Pondering the Spurs 2014 Draft

While sitting around waiting for the Sunday's Game 3 with OKC, I decided to ponder the Spurs draft prospects.

First, a few assumptions:

  1. Peter Holt remains the owner, Popovich remains the coach, and RC Buford remains the GM.
  2. Tony Parker will retire a San Antonio Spur. Duncan and Ginobli may retire soon, but I'm estimating at least another 3 years out of Parker.
  3. "Euroball" and the motion offense will remain, as will an emphasis on two-way players.
  4. Spurs philosophy will remain the same. Emphasis will be on continuity, character, specific skill sets that can contribute, and weaknesses that Forcier and Engelland can resolve.
  5. Spurs teams will be built around Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker. Big men are complementary, but a dominant big man is not expected to be drafted with the 30th, 58th, or 60th pick of the 2014 draft.
  6. Tim Duncan and David Robinson are once-in-a-generation-players. A "full value" replacement is not likely available, either by trade or by draft. A new team shape will be developed that is more perimeter oriented.
  7. Unless some other GM makes a crazy offer, the Spurs are most likely to "stay-put" and draft at their current draft slots.

Next, a few comments on current assets:

  1. Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker are the "franchise players", and fill the needs of starting SF and PG respectively.
  2. Tiago Splitter and Danny Green are quality role players, only to be traded at an extremely high price that no intelligent GM would offer.
  3. Boris Diaw is pretty unique, and for the right price may well re-sign with the Spurs.
  4. Davis Bertans is likely to come to San Antonio sooner rather than later, and is a likely replacement for Matt Bonner. Ryan Richards, Erezem Lorbeck and Adam Hanga are not likely to play for the Spurs anytime soon, if ever. Livio Jean-Charles is a longer term prospect, 2-4 years.
  5. Patty Mills may not ask for as much money as some expect, and the probability of retaining his services as a back-up scoring PG off the bench is rather high.
  6. One of Jeff Ayers and Aron Baynes will be retained, but likely not both. Baynes in particular might be attractive to Philly, Orlando, Atlanta or Utah for a second round pick.
  7. Austin Daye is eminently available, as he is an inferior version of Davis Bertans. Probably only worth a second round pick in 2014 or more likely 2015.
  8. DeShawn Thomas is not a Kawhi Leonard type. He more of scoring version of Boris Diaw without the defense, or Matt Bonner with a better midrange game but lower 3-point percentage. Longshot to claim a roster slot.
  9. Cory Joseph is a pretty good 3rd PG with good defensive credentials. He is available for the right price, meaning a late 1st round draft pick.

Next a ranking of specific needs:

  1. Athletic Wings - A back-up for Kawhi Leonard and/or Danny Green. Highest priority.
  2. A ball-handling/penetrating wing with good vision.
  3. A "high post" big man with superior passing skills and good defense.
  4. A "pick-and-pop" PF to spread the floor for Splitter.
  5. A defensive center with rim-protecting capability.

Some characteristics that are not desirable:

  1. A ball-dominant, SG in an under-sized PG body that personifies all the evils of AAU basketball. (Carson for example!)
  2. A "stretch-4" that lacks defensive skills.
  3. Drugs. Criminal history. Spurs are interested in winning championships, not dealing with bail bondsmen. No Mitch McGary.

Some possible Spur draft strategies, although most are more for the 2nd round rather than the first round:

  1. Just chill out and see who falls to the late first and late second rounds. Requires intensive preparation. Every year a foreign player falls due to a contract issue, or a young player comes out too early. (Jusuf Nurkic, Dario Saric, Glenn Robinson, Kyle Anderson or Jordan Adams?)
  2. Trade for player rotting on somebodies bench, or stashed overseas. (Luigi Datome, Rudy Gobert, Nemanja Nedovic, Glenn Rice Jr., Joffrey Lauvergne, Tomas Satoransky, Janis Timma.)
  3. Look for an undervalued player playing in a European league. The advantage is that they are already professionals, and are playing against professionals, not NCAA kids. (Damien Inglis, Jusuf Nurkic, Vasilje Micic, Nikola Jokic, Moussa Diagne, Walter Tavares.)
  4. Look for a medical disaster with lottery-type talent. (Leo Westermann)
  5. Look for a contract disaster with good talent. (Ioannis Papapetrou)
  6. Look for a shooting disaster that can be fixed by Forcier/Engelland. (Antetokounmpo)
  7. Look for a big body. Preferably one with a well defined skill, like shooting. (Shayne Whittington, Alec Brown)

