What to expect from the Spurs in the California Classic Summer League

It’s been 86 days or 2,064 hours since the San Antonio Spurs last played basketball, if you’ve been counting. Over the course of those 12 weeks, the franchise’s trajectory has changed drastically. The excitement surrounding the team is at an all-time high, and that hype should follow the team into their summer league run.

The Spurs travel to Sacramento for two games in the California Classic Summer League. Fans will get to see a variety of rookies, returning players with something to prove, and guys looking to earn a spot in the NBA. Noticeably absent from the roster in Sacramento is number one overall pick Victor Wembanyama, who will join the team in Vegas on July 7. Both California Classic games can be seen on ESPN.

San Antonio will face the Charlotte Hornets on July 3 at 7 p.m. CT for their first game. Number two overall pick i NBA Draft, Brandon Miller, headlines a tough Hornets team loaded with young talent. Nick Smith Jr., Amari Bailey, James Nnaji, Bryce McGowens and James Bouknight are all players to watch for Charlotte. Miller will have a lot to prove after being selected over Scoot Henderson, who many expected to be the better NBA player.

After a Fourth of July break, the Spurs will be back at it with a matchup against Los Angeles Lakers on 5 July at 19 CT. The Lakers roster has less NBA experience, but features some interesting players who will look to catch the team. Watch for D’Moi Hodge and Colin Castleton as two undrafted free agents who could make a big splash.

The Spurs roster also brings a lot of talent to the table. It can be divided into the following groups:

Returning NBA players

  • Dominick Barlow
  • Great Branham
  • Julian Champagne
  • Blake Wesley

Of the returning four, Wesley and Barlow probably have the most to prove. Branham has earned his place on the team with his strong play towards the end of the season. Champagnie just signed a 4-year, $12 million contract and shot the lights out at the end of the year.

For Branham It will be important to see improvements from him on the defensive end and to shoot the ball from deep. Branham has all the tools to dominate the summer league, as a solid shot creator and an improved playmaker. The best case scenario here is that he plays so well that the Spurs don’t need to send him to Vegas.

Champagnie has apparently grown two-inches (??) since last season. It will be interesting to see if his motion shooting can continue to improve. If the 6-9 wing can consistently hit shots and draw defenders with his gravity, he could play a big role with the team in the regular season.

If anyone has a lot riding on this summer, it’s Wesley, who has a real path to playing time next year. The sophomore guard must improve as a finisher at the rim and cut down on turnovers if he is to handle primary ball-handling opportunities. According to Wesley, he has already added 10 kilos of muscle this summer. If true, it could help him finish on the edge where he shot just 38% last season per. Synergy.

Barlow has yet to sign a new deal with San Antonio, but will play a big role in summer league. Last season he emerged strongly as an interior defender and finisher on the edge. He also has a soft touch in the midrange. Will the big man take threes this summer? In a roster looking for versatility on both offense and defense, Barlow has a chance to show how he fits that need.

Rookies with invitations to training camp

  • Sidy Cissoko
  • Charles of Bedia
  • Seth Miller
  • Sir’Jabari rice

San Antonio brings an exciting crop of rookies to summer league. All eyes will be on Cissoko, who has been hyped for a second-round draft pick. He played well for the G League Ignite last year, averaging 11.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting 45.5% from the field. The big question with Cissoko is his three-point shooting and defensive consistency. He has a lot of tools at 6-7, but never really put it all together last year. The main thing to watch for Cissoko is how much he makes mistakes and how Spurs unleash his passing skills.

Bediako and Millner are on exhibition-10 contracts and will be with the team through summer league and into training camp. Bediako is a threat in the paint who can erase shots at the rim and throw down thunderous dunks. Millner is a sharp-shooting wing who hit 42% of his threes in Toldeo last season.

Rice was one of the most exciting players in college basketball who could light it up off the bench at Texas. He is an older rookie who will be 25 years old when the season begins, but will be on a two-way contract with the Spurs. Rice was a knockdown shooter at UT, shooting 37% from three. That shooting ability made defenders consistently fall for his amazing pump fake. It will be fun to watch him fool opposing defenses in summer league.

International prospects

  • Josh Carlton
  • Justin Gorham
  • Sadik pretty much

In classic Spurs fashion, the summer league will have some international flair. They have brought three exciting prospects from Turkey, France and Lithuania. Kabaca is the one I have my eye on. At 6-10, the forward hit 44% of his three point attempts with Galatasaray last year. He has a good feel for the game and is a talented passer.

Carlton played for the Houston Cougars in college and is a physical big man at 240 pounds (or 108 kilograms using the metric system.) He will add some needed veteran physique to the squad. Gorham is another former Cougar who averaged 11 points and 8 rebounds in international play last year.

G-League Alumni

  • Chaundee Brown
  • Justin Kier
  • Javante McCoy

Austin’s influence will be felt on the summer league roster, especially with Brown and Kier, who are alumni of the Spurs’ G League program. McCoy will join the team from the South Bay Lakers. Last season he averaged 14 points while shooting 37% from three. McCoy and Kier bring shooting, while Brown is a big 6-6 guard who can play inside.

Undrafted rookies looking for deals

  • Logan Johnson
  • Erik Stevenson

Johnson and Stevenson are both 5-year college guards who played for great basketball programs. Johnson spent his senior year at St. Mary’s, and Stevenson was one of West Virginia’s best sharpshooters. Stevenson in particular will be interesting to watch. He was a skilled pull-up shooter in college shooting 42% on those attempts. His shooting could land him a spot in the NBA. If he gets hot in summer league, expect teams to be excited about the 6-4 guard.

There’s a lot of talent to be excited about on the Spurs’ summer league roster, and a handful of players who should see time with the NBA team come October. This summer will be an important test for players who want a chance to be part of what the team is building around Victor Wembanyama going forward.

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