SLAM x Panini Rookie Spotlight: Spurs’ Josh Primo

with the 12the selection in the 2021 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs select… Joshua Primo.

Joshua Prime?

The 18-year-old from Alabama?

The one who averaged just 8.1 points per game?

Nobody, not even the “experts”, saw it coming. Primo was projected as a late first round player. Spurs fans were confused. Many were angry. Many more were critical. You can just read the answers to the tweet below

Spurs general manager Brian Wright told the media that his team was looking for the prospect with the “best long-term potential ceiling.” Primo was the youngest player in the draft. Additionally, San Antonio looked to add another versatile wing to its developing core. keyword: developing.

This was a choice about the future. The distant future. Primo would need time to grow up, the front office understood. But that was fine. The Spurs, as Wright alluded to, were in no rush.

“Josh’s development timeline will be Josh’s development timeline. I think what we’re focused on is ultimately the kind of person he is, the work he’s going to put in to continue to improve his craft, and how he’s going to impact our team long-term, so there’s no pressure from us. he said, via “The pressure that he puts on himself is the pressure that he would constantly put on himself to be good. He wouldn’t be in this position if he didn’t push himself to work hard and improve. Again, he was a high school senior playing entry-level minutes in the SEC, so we think there’s a huge advantage there and he’ll continue to improve once we get him into the program.”

Well, he’s been in the program for nine months and the 6-4 guard has certainly continued to improve. He has spent significant time with the Austin Spurs, the Spurs’ G-League affiliate, and has been impressive as one of their main playmakers. This season, Primo has averaged 16.7 points (on 38.7 percent shooting from the field and 42.1 percent from 3), 5.9 assists and 1.6 steals. At the G League Winter Showcase in Las Vegas, he helped lead the Bulls to a victory over the highly touted Ignite team, which features several future lottery picks (as noted by Jonathan Tjarks in this story for the ringer, Primo is actually younger than Jaden Hardy and MarJon Beauchamp, who are both projected first-round picks in the 2022 Draft.) Primo finished with 23 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in the victory.

The rookie looks comfortable handling the ball and operating on pick-and-rolls. He is a good size for a guard, allowing him to finish at the rim at one end and guard multiple positions at the other. He spreads the floor as a perimeter threat and hits jumpers off the dribble.

Throughout March, he assumed a larger role in coach Popovich’s rotation. He averaged 6.6 points on 39 percent shooting amid a recent four-game winning streak (one crucial one that put the Spurs into the play-in tournament). Trainers have praised Primo’s composure, bravery and professionalism, especially for someone his age.

“Joshua has an amazing maturity, kind of a consistent demeanor,” Popovich told reporters in January after Primo had 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists against the Raptors. “He’s not impressed by the NBA or anything like that. He makes good decisions. He definitely knows how to play. He understands the game. It’s just a matter of becoming stronger and more aware that these are men and that they’re after your head, so to speak. Just to get used to that physicality and all that kind of stuff.

“He is not afraid to shoot. He makes good decisions. He’s a good passer,” Pop added. “He has some innate ways about him that let you know he understands what’s going on. He’s already pretty good at the pick-and-roll, for example. Sometimes it takes a player a couple of years to realize that. So I think it’s a maturity thing and I want to make sure he’s comfortable and not overwhelmed. He’s a respectful, quiet guy, so it’s going to take him some time to get a few things out of him, but he’s been wonderful.”

It may take some time, but that’s not a problem. The Spurs will remain patient. Primo is only 19 years old and he keeps getting better.

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