We’re well into October, and normally it’s exciting times for basketball fans. With a new season upon us, every team enjoys a renewed enthusiasm, from the defending champions who are seeking to maintain their title all the way down to lottery teams who are anxious to see if their latest draft pick is the one who will get them back into the playoffs.
This year is different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NBA Finals just ended a week ago, the draft is still a month away, and no start date has been set for the next season as all the kinks, dates, and Collective Bargaining Agreement details get worked out. Still, with so much time to analyze and wait, there’s a certain level of anticipation about the draft that has sometimes been lacking in years past, especially for Spurs fans as they enter the lottery for the first time since 1997.
Despite frequently picking at the back end of of the first round throughout the Gregg Popovich era, the Spurs have made better use of the draft than most lottery regulars. In honor of their historic draft success, we’re looking back at their draft history and ranking their draft picks — after eliminating some from consideration.
The Spurs have drafted 48 players since Pop took over in 1996, 22 of whom have played games for San Antonio. Those 22 players will obviously be included in the rankings, along with three other specific picks: two first round draft-and-stashes (Livio Jean-Charles and Nikola Milutinov), and another infamous second round pick whom the Spurs had every intention of eventually signing, but they could never make it work before eventually waiving his rights in one of the few scars on their otherwise stellar draft night record (Luis Scola).
That leaves two types of draft picks and a total of 23 players left who will be eliminated from the rankings. First, there are the 11 players who were drafted by the Spurs but traded on draft night, therefore they were never really Spurs to begin with and are out of consideration. (So no Leandro Barbosa, Goran Dragic, etc.)
The remaining 12 players were all second-round picks who were drafted by the Spurs but never made it to the NBA, so here’s a quick shoutout to them in a little “where are they now” exercise.
Chris Carrawell (Duke) | 41st | 2000
After a four-year college career a Duke, Carrawell played a year in Italy before returning for the inaugural season of the NBA Developmental League with the Asheville Attitude (now the Oklahoma City Blue). He later jumped around overseas before winning the ABA championship, MVP, and Finals MVP awards in 2006. He is currently an assistant coach under Coach K at his alma mater.
Robertas Javtokas (Lithuania) | 56th | 2001
The Spurs were just beginning to draft-and-stash payers with future potential, but they never found a way to sign one of the better Lithuanian centers of all time. They maintained his rights throughout his storied EuroLeague career, which included the 2007 Triple Crown with Panathinkaikos, until he retired in 2017. He is now the sports director of the Lithuanian League’s Zalgiris Kaunas.
Bryan Bracey (Oregon) | 58th | 2001
A duel citizen of Ireland, Bracy played college at Wisconsin-Platteville, Malcom X College and the University of Oregon before spending his professional career in the D-League and overseas. (Fun Fact: someone on Wikipedia credits him with having played three NBA minutes “at the end of a San Antonio Spur playoff game in 2005 against the Houston rockets [sic].” This is clearly incorrect considering Bracy was never on the Spurs or any other NBA roster, and they did not play the Rockets in the 2005 Playoffs. Moral of the story: never trust Wikipedia.)
Romain Sato (Xavier) | 52nd | 2004
Born in the Central African Republic and raised in Ohio, Sato’s rights were waived the February after the Spurs drafted him. He spent his entire professional career in the Euros, where he won the championship with Panathinaikos before retiring in 2017. He also participated with the Central African Repbulic’s national team in the 2009 FIBA Africa Championship.
Sergei Karaulov (Russia) | 57th | 2004
Another center from an era when the Spurs didn’t need him, Karaulov spent most of his career in the Russian leagues while using his duel citizenship to represent Uzbekistan in the 2001 Asian Basketball Confederation championship and Russia in the 2007 Summer Universiade. He currently plays for Uralmash Ekaterinburg.
James Gist (Maryland) | 57nd | 2008
Another player who has spent his entire career overseas with plenty of success, Gist currently is on a two-year contract with Serbian team Crvena Zvezda.
Jack McClinton (Miami) | 51st | 2009
After a brief overseas professional career in Turkey, Israel and the Ukraine, McClinton was drafted in the first round of the 2012 NBA D-League draft by the Erie Bayhawks before being traded to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and waived. He played three games for the Reno Bighorns in 2013. He is perhaps best known for co-founding men’s swimwear company Loaded Dock with Carlos Boozer.
Ryan Richards (England) | 49th | 2010
Replace all the American destinations in Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” with Europe and Asia, and that’s Richards’ career in a nutshell. Since he began playing professionally in 2009, he has played with 23 clubs across 12 countries, and that doesn’t include signing with the Spurs for training camp in 2016 before being waived three days later. He currently plays for the Phoenix Brussels in Belgium’s Pro Basketball League.
Adam Hanga (Hungary) | 59th | 2011
One of the most intriguing draft-and-stash prospects to never make it to San Antonio, Hanga has a bit of a history with the Spurs despite never coming over the Atlantic. A report came out that he was joining the Spurs in 2017, only for him to end up signing a three-year offer with Barcelona instead while later claiming the Spurs had reneged on their offer to him. There’s no telling if that’s true or not, but regardless, Hanga (now 31) has had a very successful overseas career and is likely never coming to the NBA.
Marcus Denmon (Missouri) | 59th | 2012
After being a part of the Mizzou Tigers’ winningest signing class of all time, Denmon has played in France, Italy, Turkey, Greece and China (currently with the Shanghai Sharks). The Spurs waived his rights in 2016.
Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State) | 58th | 2013
After storied high school and college careers, Thomas looked like he could possibly be one of those rare late second-round picks who could make it the NBA. Unfortunately, it never happened. He played for the Spurs’ Summer League teams in 2013 and 2014, and even signed for the 2015 season before being waived after appearing in two preseason games. Otherwise he has spent his entire career overseas, currently in Japan with Alvark Tokyo.
Cady Lalanne (UMass) | 55th | 2015
The only player on this list to spend a considerable amount of time in Spurs-related programs, the Haitian native played for the Spurs’ 2015 Summer League squad and spent the 2015-16 season in Austin, where he made the All Star Game and was considered one of the best centers in the league. He has since moved overseas, jumping around between Puerto Rico, China, Italy, and Turkey. He currently plays for the Changwon LG Sakers in the Korean league.
Check back later for the start of the actual Spurs draft pick rankings!