Everything you've ever wanted to know about the Spurs 2014 Draft

What do Pop and RC have up their sleeves for us this time? - Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Taking stock of the current roster, free agent decisions, evaluating the performance of overseas draft picks and the strength of the 2014 draft class, discussing foreign prospects for the 2014 draft, and finally looking at potential draft picks and rumors.

While the rest of the Spurs organization and fans have rightly been focused on the 2014 NBA Finals, the Front Office has been hard at work preparing for the NBA Draft. For every draft there are key dates, including the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (April 16th through April 19th), the April 27th NBA Early Entry Eligibility Deadline, the May 20th Draft Lottery, the NBA Combine (May 14th through May 18th), the June 16th NBA Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline, and finally the draft itself on Thursday, June 26th 2014. As each date passes, the draft process evolves and alters the complexion of not only that draft, but of future drafts to come. This year is no exception. During the NBA Finals, the NBA Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline occurred on June 16th at 5PM EST. This date is of particular importance for foreign draft prospects, many of whom declare, but many of whom also withdraw as the reality of their draft status emerges.

In turn, we will take status of the current roster pending free agent decisions, evaluate the performance of overseas draft picks, evaluate the strength of the 2014 draft class, discuss specific foreign prospects that both withdrew as well as remained in the 2014 draft, and finally discuss potential draft prospects and rumors.

Summary of Current Roster

The Spurs just won the 2014 NBA Title with the most complete team effort in recent memory. This roster does not need to be "overhauled" or "rebuilt" or "retooled". All roster spots have value, and a role to play. The consequence of such a tight-knit roster is that trades become more complicated, because for every loss, an equivalent replacement must be found. This article will assume that Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter (6 players) will certainly return for the next NBA Season, and that Jeff Ayers and Marco Belinelli will likely return for next season. Boris Diaw, Patty Mills and Cory Joseph are more likely than not to return as well. Both Boris and Patty are free agents, but both players seem to be happy in San Antonio, and are generally viewed in the League as "Spurs System" players that would have significantly lower value if separated from San Antonio. Clearly, this is an assumption that requires an in depth understanding of the Spurs Salary Cap and Free Agent situation as recently described. Players that may or may not return include Austin Daye who has only a partially guaranteed contract for next season, Matt Bonner who is a free agent, Aron Baynes who is a free agent, and Damion James who is a potential training camp casualty. The Spurs are likely to enter next season with at least 1 or 2 free roster spots, meaning that for any previous draftee or 2014 draft prospect that is signed, one player will need to be released. This assumes that the competition committee and the union will not agree to expanding rosters prior to next season.

Performance of Overseas Draftees

Prior to evaluation of the current draft prospects, it is rational to examine the performance of previous draft selections overseas to evaluate performance, NBA readiness, and the possibility that previous draft selections can either contribute, or can be traded for other assets. Recent draftees include DeShaun Thomas (2013), Livio Jean-Charles (2013), Davis Bertans (2011), Adam Hanga (2011), Ryan Richards (2010), Erazem Lorbek (obtained in 2011) as illustrated in Table 1 below.

Table 1

P

Team

G

M

2%

3%

Rb

Ast

PF

ST

BS

TO

Pts

DT

Nanterre

30

22.0

48.8

37.6

3.9

1.1

1.7

0.2

0.0

1.1

12.2

DB

Partizan

17

23.1

49.2

48.3

2.4

1.4

3.1

0.5

0.2

1.6

13.4

AH

Laboral

26

16.9

62.9

33.3

2.4

1.0

2.3

1.0

0.6

1.0

5.8

RR

Ikaros

19

24.4

43.8

28.2

4.9

0.6

2.8

0.4

0.2

1.6

9.5

EL

RCB

33

15.8

55.7

38.0

2.5

0.8

1.6

0.5

0.1

0.4

7.4

P = Player, G = Games, M = Minutes, 2% = 2 point FG%, 3% = 3 point FG%, Rb = rebound, PF = personal foul, ST = steal, BS = blocked shot, TO = turn-over, Pts = points.

Deshaun Thomas remains an elite scoring forward who may be incapable of defending either the SF or PF positions in the NBA. It isn’t a matter of effort, it is a matter of ability, as his length, leaping ability and lateral quickness are very similar to Matt Bonner‘s. Livio Jean-Charles is recovering from ACL surgery, and will play for Tony Parker’s ASVEL in the French ProA League in 2014. Davis Bertans also is recovering from ACL surgery, and so only his Serbian League numbers are provided. Bertans is quite promising, and would be in a direct competition for a roster spot with Austin Daye and Matt Bonner. I would think that only one of the three would be needed on the roster, and Bertans is 22 years old. Adam Hanga recovered from arthroscopic knee surgery due to a torn meniscus, and played only part of the season in the ACB in Spain. Ryan Richards continued his nomadic odyssey through various basketball leagues and teams as a "stretch 4" that can neither shoot the 3-point shot (28.2%) nor defend. Erazem Lorbeck was originally an Indiana Pacers second round selection in 2005 who was obtained in the now famous Kawhi Leonard - George Hill trade along with Davis Bertans. Due to his age and contract with Barcelona, he is likely to remain in Europe permanently. Conspicuously missing from this data set is an overseas prospect with the ability to defend, and in particular block shots.

