttons with Wesley to get him to calm down in the second half and Nielsen’s playcalling unquestionably played a role in Branham’s notable night.

Grade B+