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Spurs NBA Draft 2016 Prospectus: Part 4

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In Part IV of the Spurs Draft Prospectus, we will investigate the talent that is likely to be available to the Spurs at the 29th pick, and attempt to construct a “Spurs Big Board” based upon principles from Part I and needs from Part II. This article excludes the possibility of trades.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 NBA Draft is upon us, and now it's time to look at the players that the Spurs might take with the 29th pick. I'll look at the players likely to be available at each position, and rank them by how much I think they'll help improve the Spurs roster. Like the other articles in this series, this installment is based upon publicly available data on the internet without the kinds of resources that a professional team would have, including private workouts and detailed analytics. Because of that, I've probably missed out on some promising players and it's possible that the Spurs will draft a player not even mentioned in this article.

Centers

The end of an era may be upon us. As much as we don't want to even think about it, Tim Duncan could retire. The Spurs could be thinking about acquiring a center, even though Nikola Milutinov is already a Spurs asset.

Centers: Ivica Zubac, Brice Johnson, Ante Zizic, Damian Jones, Diamond Stone, Zhou Qi, Georgious Pappagiannis, Thon Maker, Chinanu Onuaku, Stephen Zimmerman, and AJ Hammons.

First, I will remove Diamond Stone and AJ Hammons. Both players have undeniable talent, probably late lottery talent. However, both of these players have significant character, motivation, and professional development issues.  In my opinion, the worst thing to do to these guys would be to give them guaranteed first-round money. Both will get drafted (probably in the second round), and both of themcould make fools of the teams that passed on them.  However, I think both players need to go to Europe, probably Serbia, and learn how to play the center position as a professional.  Serbia, particularly the Adriatic League, is a great place to develop big men, and these two guys in particular need some Serbian training.  Two-a-day training through the regular season with a coach "going Serbian" every time they are lazy will either fix the motivation issues and they will either improve or be gone.

The NBA D-League is focused on smaller players and guard play and it's not optimal for developing a big man's game. I would recommend either Partizan or Red Star. Mega Leks gives their players too much freedom, and these guys don’t need freedom, they need focus.

Thon Maker doesn’t have a sufficient body of work to be evaluated. There are also concerns about the rate of this skill development, and the people that surround him. So he's out.

Here's the recent performance of these players, with Nikola Milutinovic as a point of reference:

Player

Age

GP

Min

Pts

2%

3%

FT%

RT

Asts

Stls

Blks

TO

PF

Nikola Milutinov

21

29

28.1

9.8

57.6

-

58.7

7.6

1.3

0.4

0.8

1.3

2.8

Ivica Zubac

19

5

13.0

6.8

57.7

-

57.1

3.0

-

0.2

1.2

0.4

1.4

Ante Zizic

19

21

25.7

13.4

63.9

-

70.0

8.0

0.4

0.1

1.4

2.4

2.4

Georgious Pappagiannis

18

23

11.6

6.5

68.0

-

66.7

2.7

0.5

0.2

0.7

0.7

1.9

Zhou Qi

19

42

34.1

15.8

60.3

60.0

75.8

9.8

1.5

1.1

3.2

1.7

2.7

Brice Johnson

21

40

28.0

17.0

61.4

-

78.3

10.5

1.5

1.1

1.5

1.8

2.7

Damian Jones

20

33

26.2

13.9

59.5

-

53.6

6.9

1.2

0.2

1.6

2.0

3.3

Chinanu Onuaku

19

31

24.6

9.9

62.3

-

58.9

8.5

1.6

0.8

2.0

2.1

3.0

Stephen Zimmerman

19

25

26.3

10.3

48.1

25.0

63.6

8.8

0.8

0.5

1.9

2.1

3.1

The Adriatic League and the Greek League are comparable, and the Chinese League is weaker.  NCAA rebounding numbers translate to the NBA, but scoring less so. The Spurs already drafted Nikola Milutinov, and thus are not in need of yet another Adriatic league center. Ivica Zubac or Ante Zizic would have to show something absolutely special to even be considered.  The data set on Zubac is so small, and the numbers are so close to that of Nikola Milutinov, that there is no need for further consideration.  Ante Zizic’s numbers, however, look very good.  He has a superior 2-point %, and a significantly better free-throw %, indicating potential for a mid-range game.  Rebounding numbers are good as well, although he clearly is not as good a passer as Milutinov.  My research indicates that he has long been an NBA prospect, and his PER rating of 25.6 is the second highest in Adriatic League history for a player under 21.  Just how good is this guy?  The best way would be to directly compare his numbers with three successful players that transitioned from the Adriatic League to the NBA, including Aron Baynes, Jusuf Nurkic, and Nikola Jokic.

