Every rebuilding team needs a prospect that comes out of nowhere and brings excitement. Your KJ McDaniels, Toney Douglases, Drew Eubankses (Trail Blazers version) showing up and bringing joy in horrible seasons. The losses are bad enough, but when no one is relieved of expectations by doing fun things, that’s when things get dire.
Spurs lacked this type of guy recently but found it in Charles Bassey. The big man is clearly not in San Antonio to be a savior or even necessarily a long-term piece, but that makes watching him bounce on the court all the more enjoyable, strange as that may seem.
The reality is that San Antonio doesn’t have a lot of fun players right now. They just don’t have the type of creative perspective or acrobatic athlete that makes it bearable to watch 82 regular season games without any playoff aspirations. There’s talent, of course, as Spurs have some good base guys, like Jakob Poeltl, Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson, and a bunch of solid complementary pieces. But everything they do must inevitably be framed in the context of reconstruction and what that means for the future. Even veterans who play well must be considered in the context of their market value. Everyone knows that this year basically only matters in terms of preparing for the next one, so it’s hard to stay in the moment.
Meanwhile, when Bassey sends the ball down fifth after a block that comes out of nowhere or angrily throws a dunk, it can be enjoyed on its own, as it largely exists outside the context of the rebuild. He just showed up in the middle of the season and it doesn’t matter if he gets fired up. Nobody really expects him to be a key cog in the future, so every good moment doesn’t need to be parsed. Like the other day he hit a mid-range jumper and that was exciting because it was just unexpected from that big random energy. It would be great if it was something he could do consistently, but it’s not. really doesn’t matter if it doesn’t. As unreasonable as it may seem, having someone to put down roots for without high expectations or even a genuine sense of attachment feels like a respite from the worries that come with rebuilding.
Or maybe it’s simpler than that and a big part of why Bassey seems like a welcome distraction is that he’s not the type of big guy Spurs have traditionally favored. He’s a rim runner with legit jumps that make him a lob threat and a rim protector even if he’s not always in the right spot on the floor. There haven’t been many guys who fit that profile in Spurs’ recent iterations. Drew Eubanks had some of that in him, but he had been around too long and on a team that was trying to win, so it became easier to focus on his flaws. Bassey feels new because he’s literally only played 16 games for Spurs. The shine will likely fade over time as well, maybe even later this season, but for now it’s still easy to just focus on the fun aspects.
Unfortunately, the big problem with any “play Bassey more because he’s fun” proposal is that it will be extremely difficult to do so because he is a center. Spurs have a great starter in Jakob Poeltl and have invested in Zach Collins, who is still trying to figure out if he can really get his career back on track if he can avoid injury. Playing two traditional big men together is next to impossible in the modern game, and going small is sometimes necessary, which is why Bassey had a few DNPs even in Poeltl’s absence. But at least for now, while there’s still time to do so, Spurs should just keep giving one of the few truly entertaining players they have as many minutes as possible.
Like most of the surprisingly fun-to-watch guys on rebuilding teams before him, Charles Bassey just might be a flash-in-the-pan player, someone who makes scoring plays for a terrible team and doesn’t have really a future in the NBA. . Hopefully it won’t – and in an admittedly small sample, some advanced statistics suggest it won’t – but it’s a distinct possibility.
It does not matter. Spurs are in the first year of their rebuild and half of the players currently on the roster are unlikely to be there this season. Bassey might be one of them, but for now he’s still in San Antonio helping out on the field and making things exciting for the fans, so we might as well enjoy it while we can.