In the first game of summer league, the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers by a final score of 97-89. The Spurs started off slow in the summer league game, which was played in Salt Lake City, Utah, but San Antonio eventually found their groove and coasted to victory. Read the grades below or scroll all the way down to see a highlight video of the action.
Not only did the Spurs get the win, we were able to get a good look at the youngsters, most notably Lonnie Walker IV, Luka Samanic, Keldon Johnson and Quinndary Weatherspoon.
Spurs Grades After Summer League Win Over Cavs
Lonnie Walker IV
Coming out of the gates, Walker was just looking to fit in and not try to do too much. While a noble plan, it didn’t work out well as the Spurs fell into an early hole. Eventually, Walker got it going and flashed the skills that give him such a high ceiling. His spectacular athleticism was on full display, as was his creative finishing at the rim. His jumper off the dribble looks smooth and he authored a couple quality passes. Defensively, the effort was there. He made a few mistakes — giving up middle a couple times, losing his man on the weakside, etc. — but it’s obvious that he’s at least attempting to play sturdy D. In addition to shoring up his defense, Walker’s ball-handling was a bit sloppy. If he can tighten up his dribble, he’d become even more of a threat with the ball in his hands.
What we saw tonight from Samanic is exactly what makes him such an intriguing prospect. However, we also saw glimpses of what has frustrated coaches over in Europe. On one hand, his quickness off the dribble was fantastic. He can dribble from the three-point line to the rim in the blink of an eye. He also attempted to finish with authority whenever he had a clear path to the basket. Although he wasn’t always successful, the athleticism he displayed going up for contested dunks is above average for 6-foot-11 players in the NBA. The one three-pointer he took (a key make late in the fourth) looked effortless; it’s like he was born to shoot. On the other hand, Samanic made slow decisions with the ball in his hands. He missed open passes he should have made. His grab-and-go ability is impressive but he needs to work on his ball-handling before it’s a weapon at the pro level. He pulled down a few contested boards but he also missed a few rebounds he should have corralled. His ability to switch onto smaller players on defense was eye-opening for a player his size but he also was clueless in terms of team-defense rotations. All told, it was a promising summer league debut for Samanic. The tools are all there … it’s just a matter of the Spurs working with him to put it all together.
Even though he started and played 19 minutes, Johnson didn’t have much to show for his time on the court. On defense, I liked his ability to fit through screens. He kept his head up on that end and made multiple good reads. Offensively, he was mostly lost in the flow. He tried to muscle up a few shots in the lane and was able to get to the line — but missed his first three attempts from the charity stripe. I’m not going to say Johnson didn’t pass the eye-test as an NBA player but he certainly didn’t stand out. He’s not a plus athlete, doesn’t have plus length and I don’t see a plus skill he can lean on. Johnson is going to have to find his niche in the league, most likely as a 3-and-D role player. Unfortunately for him, a player like him who projects to becoming a complementary piece in the NBA usually doesn’t fare well in summer league. With that in mind, this sort of underwhelming performance wasn’t a surprise in his debut.
The Spurs were trailing the Cavaliers 11-2 four minutes into the game before Weatherspoon entered the contest and changed the tone of the affair. Not intimidated in the slightest, his no-nonsense, bulldog approach yielded immediate dividends. He made quick decisions — whether it was a hard drive to the hoop or making the extra pass in the paint. His rugged style of play was also making things happen on defense. For a second round pick who many didn’t expect to get drafted, Weatherspoon played about as well as could have been expected. However, his level of play declined as the game progressed and he did have a few fortuitous bounces that went his way — including a buzzer-beating three-point banker at the third quarter buzzer — so the jury is obviously still out regarding how excited the Spurs should be about their rookie combo guard.
It was a satisfactory outing for Eubanks, the second-year bigman out of Oregon State. He used his big body well to gain deep post position and bullied his way to a game-high eight free throw attempts. It was also great to see him knock down a long jumper; the work he’s done on his perimeter shot during the summer appears to be paying off. He moved well on both ends and was usually in the right positions. That said, his inability to finish plays — especially on the defense end — was frustrating. He went for about a dozen blocks but came up empty. His poor timing was also apparent on the boards and on his rolls to the rim. Is his lack of timing fixable or is it his fatal flaw as an NBA prospect? We’ll have a better idea as summer league progresses.
As far as basketball IQ is concerned, Ben Moore is a beast. His defensive rotations were flawless. In fact, he had a few genius-level rotations from out of nowhere to blow up Cavs plays, while his individual D was stout as well. Moore is also a crafty finisher in the paint who uses expert body control in order to score. Unfortunately for him, it’s his lack of size or athleticism that holds him back. He’d be an NBA player if he were either bigger or more athletic, but as it is it’s difficult for him to hang in a lot of situations. He knows what he wants to do but he can’t always do it. In this one game, it was clear why the Spurs were interested in him enough to sign him to a two-way contract last season … but his shortcomings were also clear and it’s understandable why San Antonio has allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent.
He can run a team, knock down open threes and make smart plays on defense but Magette just doesn’t have an NBA body. I don’t view him as a serious NBA prospect, especially for the Spurs. However, for summer league play, he’s a great guy to have on the team in order to help things run properly.
It’s obvious that this 28-year-old has a ton of professional basketball experience. Morris’ level of expertise was almost not fair against Cleveland’s youth. I don’t see a reason why the Spurs would add him to their NBA roster but he’ll probably get a training camp invite somewhere with a real chance of landing a spot on a team.
Another 28-year-old, Robinson still has an impressive physique and decent enough fluidity. Tonight, he appeared to always be the strongest player on the court. But the issues that have derailed his career are still there: he makes slow decisions, isn’t explosive and doesn’t have good feel for the game. That’s a difficult trio of truths to overcome, especially as the league trends smaller, smarter and more athletic.
Even compared to the 28-year-olds, Ledbetter is ancient for summer league play. However, the 31-year-old’s knowledge of the Spurs system, his tenacity on defense and his ability to get the team into the right sets really helped the summer league Spurs get the win.
I didn’t have any issues with Ahearn’s coaching job. He gave the young players a long leash but also didn’t allow anyone to get demoralized. He called plays for Walker down the stretch, which helped the Spurs ice the game. Let’s hope he continues to use the older dudes on the roster in complementary roles as he did tonight.