The San Antonio Spurs played three games in the 2021 Salt Lake City Summer League. While the Spurs ended up with a record of 0-3, all was not lost. A few of San Antonio’s youngsters played well and things appear to be trending in the right direction for the group as a whole. Next, the team travels to Las Vegas to play four more summer league games — beginning on Monday.
Here are the grades for the three games played in SLC.
28 points in 51 minutes, 10-for-25 (40%) from the field, 3-for-13 (23.1%) on threes, 5-for-6 (83.3%) at the line
Five assists, four rebounds, two blocks, nine turnovers and five fouls
Positives: Well, alright, young man. With Tre Jones sidelined with a concussion, Josh Primo was tasked to lead the team as the starting point guard — and the 18-year-old delivered a pair of solid performances.
Offensively, Primo’s ball-handling in the open court was good enough to allow him to run the point. His court vision was impressive, particularly when it came to finding open teammates on the weak-side of the floor. Scoring-wise, he did well. The form on his three-pointer was smooth, he wisely drew fouls, and most notably Primo’s ability to create for himself and others out of pick-and-roll sets was surprisingly advanced. When he wasn’t hitting the roller, he could usually be found unleashing a slick step-back midrange jumper.
Defensively, Primo was solid across the board. Even though he was always the youngest player on the court, he wasn’t a liability. He stayed in front of his man, was quick around screens, battled in the paint and offered timely help. He even protected the rim a few times.
Negatives: When he was in a crowd, his ball-handling was too loose. He could dribble well enough in space but struggled a bit if his man was attached — and the problems were magnified if he was dealing with multiple defenders. Passing-wise, Primo’s court vision was superb but his telegraphing of passes led to his nine turnovers. He’s able to throw hook passes off the dribble with either hand but his windup is too deliberate, which resulted in interceptions and deflections. Primo’s shot-selection wasn’t always pristine but the Spurs summer league squad looked most dangerous when he was putting the pedal to the metal.
Overall: It’s too early to say the Spurs have done it again with a draft pick but Primo’s play after missing the summer league opener was a lot better than could have reasonably been expected. Not only is he the youngest player in summer league, he rarely had playmaking duties at Alabama so this role was completely different than anything he did as a freshman. Moreover, his college coach was vehemently against his players taking midrange shots — so all the midrange mastery Primo exhibited was not something that could have been expected judging from his college tape.
It goes without saying that Primo still has a lot of work that needs to be done but it’s safe to say he’s more advanced than anyone outside of San Antonio’s front office could have expected. For being a 6-foot-5 18-year-old, he’s really coordinated and light on his feet. He doesn’t have elite athleticism but he showed bursts here and there that give hope that he’s still advancing in that department. He needs to work on his ball-handling, figure out how to speed up his passing mechanics and add more bulk to his frame … but, all things considered, Spurs fans should be excited by how Primo performed in his first summer league games.
41 points in 54 minutes, 17-for-47 (36.2%) from the field, 1-for-14 (7.1%) on threes, 6-for-8 (75%) at the line
16 rebounds, three assists, two steals, one block, five turnovers and two fouls
Positives: Devin Vassell wasn’t asked to do much creating off the dribble in college or as a rookie with the Spurs. In this summer league environment, it’s the first time since high school that Vassell is his team’s go-to scorer. All in all, he showed enough to keep the door open on him becoming more than just a 3-and-D lifer.
When he made decisive decisions, Vassell was able to get to where he wanted to go and get off clean looks due to the high release on his jumper. He also had the wherewithal to keep trailing defenders on his back to create scoring opportunities before the defense could rotate (Khris Middleton-esque, although it’s too early to make a direct comparison). Vassell’s athleticism at the rim was impressive, as was his overall aggression level.
Defensively, he was his typical gifted self. Vassell’s main strength as a basketball player right now is reading offenses to know exactly where he should be at all times. He’s an excellent help defender who is always on high alert.
Negatives: Vassell didn’t look comfortable at all shooting three-pointers off the dribble or contested three-pointers off the catch. He’s not a selfish player but I don’t see evidence that he has any notable court vision. His ball-handling was okay-ish when he was moving with purpose but he spent too much time aimlessly dribbling without really putting pressure on the defense.
