What We Learned From The Summer Spurs Loss To The Hornets

What an eventful night in Sacramento. The San Antonio Spurs not only traded for a veteran wing in Harrison Barnes, but they also played their first Summer League game. San Antonio’s front office couldn’t have timed the trade better. Spurs fans can focus on the shiny new player (and unprotected pick swap) instead of the 30-point win the Charlotte Hornets pulled off over their Summer League team.

Charlotte fielded a team full of second-year players with NBA experience. The Spurs’ summer team is loaded with rookies and G League players looking to establish themselves. Typically, teams with more NBA experience win in Summer League, and Saturday night proved that concept. San Antonio couldn’t find any offensive rhythm in a 97-65 loss to Charlotte.

The Spurs of the summer shot just 27.8% from the field and 20.7% from deep in the loss. They shot just 62.5% of their free throws. To call it a cold shooting night is an understatement. San Antonio struggled to create open chances on offense, and when they did, they didn’t convert many of them. In atypical fashion, the Spurs had just 10 assists to go along with 14 assists.

Three of the team’s 10 assists came from first-round pick Stephon Castle. All eyes were on the rookie as he showed glimpses of his potential. He finished the game with 12 points, six rebounds and a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Castle hit two of his four three-pointers, but shot 4 of 12 from the field. According to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio-Express News, the Spurs plan to sit Castle and Sidy Cissoko for their Sunday night game against the Kings.


  • Castle looked extremely comfortable with the ball in his hands on Saturday night. He faced pressure defense from Nick Smith Jr. and was able to use his grip to keep the ball safe. He was excellent at creating space in the pick and roll. He created offensive advantages by getting into the paint and finding his teammates. He made some impressive passes to the Spurs bigs and some nice one-handed passes to shooters in the corners. His ability to run the point is a big part of his development and something to watch during Summer League.
  • Castle struggled to score once he got into the paint. He was aggressive in the body of Charlotte’s rim protectors, but couldn’t finish at the rim. At UCONN, Castle was good at getting into the paint and finishing with power at the rim or touch in the mid-range. He still needs to work on being a creative finisher in the paint. It’s good to see him be aggressive and assertive early in his career. That aggressiveness also showed in his willingness to shoot the ball from long. He hit a logo three and a pull-up jumper from long in the pick and roll. He needs to continue taking those shots in the summer. Castle’s only turnover came when he hesitated to shoot from long. San Antonio will be better off if he’s a threat to shoot, even if he doesn’t shoot 40% from three.
  • Defensively, Castle showed what scouts rave about. He flew around screens and stayed with his man on the ball. He took a deflection that eventually led to a steal and a basket on the other end. He scrambled for an offensive rebound that led to a basket for the Spurs. There were a few mental lapses off the ball, but that’s normal for a rookie adjusting to the NBA game. Castle will need some time to learn the ropes before he can become the full-fledged lockdown perimeter defender he looked like in college.
  • Sidy Cissoko struggled in his first game back after knee surgery. He finished with 8 points on 1 of 6 shooting from the field. He struggled to find ways to impact the game offensively. He still isn’t a long-range threat and hasn’t found a way to generate offense with the ball in his hands. He still looks strong and athletic, which makes him a competitive defender. The offensive end needs to develop to become an NBA rotation player.
  • Jameer Nelson Jr. had some nice plays in the pick and roll. He was one of the few Spurs players who looked comfortable with the ball in his hands. Luke Avdalovic came off the bench and hit a couple of three-pointers. The Spurs are going to need all the shots they can get this summer. David Duke Jr., RaiQuan Gray and DJ Horne all sat out Saturday. Those three players seemed like important parts of the roster on paper. Maybe we’ll see more of them if Castle and Cissoko miss Sunday’s game.
  • Spurs second-round pick Harrison Ingram had a rough first game of NBA action. He had 3 points and 7 rebounds in the loss. San Antonio gave him some ball-handling drills to show off the versatility that made him an interesting second-round bet. He struggled to create separation with the ball in his hands and couldn’t break free for open looks from long range. It’s typically tough for role players to adapt to the NBA game. Expect Ingram to find ways to contribute on both ends of the court this summer.

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