On Highsight: Our FO Could Have Done Better

San Antonio’s front office, underrated as it is, is considered by many as one of the best in the league. Whether in terms of drafting relatively unknown players, or pulling off shrewd trades and signings, the Spurs organization is a model that everyone else wants to emulate. I, on the other hand, am a grumpy fan and want to nitpick: I think we could have done better. Read on to find more reasons to crucify me.

Since that fateful day in 1997, when the balls bounced our way, the Spurs, in my opinion, have had six quality picks. Yes, just six in almost thirty picks. Two of those, we all know, turned out to be coups--Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Here are my other four.

In 2002 the Spurs drafted John Salmons, who has recently proved to be a decent player, albeit playing for the Kings. That seems to be a decent draft pick, except when you realize (which you actually already know) that the Spurs immediately traded him. This could easily be seen as a mistake. But the fact that the person he was traded for, Speedy Claxton, was used extensively in the 2003 playoffs--including the championship-clinching game--balances it out a bit.

Claxton’s semi-heroics, however, would not have been too necessary had the Spurs not traded their next quality draft pick, the Brazilian Blur, Leandro Barbosa. One could argue that trading that pick eventually landed us a championship. We traded Barbosa to the Suns for a 2005 pick. Then, we used that pick to trade for Nazr Mohammed, who helped us win the 2005 championship. This is valid, but weak: Although he started a lot of games, Nazr’s numbers could have easily been replaced by Rasho and Horry and/or another big. Besides, that 2005 pick turned out to be David Lee. I would definitely take Barbosa over Claxton, and David Lee over Mohammed.

George Hill also proved to be a good pick at the end of the first round in 2008--certainly a lot better than the PG picked at around the same spot four years earlier, Beno Udrih. The Slovenian guard hasn’t been quite the player that the Spurs had hoped he would be. Hill, on the other hand, seems to impress his coaches more and more each day.

The sixth quality pick, of course, is Luis Scola. We messed that up. Enough said.

That gives us the six quality picks I was talking about: Manu, Tony, Salmons, Scola, Barbosa, and Hill. Three of those, we traded. What makes it worse is that aside from those draft hits that we traded, there is a number of draft misses that could have been used for very good players instead. In 1998, we passed on Earl Boykins, Mike James and Brad Miller. That could’ve been 10 pts 4 assists, or 12-8-3. Instead, we got Derrick Dial, who as an NBA veteran, barely made noise in the D-League. In 2000 we picked Chris Carrawell, who never played, over Michael Redd. In 2001 we drafted Bryan Bracey instead of Carlos Arroyo, Jamario Moon, or Andres Nocioni. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. Of course, as this post’s title suggests, I know that highsight is 50/50. But still, looking back, I can say that we could have done so much better.

People, Spurs fans or not, have been praising the Spurs FO for their wily picks and excellent moves. But this shows how the FO isn’t really the draft thief everyone made them out to be. We’re still on a wait-and-see approach on the verdict on Ian Mahinmi, Tiago Splitter and our 2009 draftees. Blair seems promising and will probably contribute a lot this season, but even if you count him, that makes the FO seven for 28, or 25%. Considering that a team basically has two draft picks a year, that means that we’ll get one good player every two years. That’s just not good enough for this hypercritical fan.

Go ahead, Spurs FO. Keep that up and I’ll take to rooting for the Knicks.

Okay, maybe not.

Here's the raw (i.e., unaesthetically formatted) data I used. What I deem were good moves are in bold, similarly colored cells are corollary moves, and players in parentheses were drafted by another team.

Tim Duncan 1997 1
(Charles O'Bannon) 1997 32 Traded to Detroit; We could've gotten Capt Jack
Felipe Lopez 1998 24 Traded to Vancouver for Antonio Daniels
Derrick Dial 1998 52 D League; Over Earl Boykins, Mike James, Brad Miller
Leon Smith 1999 29 Traded to Dallas for the rights to Gordon Giricek and draft pick; over Chris Andersen, Raja Bell
Manu Ginobili 1999 57
(Dalibor Bagaric) 2000 24 Pick traded to Chi
Chris Carrawell 2000 41 Over Michael Redd, Brian Cardinal, Jason Hart; didn’t play
Cory Hightower 2000 54 Traded to LA for future picks
Tony Parker 2001 28
Robertas Javtokas 2001 56 Still in Europe (born in 1980); from LA
Bryan Bracey 2001 58 Over Carlos Arroyo, Maurice Evans, Jamario Moon, Andres Nocioni
John Salmons 2002 26 Traded to Philly for Speedy Claxton
Luis Scola 2002 55 From LA
Randy Holcomb 2002 56 Traded to Philly for Speedy Claxton
Leandro Barbosa 2003 28 Traded to Suns for the pick that turned out to be David Lee
(Andreas Glyniadakis) 2003 30 Pick traded to Detroit for Menkee Bateer
Beno Udrih 2004 28 Over Varejao, Chris Duhon, Trevor Ariza
Viktor Sanikidze 2004 42 From Atlanta for the pick that turned out to be Cenk Akyol
Romain Sato 2004 52 Pick from Grizz for Gordon Giricek; He has been waived
Sergei Karaulov 2004 57 Overseas
Ian Mahinmi 2005 28 Over David Lee, Brandon Bass, Ronny Turiaf, Von Wafer, Monta Ellis
(David Lee) 2005 30 Pick traded to NY, along with Malik Rose, for Nazr
(Cenk Akyol) 2005 59 Traded for Sanikidze
(Mardy Collins) 2006 29 Pick traded to NY, along with Malik Rose, for Nazr; we could've gotten Steve Novak, Boobie Gibson, Leon Powe, Paul Millsap
Damir Markota 2006 59 Traded to Bucks for 2007 pick (Marcus Williams); over JJ Barea, Walter Herrmann
Tiago Splitter 2007 28 Over Carl Landry
Marcus Williams 2007 33 From Bucks; Over Glen Davis, Josh McRoberts, Marc Gasol
Giorgos Printezis 2007 58 Traded to Toronto for 2008 pick
George Hill 2008 26 Over Mario Chalmers
Goran Dragic 2008 45 From Toronto, traded to Phoenix for Malik Hairston and 2009 pick (Blair)
James Gist 2008 57 Over Joe Crawford*
(Rodrigue Beaubois) 2009 25 Pick traded to OK, along with Barry and Elson, for KT
DeJuan Blair 2009 37
Jack McClinton 2009 51
Nando De Colo 2009 53 Who we got for Scola
(Robert Vaden) 2009 54 Pick traded to Cha for Ely

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