With those thoughts in place, here are a list of more likely candidates with a few comments:

  • Jusuf Nurkic. Lottery grade. Superior scorer to Aron Baynes right now. Probably not available at 30 unless he has a disasterous Eurocamp in Treviso in June. Commits a bunch of fouls, but gets fouled a great deal as well. Good free-throw shooter for a big man. Hasn't played basketball for very long, thus significant potential for improvement. Needs to work on his left hand. Big-time Forcier project. May have an attitude that could irritate Popovich.
  • Dario Saric. Lottery grade. Could fall if there is a fight between his father and his agent after the withdrawal deadline.
  • Kristaps Porzingis. Lottery grade. Tall Latvian like Davis Bertans. Streaky shooter, thin frame, very good shot-blocking potential. May not fit with Davis, but I can't see the Spurs passing on him if he is available. Probably will withdraw from draft at last minute.
  • Damien Inglis. Late Lottery grade. Spurs already drafted Livio Jean-Charles last year, but he tore his ACL. Very similar to Kawhi Leonard. Can the Spurs resist an athletic wing with big hands and super long arms? I think they take him while most other teams have him rated in the second round. Most likely pick in my opinion. Team was relegated from Pro-A in France, so he is available immediately.
  • Glenn Robinison. First round grade. SF. Fantastic athlete. Potential as a shooter. Probably not available, and not rated as high as Inglis anyways.
  • Vasilje Micic. First round grade. PG. Good vision, not so athletic, needs a much better shot. Probably not a fit to be developed with Partizan in Serbia. Might be a good fit for D-League development. Not quite tall enough to be a wing like Ginobli. Forcier/Engelland can sort this guy out, no problem.
  • Nikola Jokic. First round grade. C/PF. Very good passer of the ball, with a surprising number of assists for a big man. About the same as Aron Baynes was in the Adriatic League for scoring and rebounds, but much younger. Needs to improve shooting. Should go to Partizan to develop. Could have some Diaw to his game?
  • Elfrid Payton. First round grade. PG. Good size, good defense, decent vision. Inferior to Micic because he played against a lower grade of competition, but is clearly a better athlete.
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic. First/second round grade. SG. Not a great athlete, not a great shooter, but decent at most things. Decent size for a SG. Was forced to play PG for Partizan this year when Westermann tore ACL. Did well in the Adriatic League. NBA potential? Not so clear.
  • Clint Capela. First/Second round grade. C. Great athlete. Does he want to get better? Will he work hard enough? Maybe not. This is why I down-graded him. Otherwise, he is a mid-first round type talent.
  • Walter Tavares. First/Second round grade. C. Tall, but decent athlete. Not so skilled offensively, but has potential on defense. Rim protector.
  • Shayne Whittington and Alec Brown: Late second round grade. C's. Stretch-5's that are not strong enough to bang in the low post. Good shooters.
  • Leo Westermann. Late second round grade. Tore ACL for second time in same knee. If medical checks out, he has lottery talent, with great size and vision for a PG. High risk pick.
  • Ioannis Papapetrou. Late second round grade. Used to play for Rick Barnes at UT. Went back to Greece. Terrible contract, but promising SF. Classic Euro-stash candidate.
  • Lamar Patterson. Late second round grade. SF. 3 & D type.
  • Aaron Craft. Undrafted free-agent. Doesn't shoot well, but could develop into a Cory Joseph type.

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