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The Armchair GM: What Could the Spurs do in the Draft, Part 1

Meet Uncle Festus
Meet Uncle Festus

I wouldn't be too disappointed if we traded some combination of our second round pick, DeJuan Blair, Gary Neal, or Tiago Splitter for Festus Ezeli. I watched him towards the end of the SEC regular season and some in the tourney. He's a project for sure, but he played solid defense. Here's some quotes from Draft Express:

Defensively, Ezeli does a nice job utilizing his strength at the rim and his quickness away from it for the most part. Showing a solid motor denying entry passes in the post and quickly regaining good guarding position when his man does get the ball, Ezeli is a solid one-on-one defender down low. He still needs to cut down on his 5.2 fouls per-40 minutes pace adjusted and do a better job finishing plays by going straight up on the shot and then boxing out, but Ezeli's physical tools and energy are assets in the post defensively.

Away from the basket, Ezeli does a decent job defending the pick and roll, and has the lateral quickness to keep up with the vast majority of the centers he's faced in the SEC not named Anthony Davis, but is still a bit too aggressive at times. The same can be said for the way he rotates from the weakside when attempting to block shots. Often taking himself out of position to get a rebound when contesting would be scorers in the paint, if Ezeli can improve his fundamentals, he has the tools to be a solid overall defender, which would only complement his presence as a shot blocker and capable one-on-one defender.

He lacks offensive polish, but he's improved dramatically each of the past two years. He does have a high turnover rate and his hands are questionable (but improving). He's not a good shooter, although his FT% improved drastically in the past two years. His two biggest weaknesses, though, are defending without fouling and defensive rebounding. He's not a bad rebounder, but he should be better.

That, to me, sounds like a solid young prospect with the defensive athleticism and developing offensive skill set that the Spurs really need going in to the future. Even as a rookie, he should be able to contribute for 15 minutes a game or longer, if he shows improvement in not fouling. Festus is currently projected by DraftExpress to go with the fourth pick of the second round to the Cleveland Cavaliers. I don't see that, though. The Cavs are relatively set at the big position, with Anderson Varejao, Omri Casspi, and Semih Erden. They are also projected to take another big towards the end of the first round. Our own PtR mock draft has him going 25th to the Memphis Grizzlies. My opinion is that if he is still available near the 20th pick, he's worth giving up a player, a prospect, and/or our second round pick. He could very well end up another draft day steal. There are a number of teams picking around number twenty (or later) that could use one of Neal (Boston, Atlanta, Chicago and Miami), Blair (Boston, Orlando) or Splitter (Boston, Orlando, Miami and Atlanta). Ezeli can likely replace the production, or at least come close to it, of either Blair or Splitter, but also gives the Spurs upside in the future - something Splitter lacks entirely and Blair has only a limited amount of.