Player

Age

GP

Min

Pts

2%

3%

FT%

RT

Asts

Stls

Blks

TO

PF

Nikola Milutinov ’14

21

29

28.1

9.8

57.6

-

58.7

7.6

1.3

0.4

0.8

1.3

2.8

Ante Zizic ’15

19

21

25.7

13.4

63.9

-

70.0

8.0

0.4

0.1

1.4

2.4

2.4

Aron Baynes ’13

26

16

24.3

12.4

57.1

-

63.8

6.8

0.8

3.8

0.9

0.9

1.9

Jusuf Nurkic ’14

20

28

16.6

11.7

56.0

14.3

70.1

5.7

0.7

3.2

0.8

1.1

1.6

Nikola Jokic’13

19

25

25.2

11.3

63.4

22.4

64.4

6.3

2.1

0.8

1.0

1.6

3.3

Nikola Jokic ’14

20

24

30.5

15.4

59.3

34.6

66.7

9.3

3.5

1.5

0.9

2.3

3.2

Nikola Jokic ’15

(NBA)

21

80

21.7

9.9

54.0

33.3

81.1

7.0

2.4

1.0

0.6

1.3

2.6

I project Nikola Jokic to be a star in the NBA, with Marc Gasol being a decent approximation of his ceiling as a player. From the table abpve, one can see that Jokic has always been a decent passer, as is Milutinov.  Upon closer examination, Ante Zizic is not not that great of a passer, and is prone to turnovers. He's a good free-throw shooter and rebounder, and has better shot-blocking potential than either Aron Baynes or Jokic.  Basically, he's a strong, physical player that does not play with much finesse or refinement. Zizic would seem to project as an energy/role player in the NBA. This does not appear to be markedly different from Nikola Milutinov, who may have a higher ceiling. So he is interesting, but does not rate as a "Must Have" prospect.

Among the other prospects, Georgious Pappagiannis has a good shooting percentage and potential as a shot blocker, but poor rebounding numbers. We already have Boban Marjanovic, who has a similar game but obviously much more developed. Zhou Qi plays in China, and has potential with 3-point range (with a VERY small sample size) and shot-blocking ability. Brice Johnson is a human pogo-stick who projects as an effort/rebounding/defensive backup, which is exactly what the Spurs could use in 2016/2017.  As a senior, he is already very well developed, and what you see is what you get. Damian Jones and Stephen Zimmerman don’t make the cut, but Chinanu Onuaku is of some interest. Zhou Qi is interesting, but just isn't a great fit with the Spurs.

Center Ranking:  1. Brice Johnson 2. Ante Zizic 3. Chinanu Onuaku 4. Zhou Qi.

Power Forwards

The definition of a PF is changing. For this draft, my mindset is for a "DeJuan Blair 2.0", meaning a strong, physical player that is an aggressive rebounder, superior interior defender, and has a good basketball IQ. Maybe he can even shoot the ball, although that would be a secondary skill. The thought is this type of player would be very useful against small ball lineups.

Players Potentially Available:  Cheick Diallo, Guerschon Yabusele, Pascal Siakam, Robert Carter, Ben Bentil, Joel Bolomboy.

