Because the basketball gods still haven’t blessed the NBA grounds with lockout-ending rain, and because I completed two week’s worth of work in the past three days (pat on the back), I had time to think about the Spurs’ draft strategies once again. While I have been somewhat critical of the front office in the past (no self-promoting link), I have recently tried to explore another position in the analysis of Pop, RC, and the rest of the gang.
Fans and non-fans alike have made obeisance to the genius of the Spurs’ FO in picking gems from the bottom of the draft heap. Manu, Tony, Hill, Blair,
and Scola are the notables (although it seems we also picked John Salmons, Leandro Barbosa, and Goran Dragic for other teams). However, unless Spurs staff spent an inordinate amount of time on foreign and underrated prospects, I’m beginning to think it didn’t have much to do with scouting. Well, at least, that’s the idea I’m exploring.
Although I do not have names to prove it, I would think that through the years, the Spurs have changed scouts—unless of course we now hire Oklahoma City general managers to scrutinize international players for us. I’m not sure how scouts give their recommendations, but I would think these are mainly composed of numbers, personal background, videos, and a written report. I don’t think our scouts do anything different from all the others in the league. I mean, do we have a resident seer who gives out prophecies on certain prospects? Do we conduct DNA analysis to determine who has the most chance of hard court success? Do we retain the services of parapsychologists who use electromagnetic, ultraviolet, infrared, microwave, radio waves, Bluetooth, or what not to detect a draftee’s aura?
(The Spurs Director of Scouting)
I think not. Therefore, perhaps much of the difference the Spurs have from other teams comes from somewhere else. Although powers-inducing Alamo dust and nuclear radiation from the river are equally convincing reasons, I think it has something to do with our other personnel.
What remained the same through the years was the colas (Pop and RC) and Tim. I think these three have created an environment conducive to professionalism and development in the arena, locker room, practice floor, in games, and within the organization, in general. I think they have made it easier for new players to fit in, to eventually improve themselves (although at times, Pop’s a tad too hard on rookies not from the Virgin Islands), and to be dedicated to winning first and foremost.
(...along with this are the pillars of the organization.)
Sure, we’ve had two number one picks. But how many top picks turned out to be busts? At the time of the draft, few, if any, thought that those future busts wouldn’t pan out. They were predicted by experts and scouts from all across to be the top pick, or at least among the top. I don’t think we’ve ever had a number 1 pick who was initially projected to go in the bottom of the first round. Top picks are good players according to a majority consensus. Sure you might have disagree with them being picked first, but before the two were drafted, did you really think Kandi and Kwami would slip to the second round? I didn’t think so.
(If a team drafted them with the 37th pick, would they have been steals?)
So yes, maybe the Spurs only draft players who don’t figure to be a locker room distraction. Maybe the Spurs only draft players who have potential. Maybe the Spurs try to draft the best players in their picking spot. But who doesn’t? Who would want to pick a player with no perceivable talent, a head case, and with three felony convictions? I think the Spurs scouts are just like any other in the league. The difference is in at the top--coach, GM, and captain--and the environment they create. It's not necessarily the scouting.
We don’t just draft the best. We make them.