It should also be noted that Vassell missed the first game due to “conditioning work” and he looked winded a lot of the time when he was out on the court. He also asked out of the game a few times after running out of gas. Hopefully there was a legitimate reason for him not being in tip-top shape coming into summer league.
Overall: Vassell did pretty well in Salt Lake City. He has definite scoring potential, which in itself is great to see given his already advanced defensive abilities. Hopefully we get to see a lot more of him in summer league because spending time as a go-to scorer is great for his short-term and long-term development. If he can play longer stretches without tiring, he could become an extremely disruptive force in summer league.
16 points in 70 minutes, 7-for-23 (30.4%) from the field, 1-for-12 (8.3%) on threes, 1-for-1 at the line
19 rebounds, four assists, one steal, three turnovers and one foul
Positives: For a shooting specialist, Joe Wieskamp looks like he could be a really good rebounder. He’s conscientious about taking care of business on the glass and has the length and athleticism to go up and get it. He also runs the court hard both ways. On offense, that translated to scoring opportunities in transition. On defense, he was quick to find a man to guard.
Negatives: Sadly, the early returns on Wieskamp being able to get his shot off against NBA level athletes are not encouraging. He doesn’t have a quick release or a high release point. He also holds the ball out in front of his face, which makes it easier for defenders to recover. As a result, even when the Spurs ran him around multiple screens to free him up, the defense was able to recover by the time his jumper was leaving his fingertips.
Defensively, there were also some issues. While Wieskamp is a good run and jump athlete, his lateral mobility is questionable at best. Players blowing past him was a common sight, especially if he tried to reach or play passing lanes.
Overall: Wieskamp was dominant in the pre-draft combine so there was hope that he could continue to play well at the summer league level. So far, that hasn’t been the case. Let’s hope the second round pick is able to make some adjustments on the flight to Vegas. Right now, he’s looking more like a two-way candidate than a player who deserves a full-time spot on an NBA roster. That said, if he can get his shot off just a little bit faster, that could be enough to get him back on track. We’ll see what happens in the upcoming games.
19 points in 80 minutes, 8-for-26 (30.8%) from the field, 0-for-15 on threes, 3-for-4 (75%) at the line
17 rebounds, eight steals, three assists, one block, five turnovers and four fouls
Positives: There’s actually a lot to like about how DaQuan Jeffries played. He’s a superb athlete in all facets; he can run, jump, move laterally and has lightning quick reflexes. He’s also unafraid to throw around his body. If there’s a loose ball in his vicinity, it’s always smart money to bet on Jeffries to retrieve it.
I also thought he showed potential as an elite transition player who could grab the ball and ignite a break single-handedly. Plus, even though he’s only 6-foot-5, he has long arms (6-foot-11.25 wingspan), a thick body and the strength to survive defensively at any position other than center.
Negatives: Jeffries knows he needs to shoot three-pointers well to make it in the NBA. Usually an okay three-point shooter, he looked extremely tight when shooting from distance. He was obviously feeling pressure because that’s a do-or-die trait. His stroke got more stiff and more mechanical as the misses piled up.
Going into the 2019 draft, there was hope that Jeffries had potential as a penetrator in the halfcourt. That hasn’t happened yet. He can dribble if no one is around him but he’s not someone who will feel comfortable to even try to dribble in a crowd. His passing skills are also rudimentary.
Overall: Jeffries is one of those if-he-can-shoot-he-could-make-it prospects. Going 0-for-15 from three-point range in his first three summer league games was not how he hoped to start his Spurs summer league career.
Four points in 41 minutes, 2-for-7 (28.6%) from the field, 0-for-1 on threes
Seven rebounds, four assist, two steals, two blocks, three turnovers and seven fouls
Positives: Nate Renfro hustles, plays unselfishly on both ends and has preternatural defensive instincts.
Negatives: I’ve actually really liked Renfro on the G-League level. In Austin, he was able to make up for his lack of size (6-foot-8 and 205 pounds soaking wet) by knowing where to be, playing all out and outfoxing opponents. Unfortunately, none of that translated to the summer league level.