Player

Age

GP

Min

Pts

2%

3%

FT%

RT

Asts

Stls

Blks

TO

PF

Cheick Diallo

19

27

7.5

3.0

56.9

-

55.6

2.5

0

0.3

0.9

0.6

1.4

Guerschon Yabusele

20

34

28.7

11.5

57.2

42.6

76.5

6.8

1.1

1.1

0.4

1.6

2.5

Pascal Siakam

22

32

35.3

20.4

54.7

20.0

68.6

11.8

1.6

1.0

2.2

2.1

2.8

Robert Carter

22

35

26.6

12.4

62.4

33.3

74.0

7.0

1.9

0.8

1.3

2.2

2.8

Ben Bentil

21

35

34.2

21.1

51.7

32.9

78.2

7.7

1.1

0.9

1.0

1.9

2.8

Joel Bolomboy

22

30

32.8

17.1

59.8

34.0

68.8

12.6

1.1

0.6

1.1

2.5

2.4

Cheick Diallo, through no fault of his own, didn’t get to play in many games at Kansas.  He had problems with his eligibility, and he was simply not able to catch up to the rest of the team.  He is a talent, but it doesn’t show in this data. Guerschon Yabusele plays for Rouen in the French Pro-A. This is a decent league, but not close to the best in Europe by any stretch. This is a very large man at 275 pounds, with a long wingspan, although he is shorter than most PFs.  He is a good shooter and rebounder.  Pascal Siakam played for New Mexico State against weaker than average NCAA teams.  He hasn’t been playing basketball that long, but clearly has figured out how to rebound.  His frame is a little narrow for this type of position.  Robert Carter is more of a scorer, Ben Bentil does a little bit of everything, and Joel Bolomboy is an absolute world class athlete but doesn’t quite understand the game yet.  He is a low BBIQ player.  Bolomboy is also the best pure athlete in the entire draft according to the athletic testing, and is literally an athletic freak.

This is a tough one because of Cheick Diallo. Cheick Diallo has a significant amount of hype surrounding him, and was highly regarded as a high school recruit. However, I don’t have enough information to make decision on him, so I’m going to have to exclude him. Obviously, the Spurs have more information than I do, and so their decision could easily be different.

Based upon performance, I like Guerschon Yabusele. He most closely fits the image that I am looking for. The thinking behind Pascal Siakam is that he plays with lots of energy, and is an extremely aggressive rebounder.  I would never expect him to become a starter. Joel Bolomboy is considered as a freak athlete that could learn some basketball in Austin. Neither Siakam or Bolomboy are worthy of a first round pick, but if for some reason they went undrafted, there could be interest.

Power Forward Ranking: 1. Guerschon Yabusele 2. Pascal Siakam 3. Joel Bolomboy.

Small/Combo Forwards

I will lump two types of forwards together for this analysis: small forwards and combo forwards, because the distinction between them is beginning to blur, and the more smallball that is played, the more blurred the definitions become. Traditionally, small forwards are more perimeter oriented with a 3-point shot, and power forwards have a great mid-range game with post skills. Combo forwards are more of a European creature that have a combination of skills but are generally viewed as tweeners in the US game as they tend to be too short to guard the post and lack the speed or scoring range to play on the perimeter. However, this is changing. Boris Diaw and Kyle Anderson are Spurs examples of a combo forward. Ideally, a Spurs combo forward will have 3-point range, ability to play defense both on the perimeter as well as in the paint, and an exceptional passing ability. Sometimes the descriptor "Point Forward" can be used. Draymond Green fits this profile, as does LeBron James.

I have included Petr Cornelie here as he is basically a stretch four more than a center like the previous group of players. I am excluding Malachi Richardson because there is significant evidence he has a draft promise between 12-20.

Players Potentially Available:  Juan Hernangomez, Taurean Prince, Denzel Valentine, DeAndre Bembry, Paul Zipser, Rade Zagorac, Petr Cornelie, Jake Layman, Michael Gbinije.

