The San Antonio Spurs have reportedly hired Dave Telep, one of the most well respected college basketball recruiting analysts and scouts in the country. Most recently, he worked for ESPN as a senior analyst. He also runs his own scouting shop.
This move is significant for a couple of reasons. First, the Spurs front office and coaching staff has been pillaged over the last couple of years, many of them responsible for scouting throughout the season. So new faces were inevitable, though it's pretty cool to see them think outside the box and go with a guy who was working for a media outlet. Second and more importantly, Telep's signing shows an increased interest in domestic scouting. (That isn't to say the Spurs weren't ever not interested in domestic scouting, so bear with me).
If you're unfamiliar with Telep's work, that's ok. Focusing on college basketball recruiting means he watches a ton on high school basketball in addition to college. It also means he watches prospects develop from possibly their sophomore year of high school through the time they enter the NBA Draft. That's not just watching a player's game develop, but also how they mature on the court and off. That's key for a team that focuses on character development as much as the Spurs do.
Back to that increased interest in domestic scouting thing. Here's a list of Spurs draft picks in the top 20 in the last 20 years:
-1997: Tim Duncan
-2010: James Anderson
-2011: Kawhi Leonard
That's three players considered high level prospects in the last 20 years. One was a slam dunk and the other two were talented prospects with noticeable flaws. What does this have to do with the future? Let's assume the Spurs have two years left with the Three Amigos core. After that, Duncan and Manu Ginobili probably retire and Tony Parker is a free agent. He might re-sign with the Spurs. At this point, it feels a little weird to think of him in another jersey. However, he'll also be 33 and presumably looking for one last big contract. Does it make sense for both sides to keep him if the Spurs are in any sort of rebuild (that isn't saying they'll definitely be in rebuild mode in two years).
This is where Telep comes in to play. If the Spurs are looking to rebuild, or even reload, they won't be able to rely on international talent that gets stashed overseas for two, three years or more. Given the recent age of top 20 or *gasp* lottery picks, the Spurs will still be selecting raw talent, but Telep's knowledge and experience monitoring players' development over several years will give the Spurs a better idea of how quickly a given player will develop, how much potential do they have left, what kind of leader they are, etc.
Drafting in the lottery and top 20 is great, because there's a higher level of talent then when drafting in the end of the first round and second round. However, when the Spurs are drafting in the top 20 they likely won't have Duncan, Ginobili and possibly Parker around. It means there's less room for screwing up because the franchise cornerstones won't be around and you can't rely on top flight free agents coming to a market like San Antonio.
Telep isn't a safety net for the Spurs once Duncan, Ginobili and maybe Parker aren't around. Far from it. He's another smart person with experience scouting players the Spurs don't have a ton of experience drafting. It may not seem like a big deal for a couple of years, but it's going to be crucial in a few years when we're saying "Kawhi Leonard and the rest of the Spurs."