With 6.33 to go in Game 5 of the Western Conference semi-finals, Kawhi Leonard took a jab step to the right and froze his defender, Kevin Durant. Planting both feet, Leonard powered up with both legs, to launch a midrange jumper from the right wing, a shot right in his wheelhouse. It clanked off the front iron.
It was clear that a gassed Leonard had no lift left. If the Spurs earlier-than-expected playoff exit revealed anything, it was that San Antonio's stars need help.
That help could come from the free agency game, or via the upcoming draft. But let's not forget the players that the Spurs already own the rights to, and have safely stashed in overseas leagues, a group that contains some interesting prospects and potential gems.
So let's take a look at the Spurs' international draft-and-stash collection of assets, the status of their games, and how ready they are for the NBA.
Club: Club Deportivo Saski-Baskonia S.A.D., known as Laboral Kutxa
League: Spanish ACB, Euroleague
Of all the prospects, Bertans emerges as the one with the best shot to be a long term NBA rotation player
The Latvian is a smooth shooting small forward, in the mold of Kyle Korver or Robert Covington. Bertans shot well in the Spanish league and Euroleague this season, posting a combined 45 percent on outside shots in both competitions. He sports a quick release and has great elevation for his jumpshot, crucial ingredients to thrive in a league in which he'd face far more athletic defenders.
Bertans' primary role is to space the floor for the offense, often setting up on the weakside corner. When Laboral Kutxa run plays for him, it's usually a set of pindowns to spring him open for the deep ball, or to act as a decoy to draw the attention of the defense away from the real action.
At 6'10", Bertans has great size for a small forward, but he's a poor rebounder. He's fundamentally sound - when the shot goes up he'll often turn away from the basket and look for his man to box out -- but he won't help on the glass much, meaning he's unlikely to play as a small-ball power forward in the NBA without being surrounded by good rebounders.
Bertans came back this season after recovering from a right knee injury, which required surgery and extensive rehabilitation last year. It was the second knee injury to Bertans in the past 2 years. Fortunately, there are no signs that the injury robbed him of his above-average mobility. His lateral quickness is not great and he can be too upright on closeouts, but he has good leaping ability which helps him bother shots, and he brings focus and effort on defense despite lacking elite tools.
There are some red flags, like those multiple ACL tears, a lack of strength, and concerns over what position he could legitimately guard in the NBA. But these concerns are mitigated if he plays with the second unit. Despite his limitations on the defensive end, he'd be a Kyle Korver type who comes off the bench to rain 3-point death on opponents.
Club: Laboral Kutxa
League: Spanish ACB, Euroleague
The good news? Hanga's had a good season as Bertans' teammate at Laboral, with a steep rise in playing time in his second stint with the club. After mostly coming off the bench in his first try with Laboral, Hanga has been a primary starter for the Spanish outfit, including all of their Euroleague contests, leading to his second team All-Euroleague selection.
He's an athletic, scrappy wing whose principal skill may very well be his all-out hustle. He's also a long, gritty defender who can make plays without the ball and finish in transition. That's a heck of a starting point for any player, and we know that PAFTO likes some nasty.
The problem is he still can't shoot.
For his career, Hanga has barely cracked the 30 percent mark from deep and this year he shot 32 percent in the three competitions in which he participated. That's not promising when you consider that the international 3-point line is about a foot closer. You might think that the famed Chip Engelland could potentially fix any hitches to his mechanics, but Hanga is 27 years old already and a reluctant shooter on top of a poor one.
Hanga's a slasher at heart. That's a problem too, because even in playing against less athletic players in Europe, Hanga hasn't shown the ability to consistently get all the way to the rim. When he does get there, he can't finish over the ground-bound big men as often as he should despite having good leaping ability. He's similar to Corey Brewer in that he can make some plays on defense and excels on the break, but his talents and physical skills don't translate seamlessly to the half court.
Time appears to be running out for Hanga to develop into a genuine NBA rotation piece. With Jonathan Simmons already on the roster (and the Spurs seem quite invested in him), Hanga's skillset of all-out hustle becomes redundant. He'll likely get the chance in July to impress the Spurs if he joins them to train during Summer League, but that might be his last opportunity to make the jump.