Teams quickly realized the only thing Renfro can do on offense is pass the ball. He can’t dribble, shoot or attack the rim … so once the pass was taken away, he was a major liability in his 41 minutes. Defensively, his lack of size was exploited relentlessly. The Spurs began summer league with him as the team’s starting center but, yeah, no, that’s not going to work. He just doesn’t have the size.
Overall: I’m rooting for Renfro to figure it out because he’s a high IQ defensive dynamo at the G-League level. But summer league is a step up from G-League and it appears as if he may not be able to take that step.
11 points in 59 minutes, 4-for-14 (28.6%) from the field, 0-for-2 on threes, 3-for-4 (75%) at the line
13 rebounds, four blocks, one assist, one steal, four turnovers, 12 fouls
Positives: Skal Labissiere looks like a basketball player. He’s 6-foot-11 and equipped with arms that never stop. He has good touch for his size.
Negatives: I was intrigued when I saw Labissiere’s name on the summer league roster. He’s only 25 and was once the top rated player in his high school class. But … yeah, he’s bad. Really bad.
He might literally be the worst defensive big I’ve ever seen in summer league. His rotations are glacial at best — but most of the time he doesn’t even recognize he needs to rotate. He has super slow feet, a weak body that can’t handle contact and an insatiable urge to needlessly foul. His only use on defense is as a shot blocker at the rim. Anything more than that is asking too much.
Offensively, Labissiere is the opposite of a willing passer. He’ll pass it if there’s no other choice — otherwise he’s looking to the rim. His form looks fine and his footwork is okay but, given the rest of his weaknesses, his scoring prowess isn’t an avenue worth exploring.
Overall: Yeah, now it’s clear to me why Labissiere went from the top player in his class to out of the league by 25. Hopefully he can improve enough to be considered an adequate summer league center but that’s an uphill climb.
19 points in 67 minutes, 9-for-25 (36%), 1-for-8 (12.5%) on threes, 0-for-2 at the line
13 rebounds, four assists, two blocks, four turnovers and two fouls
Positives: Jaylen Morris plays hard. He attempts unorthodox shots that catch defenses off-guard. For being only 6-foot-5 and not particularly muscular, he’s not scared to spend time in the paint.
Negatives: Morris’ perimeter shots didn’t look smooth at all. In fact, he almost airballed both of his free throws — and his threes were equally as clumsy. Without confidence in his shot, he was mostly getting in the way on offense. His effort on defense was commendable but his impact was pedestrian.
Overall: Morris is going to have to hit some perimeter shots to even be worth discussing as a prospect.
17 points in 59 minutes, 7-for-23 (30.4%) from the field, 1-for-6 (16.7%) on threes, 2-for-2 at the line
Seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks, one steal, two turnovers, seven fouls
Positives: Justin Turner is one of the few players on this team who looks like he knows what he’s doing on offense. You can tell he has scored a lot of points in his basketball life. He knows where to be on offense and what to do when he gets the ball. On this summer league squad, those are notable attributes.
Negatives: He’s another player on this team with a funky shot. Turner has a low release point and it takes a while for his shot to unfurl. Defensively, he gives effort but he’s 6-foot-3 and a B athlete so there’s only so much he can do.
Overall: If the Spurs are going to win games in Vegas, they’ll need a player like Turner to step forward. He looks like he can score — and that’d help.
18 points in 38 minutes, 6-for-18 from the field, 3-for-7 from three, 3-for-4 at the line
Three rebounds, one assists, one steal, one block, two turnovers and four fouls
Positives: Matt Mitchell is a big strong dude with a feathery shooting touch. His beefy frame leads you to believe he’s a big man but he has a surprising amount of perimeter talent. Compared to his wayward teammates, his three-point shooting was like Stephen Curry but better.
Negatives: He’s not much of an athlete, which isn’t great considering he’s 6-foot-6 on a good day. He’s strong but he doesn’t run fast or jump high. Biting off more than he could chew was a common occurrence for Mitchell on both ends.
Overall: Outside of the headliners, Mitchell looks to be the most interesting prospect. He has a unique build and enough talent to turn heads. He probably needs a few years in Europe to work on his game but the early returns are encouraging.