Player

Age

GP

Min

Pts

2%

3%

FT%

RT

Asts

Stls

Blks

TO

PF

Juan Hernangomez

20

34

25.7

9.7

52.1

35.8

71.7

5.7

0.6

0.8

0.3

1.4

1.3

Denzel Valentine

22

31

33.0

19.2

48.1

44.4

85.3

7.5

7.8

1.0

0.2

2.7

1.7

Taurean Prince

21

33

30.8

16.0

46.8

36.1

76.9

6.0

2.3

1.2

0.7

2.7

2.6

DeAndre Bembry

21

36

37.3

17.4

55.3

26.6

65.7

7.8

4.5

1.4

0.8

2.0

2.4

Paul Zipser

22

10

15.2

5.3

63.6

27.8

100.0

3.1

1.2

0.4

0.7

0.9

1.7

Rade Zagorac

20

13

29.4

13.1

52.3

27.8

83.3

5.8

2.4

1.7

0.2

2.7

2.8

Petr Cornelie

20

39

19.1

8.8

58.3

39.3

66.2

5.1

0.3

0.3

0.4

0.9

2.6

Jake Layman

22

35

31.7

11.7

60.4

39.9

84.6

5.3

1.1

1.1

1.0

1.7

2.0

Michael Gbinije

24

37

37.9

17.5

52.5

39.1

66.3

4.1

4.3

1.9

0.4

2.8

2.6

Hernangomez plays with Estudiantes in the Spanish ACB. While the league is good, Estudiantes is not. It is a bottom-feeder team that provides young players a significant number of minutes, but the numbers are of lower quality than for a upper-level ACB team that also plays in the EuroLeague. Denzel Valentine is clearly an attractive player, with a nice three-point shooting percentage and a large number of assists.  The concern with him is cartilage damage in both knees.  This is a medical issue that is not easily evaluated.  Taurean Prince is a solid SF, but nothing special.  DeAndre Bembry is very intriguing, because of the number of assists as well as the number of steals.  His shooting percentage is not that good, but he has other talents, and perhaps his shooting could be improved.

Paul Zipser’s numbers require special attention. He's a talented prospect playing on a "win-now" team (Bayern Muenchen) that is in the EuroLeague. The Euroleague numbers are given here. In the German League, he shoots over 40% from 3. He is an excellent free-throw shooter, at over 90%. He is an excellent shooter, with enough size to guard the 4 and enough speed to cover most 3’s in Europe. Because he is on a "win-now" team, he never has any plays run for him, and he gets his points cleaning up other player’s misses, basically he's the team garbageman .  He isn’t a particularly good passer, but he doesn't have the ball in his hands often enough to have many opportunities. Rade Zagorac plays for Mega Leks in the Adriatic/Serbian League.  He is long and quick, but needs to improve his three-point shooting.  Petr Cornelie is really a stretch four, and doesn’t have any ball-handling skills.  Jake Layman is a good three-point shooter who also rebounds the basketball well, and generally is similar to Kyle Korver. Michael Gbinije is an older player with a good number of assists and steals with decent three-point shooting.

Let’s take a look at the numbers:

Player

Height

Weight

Wingspan

No Step Vertical

Max Vertical

Agility

Sprint

Denzel Valentine

6’4"

210

6’10.75"

27.0

32.0

10.51

3.46

Taurean Prince

6’6.5"

220

6’11.5"

34.0

36.0

10.96

3.24

DeAndre Bembry

6’4.25"

207

6’9.25"

32.0

38.0

10.90

3.17

Paul Zipser

6’8"

6’11"

Rade Zagorac

6’9"

Jake Layman

6’8"

209

6’9.25"

33.0

39.5

11.35

3.24

Michael Gbinije

6’5.5"

205

6’7.5"

33.5

37.5

11.00

3.12

As we saw in the previous installments of this series, the No Step Vertical and Max Vertical numbers are inflated this year by about 2-3". Based upon that, we can surmise that Denzel Valentine is a below-average athlete for the NBA, and the others are roughly comparable. Paul Zipser is probably an average NBA athlete, and Rade Zagorac might be a bit better than that. I rate Denzel Valentine the best of the forwards, but the decision for second is very difficult. Paul Zipser hasn’t had the same opportunity to show his talent, but is an excellent shooter.  DeAndre Bembry does many things well, but isn’t a particularly good shooter.  Is it better to take a player who can shoot and try and improve other aspects of his game, or do you take a better passer and try to make him into a better shooter?  Zipser is longer than Bembry.  Both have excellent, team-first attitudes that would be perfect for the Spurs.  I’m going to go with Bembry second, because he is the better passer. However, I think Zipser’s game is under-rated, and DeAndre Bembry might be over-rated at this point.  Michael Gbinije follows these two.

Small/Combo Forward Ranking: 1. Denzel Valentine 2. DeAndre Bembry 3. Paul Zipser 4. Michael Gbinije 5. Rade Zagorac.

Shooting Guards

A shooting guard must be able to shoot [Ed Note: Unless he's Andre Roberson]. Passing and creating shots for others is important, defense is critical or the player won’t see the floor with Popovich as coach, and Spurs guards must be able to rebound. However, I am interested in drafting a shooting guard who can shoot efficiently from everywhere.