Club: ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne
League: LNB Pro A, France, FIBA Europe Cup
At this point, Jean-Charles is more of an idea than a bonafide basketball player. He emerged as a first round pick thanks to a terrific performance in the Nike Hoops Summit, where he flashed a high motor and good physical skills.
Injuries and a small role in the weak French league have taken some of the luster off someone who at one point seemed like a promising prospect. Looking at his numbers, it just doesn't appear as if he's progressed much. He finally became a full-time starter this season and averaged the most minutes of his career. But at this point, Jean-Charles is purely a role player for ASVEL, averaging a mere 4.6 shot attempts a game in the French domestic league.
Jean-Charles does have the physical tools to be a prototypical NBA player for his natural position of power forward. He's 6'9" with a wingspan that stretches to 7'2.5". With some added strength, he should be capable of holding his own against post brutes and switch out onto guards in a pinch. But despite that great length, his block and steal numbers are pedestrian, even in the French league and the third-tier FIBA Europe Cup.
Jean-Charles has a long way to go before he emerges as an NBA-caliber player. The upside is that he's still young -- only 22 at this point -- meaning he still has time to develop a more well-rounded offensive game, and figure out how to use his physical tools better.
Current club: KK Crvena Zvezda
Competitions: Serbian League, Euroleague
It's approaching make-or-break time for the 6'8" Serbian swingman. At 23 years of age, he hasn't established himself as a household name in Europe or ventured outside the comforts of the Serbian KLS.
On the plus side, he's a huge -- if skinny -- wing who flashes incredible athleticism, something that the Spurs could use. Dangubic has improved his 3-point shooting, a critical skill for any borderline NBA wing. He shot above 38 percent across all competitions this season, including a sterling 45 percent in the Euroleague. Considering he's a plus defender in Europe, there's a chance he develops into a solid 3-and-D wing.
What counts against Dangubic is an iffy handle and low assist numbers. A dose of creativity on the wing is a must in today's NBA, especially for someone whose shooting isn't a given. His biggest drawback is that he lacks one of the tools that keeps the Spurs offense humming -- the ability to put the ball on the floor after an opponent closeout.
He's currently in the middle of a 3 year deal with KK Crvena Zvezda, with an out-clause, but it's unlikely that he'll be using that to enter the NBA anytime soon, as he's still not ready to make the jump.
Current club: Olympiacos B.C.
Competitions: Greek League, Greek Cup, Euroleague
It's important to keep in mind that the Spurs' most recent draft pick hasn't played a ton of top level basketball to date. Just 56 games and under thousand minutes of court time in non-domestic competitions make it tough to gauge how his potential translates to the NBA.
But from what he's showed when he has played, Milutinov might challenge David Bertans for best prospect among the current international draft-and-stash stockpile.
After showing some great promise in the Serbian League playing for Partizan Belgrade, he made the jump to one of Europe's most traditional clubs, Olympiakos. While certainly a huge step up in his career, the transition has had its drawbacks. Milutinov has struggled for playing time on the bigger team, averaging 11.1 minutes across all competitions, but has continued to show flashes of potential.
A legitimate seven-footer, Milutinov moves around the court effortlessly. He has long arms, good hands, and has a real feel for the game. He just has the raw ingredients to be a rotation piece in the NBA. Milutinov has a career field goal percentage of 53.9 percent, not exactly elite for someone of his size, but he did shoot at a 59.7 percent mark this season for Olympiacos. He's already been described as a young Tiago Splitter, a big who rolls to the rim like a madman on pick-and-rolls.
Milutinov's greatest strength at this point may be his offensive rebounding; he's tough and has a great nose for the ball. He ranked 6th in the Euroleague for offensive rebounds per 40 minutes this season. He's not nearly as good on the defensive glass, but could improve there as he fills out.
On defense, he's improved as a rim protector and ball-hawk, averaging 1.4 steals and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes, across all competitions this season. That represents a significant uptick from his career numbers. Overall, he's improving despite a modest role in his first season playing for a European powerhouse.
So the Spurs figure to be patient with Milutinov. He's currently in the first of a three year deal with Olympiacos, meaning he has plenty of opportunities to prove himself. There's no real rush to bring him in, regardless of Timmy's future, as he's still years away from being a lock to crack the rotation.
All statistics via Basketball Reference, Euroleague.net and RealGM.