A few general comments concerning the 2014 NBA Draft

The closer the draft, the more closely the prospects are scrutinized. As such, there is a general "curve" for every NBA draft class. Far in advance of the draft, the class is considered to be "stellar", and the valuations of the draft drop, particularly following individual workouts with the teams. Usually right before the draft, comments abound that this draft class has not lived up to the "hype", and may actually be a relatively weak draft class and numerous GM‘s are considering trading out of the draft altogether due to inadequate depth of talent. Once the draft occurs and players are seen with actual NBA competition, then a more accurate understanding of the class emerges. Several years after the draft, usually at least 4 years for domestic players (And up to 5 or 6 years for foreign players!), an accurate picture of what transpired and the relative value of the players can be determined. Because hyperbole is often associated with the draft, it is common for various draft commentators to be label a draft class "the weakest draft class ever" or "a historically great draft class". Such comments are usually not worth the breath used to utter the phrases. This particular year is rather odd, in that the previous draft class really was particularly weak, and that this class really is particularly strong.

There are also a few "rules of thumb" that are generally true, but can easily be broken for specific examples. One rule of thumb is that it is very unusual for a domestic player taken higher than 15 to be a "franchise" player. The reasoning behind this rule is that there are so many pairs of eyes watching all of the domestic players, that the talent evaluations are usually very thorough and very detailed, and thus quite accurate. Kawhi Leonard is an exception to the general rule. Secondly, because far fewer NBA talent evaluators see foreign players, and for much smaller periods of time, the assessments are much more varied, and much less accurate. What this means is that it is particularly hazardous to a GM’s career to take a foreign prospect with a top 10 pick, because the risk of failure is very high. Darko Milicic is a classic example. However, later on in the first round, foreign prospects are far more likely to have "up-side" than a domestic player, even if the potential for complete failure is also much higher. Tony Parker is a great example.

In this particular draft, the top 2-3 picks are likely to be very good, and one may actually turn out to be a great player. The next 5-8 picks are players that could make a solid contribution to an NBA title in the right situations and with the right environment. Think second or third bananas on a contending team. The next 5-8 players are likely to be rotation players. After that, from about selection 20 through the last pick of the second round, many of the prospects have distinct strengths and weaknesses, and the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For example, there are plenty of ball dominant, under-sized scorers in this draft that could be of significant value to non-playoff teams, but that would be of no value at all to the Spurs. Likewise, players that may be very attractive to the Spurs, Heat, or Bulls may not be at all attractive to Sacramento, Detroit, Philadelphia, Orlando, or Boston. There is always an age-old argument about talent versus needs, and the current assessment for this draft class would suggest that for numbers below selection 20 in the draft, a greater emphasis should be placed on overall talent, and above 20, specific team needs are probably dominant. This year, it is almost certain that at least one team, and maybe more (!), may take players prior to the Spurs first round draft selection that the Spurs might leave undrafted at 60. Another oddity about this draft is the abundance of SF players in the later part of the first round that all have very similar draft grades. Thus, most mock drafts cluster all of these players together, ignoring the possibility that one or more teams may be interested in either a PG, or a big with rim-protecting capability. It would not be a surprise at all to see a series of reaches or trades due to this clustering of similar players at the end of the first round.

Foreign Prospects that remained and withdrew at the deadline

Several talented foreign players withdrew their name at the draft deadline, but none was as significant as Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis is widely considered in Spain to be a young version of Pau Gasol, and sure-fire high lottery pick if he were to wait for another year or two. It was very surprising that he entered the draft, and likewise was not surprising that he withdrew at the deadline, although it was odd that he did not accept an invitation to the Adidas Eurocamp in Treviso. However, this type of "in-and-out" behavior is common with younger European prospects. What was also interesting were the number of prospects that announced they were withdrawing from the draft, only to change their mind and remain in the draft at the last minute. Both Nikola Jokic and Damien Ingles did this, and it is a subject of significant debate. Did they really change their mind at the last minute after being contacted by an NBA team, or were these planned maneuvers in advance? Are these antics devised by their agents, or are they real? In general, these sorts of situations usually imply that the player will be taken, but perhaps in the second round rather than in the first round. Last year, 15 foreign early entry prospects remained in the draft at the deadline, and 10 were selected in the draft. This year, 13 foreign prospects remained in the draft, including: Dante Exum (1-5), Dario Saric (10-12), Jusuf Nurkic (late lottery), Clint Capela (15-25), Vasilje Micic (late first round?), Nemanja Dangubic, Damien Inglis, Nikola Jokic, and Artem Klimenko (All thought to be second round picks), Ojar Silins (possible second round pick?), and Bruno Caboclo, Michalis Kamperidis, and Lucas Mariano (undrafted?). While the last three are probably long shots to be drafted, Ojar Silins is from a well known Italian team, and attended the Adidas Eurocamp this year. Silins seems to fit into the same category as last year’s pick at 60, Janis Timma, who ultimately turned out to have a draft promise from the Memphis Grizzlies. Auto-Eligible foreign prospects that are likely to be drafted include Bogdan Bogdanovic, Walter Tavares, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Ioannis Papapetrou, and possibly Cristiano Felicio (all second round picks). This leaves around 45 selections of domestic US players.

