Almost halfway through the season, Spurs fans have a decent idea where the team is going to land in terms of draft position (most likely somewhere in between 12 and 18). With a solid collection of young talent in its system, PATFO’s next step should be to find the player that connects all of the pieces together. DeJounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker IV, Luka Samanic, and Jakob Poeltl are already more than a healthy amount of prospects, each with a variety of skill-sets, but there’s still a positional hole not only in that group, but for the Spurs as a whole.
Over the course of the season, fans have seen the need for more two-way wings. There are few players on the roster that can provide shooting to open up driving lanes offensively while also possessing enough size and defensive prowess to improve the Spurs’ bottom ten defense (21st in defensive efficiency this season).
With that in mind, we’ll be taking a look at three candidates to watch for as college basketball hits it climax. All stats are as of Monday, Jan 13.
Aaron Henry: Wing, Michigan State
2019-20 Stats (per game)
Shooting splits (FG/3PT/FT): 45/34/74
Aaron Henry is probably the most NBA ready 3-and-D wing in this draft pool. In a class of players where there is so much uncertainty, this is something I feel confident about. Sure there might be a few names whose potential is higher (I’m looking at you, Isaac Okoro), but no wings offer the immediate two way impact Henry is likely to provide.
His NBA allure starts with his defense. He has the ideal build for a modern wing, using his length and lateral mobility to move with almost any match up. He is able to react and adjust really well, allowing him to be physical and affect shots without committing too many fouls, whether it be a guard or a burly forward. He sometimes relies on his recovery ability too much and can get caught dragging his feet a little, but that has not presented itself as a significant issue.
Off the ball, Henry is a menace, using that aforementioned length in concert with his basketball IQ to anticipate and disrupt offensive actions. His 1.0% steal rate is not jaw dropping by any means, but we see the baseline of skills that can translate into a turnover generating machine. Often guarding the opponent’s best guard, he sports a 2.6% block percentage, a byproduct of having that length advantage.
Aaron Henry had 7 stocks (4 STL + 3 BLK) in 24 minutes vs Binghamton:— Zach Milner (@ZachMilner13) November 11, 2019
- Active hands in passing lanes
- Great on ball defense that lead to blocks
- Creates transition opportunities pic.twitter.com/hxpLwCaYik
Henry is never going to be an offensive force, but he has more than enough positive skills that translates into a valuable offensive player. He is a capable as a shooter (34% from deep this season), and has positive shooting indicators that suggest he will be able to successfully attack close outs and finish at the rim, as well as continuing to develop that outside shot. Henry is shooting 74% from the foul line compared to 69% last year, and has shown very good touch around the rim as a Spartan.
Aaron Henry showed some nice scoring chops on these 2 possessions. Also made a couple of spot up 3s and did a great job attacking closeouts, getting into the lane, and dumping it off for assists.— Zach Milner (@ZachMilner13) December 30, 2019
Aaron Henry now has 5+ assists in each of Michigan State's last 4 games pic.twitter.com/4uCnVQ6AjK
Additionally, he has shown more than enough promise with his play making skills that he could transition into a secondary or tertiary distributor, with a better assist to turnover ratio this season even with a higher usage rate. He’s especially good attacking and then finding the open man at the rim if the defense steps up to help.
Aaron Henry is such a good playmaker in these downhill slashing situations pic.twitter.com/ZTI7nluapw— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) January 7, 2020
So why do I think Henry should be near the top of San Antonio’s big board? His fit is almost seamless. He truly could slide into the starting lineup almost immediately, providing spacing for the likes of DeMar DeRozan (assuming he is back next season). Bryn Forbes and Patty Mills essentially neutralize their shooting with their defense, while starting both Murray and White takes away some much needed shooting. That pretty much leaves Walker, and I feel that he would be suited better in a bench role as the team is currently structured.
Even if the Spurs decide to rebuild, having Henry as a floor spacer and perimeter defender can only help. Henry might not be the most exciting pick in the world, but he should help San Antonio in both of their timelines.