Four Spurs questions are heading into the offseason

With Summer League now in the review mirror, we’re officially in what’s known as the offseason lull, where very little happens as basketball fans wait for the summer heat (if you’re in the northern hemisphere) until October and a new NBA season to roll around. While there may still be some free agent activity, things will remain mostly quiet, but a few questions remain unanswered for the Spurs.

Will Devin Vassell sign a contract extension?

This seems more like a question of “when” than “if.” One free agency move that Spurs fans are expecting but has yet to happen is Devin Vassell’s rookie contract extension, which would start at the start of the 2024-25 season. A max contract for him would be worth 25% of the salary cap, which would be approximately $34 million per year right now, but that number would increase by the salary cap next year when the contract goes into effect.

This doesn’t mean Vassell is a max player or will demand a max contract (it’s just a point of reference), but he appears to be the Spur with the highest upside outside of Victor Wembanyama and part of the main core. If he is indeed part of their future plans, the Spurs need to tie him down, but there should be no panic over how long it takes. They have until the start of the regular season to reach an agreement, and players waiting until October to sign extensions is nothing new. Expect Vassell to eventually sign one, whether it’s tomorrow or October 23rd, and even if it doesn’t happen this year, there’s always next summer to work with him. (And for anyone concerned about his knees, it was apparently nothing significant that will have no lingering effects, only an arthroscopic problem.)

What will the starting lineup look like?

With the bulk of the Spurs roster likely set, the most debated question has been who will be in the Spurs starting lineup on Day 1. Top overall pick Victor Wembanyama will definitely start at power forward (he’s not ready to bang with NBA centers down low), and Gregg Popovich has already said Zach Collins will be the starting center, so assuming those two facts remain true? Someone from last season’s primary starting lineup will have to move to the bench, be it Vassell, Tre Jones, Keldon Johnson or Jeremy Sochan.

Vassell’s job might be the safest, if only because of the aforementioned upside and that he’s the best shooter of the bunch. Sochan also shares the potential upside and can play multiple positions despite being labeled a power forward, so it could come down to Tre Jones and Keldon Johnson, both of whom will return on new contracts. If the Spurs feel they need a true point guard on the floor, Jones is the man. If they want to get experimental and just want their five best players on the field regardless of position, Johnson would start. Both seem selfless enough to accept 6th man roles, so it will be fascinating to find out which direction they go.

Who wins rotation minutes?

This is shaping up to be a very deep list. Let’s start with the big men. We’ve already discussed three likely starters in Wemby, Sochan and Collins, but there’s a lot more where that came from. Also back from last season’s squad are Charles Bassey, Sandro Mamukelashvili and Khem Birch to round out the PF/C positions, not to mention restricted free agent Dominick Barlow, who put on a show in Las Vegas.

Moving to the wings, whether Johnson starts or not, where will the minutes for Doug McDermott, Reggie Bullock, Cedi Osman and Julian Champagnie come from? Malaki Branham is likely safe as Vassell’s backup at SG, but what if the Spurs want to get Blake Wesley more minutes? Does he back up Tre Jones (if he starts)? How about Cameron Payne and Devonte’ Graham at point guard? There will definitely be some deserving players who won’t get main rotation minutes next season because this team is so deep.

How will the Spurs trim the roster?

One way to solve at least part of the deadlock is to get down to the required 15 player limit for the main rotation. Having just waived Lamar Stevens, the Spurs currently sit with 17 guaranteed contracts plus Sir’Jabari Rice on two-way, with second-round pick Sidy Cissoko still unsigned and Barlow a restricted free agent. While Cissoko is probably a safe bet on a two-way contract if only because of the tight roster (even if he’s good enough to make the main roster), Barlow seems above a two-way contract now (or at least he and his agent probably think so), but will Spurs bite and offer him a guaranteed contract?

If they do, it will mean three players will have to go. Khem Birch is an easy bet as he and Barlow play the same position and he is yet to suit up for Spurs, but so what? Are there more deals on the horizon? Can the Spurs find new homes for veterans like McDermott, Graham, Payne, Osman, etc. who may fall out of the rotation if the Spurs decide to go young?

It’s impossible to know what their plans are at this point, which leaves us with a lot to think about over the next three months.

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