Spur Specific Rumors

There are persistent rumors from several different sources that the San Antonio Spurs have made a draft promise to Mitch McGary, and other GM’s are rumored to speculate that he has been discouraged from participating in workouts with other teams. Yes, this is a rumor of speculation, but it has been persistent for several months. As a prospect, McGary has a rather small body of work from just his freshman year at Michigan, declared for the NBA draft to avoid an NCAA drug suspension for marijuana, lost most of his current sophomore season with a back injury that has not completely healed, has significant limitations from an athletic standpoint, and projects to be a "blue collar" type of player that is willing to do "dirty work" such as defend and rebound the basketball. Honestly, if this is true, and that is a big "IF", I have no idea what RC Buford was thinking. I am hoping this is a smoke-screen, and another team is the guilty party, but this looks questionable at best at this point. Although I am not a fan of comparisons, the best case scenario here is a Tiago Splitter type of player, and the worst case scenario is an Aron Baynes type of player, but with character and back issues. The Spurs are known to make use of such a draft promise (see Cory Joseph). As a general rule of thumb, making a draft promise early in the process is usually a mistake. For example, players taken after Cory Joseph in 2011 include Jimmy Butler, Chandler Parsons, and Isaiah Thomas. The Spurs have also interviewed Kyle Anderson, Shabazz Napier, and Elfrid Payton. Workouts include Markel Brown, Jarnell Stokes, Walter Tavares, Devyn Marble, and Thanasis Antetokounmpo.

If the Spurs DON’T take Mitch McGary in the first round, who might they take?

Walter Tavares would be an obvious thought, due to a lack of rim protection stashed overseas. Vasilje Micic is a PG with great vision that might fit well into the Spurs system. Among domestic players, Glenn Robinson has great athletic potential that can not be taught, and he might be useful in defending specific athletes that give the Spurs trouble, such as Westbrook and Harden. Another thought would be Bogdan Bogdanovic, who is a SG that can shoot, pass, and exerts effort on defense. Bogadanovic, who plays for Partizan like Davis Bertans, recently finished up the best-of-five Serbian Championship series versus his team’s arch rival, Red Star Belgrade. He absolutely carried Partizan on his back. For example, Bogdanovic scored 34, 33, 20, and 36 points after averaging just 16 points per game in the Serbian League. He also shot 45 free-throws in 4 games. I like a player that can dramatically increase his performance when the stakes are high against quality opposition. Red Star Belgrade is a quality team that will most likely be in the Euroleague next year. This is very impressive. Bogdanovic can shoot, both 2% and 3%, can get to the line, and can create for others as illustrated in Table 2.

Table 2

League

G

M

2%

3%

Rb

Ast

PF

ST

BS

TO

Pts

Adriatic

24

30.9

45.4

32.5

4.0

3.7

2.3

1.3

0.3

2.0

14.8

Euroleague

23

31.0

42.6

37.0

3.7

3.7

2.6

1.6

0.2

3.4

14.8

Serbia

19

28.0

51.3

29.9

3.3

3.9

2.6

0.9

0.4

2.0

16.1

Serbian Champ. Game 1

1

31

55.6

60.0

5

5

5

0

1

3

34

Serbian Champ. Game 2

1

35

58.3

33.3

4

5

2

1

0

3

33

Serbian Champ. Game 3

1

36

30.0

33.3

4

1

2

0

0

1

20

Serbian Champ. Game 4

1

39

50.0

33.3

6

6

5

1

0

4

36

P = Player, G = Games, M = Minutes, 2% = 2 point FG%, 3% = 3 point FG%, Rb = rebound, PF = personal foul, ST = steal, BS = blocked shot, TO = turn-over, Pts = points.

Who might the Spurs take in the second round?  Almost impossible to guess, and they probably don’t even know. The picks may be dealt, or they may wait and see who falls to the end of the second round. A name from the workout list is somewhat likely, but is not required.

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