Players Potentially Available: Malik Beasley, Furkan Korkmaz, Isaia Cordinier, Isaiah Whitehead, Patrick McCaw, Malcolm Brogdon, Caris Levert, Wayne Selden, Isaiah Cousins.

Player

Age

GP

Min

Pts

2%

3%

FT%

RT

Asts

Stls

Blks

TO

PF

Malik Beasley

19

34

29.8

15.6

51.8

38.7

81.3

5.3

1.5

0.9

0.2

1.7

2.2

Furkan Korkmaz

18

19

8.8

2.7

35.0

42.3

57.1

0.9

0.5

0.1

0.2

0.4

1.4

Isaiah Whitehead

21

34

32.3

18.2

34.0

36.5

76.0

3.6

5.1

1.2

1.4

3.5

2.3

Patrick McCaw

20

31

34.2

14.5

56.4

35.2

76.9

5.2

3.9

2.4

0.4

2.1

2.3

Malcolm Brogdon

23

37

34.1

18.2

49.8

39.1

89.7

4.1

3.1

0.9

0.2

1.4

2.1

Wayne Selden

21

37

30.0

13.6

54.6

38.3

61.7

3.4

2.5

0.7

0.3

1.8

2.0

Isaiah Cousins

22

37

33.4

12.6

40.3

41.1

67.0

4.5

4.5

1.4

0.3

2.4

1.7

Malik Beasley has been injured, and thus is unable to work out for teams.  He is very impressive, and could be undervalued.  Furkan Korkmaz probably has a draft promise between the 10th and 20th pick, so he won't be available.  Isaiah Whitehead lacks skill at shooting.  Patrick McCaw also needs to improve his shooting, but is a good rebounder.  Malcolm Brogdon has some good potential on the defensive side of the ball, and has promise as a shooter.  His FT% of almost 90% bodes well for improving his other percentages.  Caris Levert is being removed due to a medical red-flag.  Isaia Cordinier is being removed due to a lack of useful data, as he has played in the second division in France, the Pro-B.

Shooting Guard Ranking: 1. Malik Beasley 2. Isaiah Cousins 3. Malcolm Brogdon.

Point Guards

There aren't many really good PGs that are going to be around late in the first round, and there are likely to be a number of quality options among undrafted free agents.

Players Potentially Available:  Tyler Ulis, Gary Payton Jr.

Tyler Ulis is being removed due to concern about his hip. I was very interested in him until I learned of this medical issue. The Spurs front office is however doing their due diligence, as reported here. I don't have the ability to make a judgement call, and the concern is that a small PG will get knocked on his rear more than a few times.  A pre-existing hip injury makes this of significant concern. Gary Payton Jr. is an athletic defensive PG that needs to work on shooting and creating shots for others. He could help the Spurs, but this position isn’t the highest priority. There are some very good possibilities among European free agents if there is even a PG roster slot available.

"Big Board"

Ideally, each candidate would be assigned a score, and the scores ranked numerically. But we don't have that kind of objective scoring, so this ranking is somewhat subjective. I've argued that a play-making SF is the highest priority, but instead I placed Malik Beasley, a shooting guard, at the top of the list due to his superior potential to develop into a top tier NBA player. Best man available still has some impact. Other Spurs fans might disagree, but here are my rankings based upon the players considered above:

1. Malik Beasley

2. Denzel Valentine

3. DeAndre Bembry

4. Paul Zipser

5. Guerschon Yabusele

6. Brice Johnson

7. Michael Gbinije

8. Ante Zizic

9. Isaiah Cousins

10. Rade Zagorac

11. Chinanu Onuaku

12. Malcolm Brogdon

13. Zhou Qi

14. Pascal Siakam

15. Joel Bolomboy

Given the current rankings on many of the mock drafts, this "Big Board" would suggest that the Spurs might draft DeAndre Bembrey, Paul Zipser, or Guerschon Yabusele if they have the 29th pick in the draft, and assuming no trades. This would change if there was a trade, and these rankings do not extend high enough to predict who a trade might be made for, as that was not the purpose of the exercise. Thanks for reading this far, and there's going to be plenty to talk about tonight as the picks come in.