2012 Las Vegas Summer League: Where the Spurs cash out

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Cory Joseph still running the show, still impressing. (Photo credit: Andrew Smith)

COX PAVILION — The San Antonio Summer Spurs came out with an improved performance on Saturday, a day after a disappointing loss to the Heat, but still fell to the Dallas Mavericks 82-76 in overtime.

Since I’ve been here in Las Vegas, and Kawhi Leonard has not, the Spurs have been winless. You might think that would be disheartening for me, and if these were regular season games it might. Luckily, the summer league is like Whose Line Is It Anyway, where the teams are made up and the scores don’t matter. I was there to watch the development of guys like Cory Joseph and Ryan Richards, and see if anyone was deserving of a roster spot.

Jacque Vaughn returned to the Spurs’ summer league bench for San Antonio’s loss to the Mavericks. For several teams in their final game in Vegas, their best players didn’t dress or played limited minutes. Not the Spurs. Cory Joseph started yet again and played 34 minutes in his summer league finale, notching 18 points on 7-13 from the field to go along with five assists and seven rebounds.

For a team as large as the one the Spurs brought to Las Vegas (15 players total), minutes are hard to distribute. We’ve seen some guys play heavy minutes in one game and little in the next. Against the Heat, Alexis Ajinca and JaMychal Green were relied upon heavily while Ryan Richards didn’t log a minute. Luke Zeller started earlier in the week and didn’t play at all on Friday or Saturday.

For Richards, it was easily his best game of the week. The 2010 second round pick finished with nine points and four rebounds in almost 14 minutes. While he looked more comfortable than he had previously, it was clear a week wasn’t near enough time to get a grasp of the system.

“Ryan had a good week,” Jacque Vaughn said after the game. “His minutes fluctuated a little bit, but it was good to have him being a part of the Spurs system.”

The biggest winner of the week had to be Joseph. Coming into the summer league, more than a few fans were questioning the selection of Joseph with a first round pick last summer. He looked overwhelmed when he played with the Spurs and didn’t quite impress in Austin in the ways guys like Malik Hairston and Ian Mahinmi did.

And then you remember that he’s just 20 years old.

“He’s improved, he’s matured,” Jacque Vaughn said. “That’s a good thing for him is that he’ll stay hungry and thirsty during the offseason and he’ll continue to try to get better.”

Now CoJo has probably worked his way into San Antonio’s long-term plans and raised his ceiling from borderline NBA player to possible starting point guard.

Joseph finished the week averaging 17 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game, putting himself in the conversation for whatever sort of All-Tournament or All-Summer League team is named. Even beyond the numbers, Joseph has shown off improved floor vision, leadership and ability to finish with contact. Outside of his 10 turnover game on Friday night, it’s been a dream week for CoJo.

For the Spurs, things couldn’t have gone better. They had a chance to see what Kawhi Leonard could do when empowered, gave Joseph ample floor time to get reps and no one got hurt. With the roster San Antonio brings back and the development of Leonard and Danny Green, it’s been a pretty strong July for the silver and black.

  • STIJL

    Barring no trade action as of yet to help land a more athletic big man to the rotation…I’d agree with your assessment.

    But is a new season of an improved Kawhi and Green along with a more system experienced Diaw and a possible third string pg in CoJo going to improve the Spurs chances next season to the point they can realistically contend with they’re current front court rotation?

    The unknown of whether the Spurs will be able to pull off a trade that lands what many are hoping they can get in the way of that elusive athletic big man I guess is now what I will be anticipating.

    But I’m taking the advise that somebody else told me…”Don’t hold your breath”.

  • Nate

    Haven’t seen he last game yet, but I was looking for much more from Richards. Maybe it was jitters, but he didn’t pass the eye test. Air balls and missed block outs couldn’t be masked by his hustle. He also looked smaller than advertized. Hope I’m wrong.

  • MrNiko

    He’s 6’11 in shoes, according to draft express

  • Tom S.

    He actually grew since that Draft Express report came out.

  • STIJL
  • theghostofjh

    “But is a new season of an improved Kawhi and Green along with a more
    system experienced Diaw and a possible third string pg in CoJo going to
    improve the Spurs chances next season to the point they can
    realistically contend with they’re current front court rotation?”

    Since they’re hell-bent on keeping Blair’s ass nailed to the bench in the playoffs, and the perennial playoff under-performer, Bonner, in the rotation, hell NO. If they plan to continue this pattern, a new big is pretty much mandatory to truly contend in my view. “This big” does not need to be a great player, just a hybrid 3/4 that can play a 15+ mpg. role, and give us some more athleticism and quickness on the defensive end, particularly in the playoffs. Even the likes of Sam Young, Dominic McGuire, or Lou Amundson (of the UFA’s still left) could potentially help the team better counter the speed & athleticism of the OKC and Miami offenses.

  • ThatBigGuy

    If you can’t find a FA big man, the sign a bunch of FA guards and trade for a decent big. The Spurs are stockpiling assets out the wazoo. They have got to have something going on behind the scenes.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/XDV3YRGZMGQ3LSPIKFBTQ3AAOM Tyler

    Agreed. He just doesn’t seem to “get it”.

    He’s already 21 (about the age of a junior in college) and I have yet to see a discernible NBA skill. I have my doubts.

  • JustinFL
  • nanaboomadie

    I agree with “the ghostofjh” if we cant get a big then Richards will do fine. He dont have to much help except play defense and be athletic and he is both. I think he will be fine. With a good preseason training with Timmy and learning the system He will be just fine I think.

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  • theghostofjh

    I didn’t say anything about Richards!