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Dominick Barlow Could Make Impact for San Antonio Spurs In Spirit of Learning

As the San Antonio Spurs prioritize learning and development over winning, Dominick Barlow is making a case that he should get a share of minutes.

The San Antonio Spurs are using this season to see what works and what they have on their hands. Victor Wembanyama is a prospect who should not be rushed, and a player of his type has never been seen in the NBA before. Gregg Popovich and company are just trying to see what exactly they have.

Jeremy Sochan, a 6-9 power forward, is running point guard. He has never done that before, and the move to have him run the offense is especially puzzling after Tre Jones had a breakout season as the full-time starter last year.

The San Antonio Spurs' starting unit (minus Devin Vassell) stands in a huddle on the court at Frost Bank Center.

The San Antonio Spurs are 3-17.

But, again, this is a year for experimentation. Results be damned the Spurs want to see all of their options moving forward. It’s progress by education.

The Spurs decided to roll the dice on the chronically injured Zach Collins in 2021, and he has emerged as a legitimate NBA center. So much has the risk paid off that the Spurs extended him this offseason.

While Collins is posting respectable numbers, the Spurs are not winning. Collins was supposed to be a physical rim protector on defense and a center who could space the floor on offense. He is averaging under one block per game on a defense that allows the 11th most points in the paint, and on offense, well, he is shooting a career-worst 25 percent from deep on more attempts than he has ever taken.

On the plus side, Collins is mobile and moves the ball rather well, creating opportunities for those around him. Plus, his willingness to shoot from distance bails out failed drives, as he manages to get open for three quite often.

Collins has revealed himself to be an adequate center and has done an excellent job of staying healthy. But there is not much else to learn from him this season, and the progress by education needs new talents to test.

The San Antonio Spurs called up second-year big man Dominick Barlow from the Austin Spurs. Barlow is an undersized center at 6-9, but in a lineup with Wembanyama, anyone else will look short. In seven games with the main squad this season, Barlow has only posted 1.1 points a game in very limited minutes. In the G League, he is a whole different player.

He is second in the league in points behind Emoni Bates, with 26.3 per game. To that, he adds seven rebounds and a block. He is shooting an insane 78 percent at the rim and makes a solid 36 percent of his threes, although he isn’t as eager to shoot as Collins.

Barlow can run the floor rather well, power his way to the rim, and bring more athleticism than anyone on the roster. The only thing he needs to add is some confidence to his shot. If he can manage that, then there’s no reason he can’t establish himself as a rotation player for the Spurs moving forward.

The best way to see what talents he has after he blew up the G League? Throw him in the starting lineup for a couple of games. In six Summer League games, he averaged 15.8 points but did not take a single three-pointer. To his credit, his defense was rather good.

In the spirit of learning, the Spurs should throw Barlow into the fire. At this point, there’s not much to lose, but the benefits are apparent.