We’re back continuing our rankings of the all the Spurs draft picks of the Gregg Popovich era. The second round picks who never played for the Spurs have already received a shoutout, and if you haven’t already, feel free to check out picks 27-23 and 22-17. Also, as a reminder:
- Players whose rights were traded on draft night and never played for the Spurs are excluded. That eliminates Leandro Barbosa, Goran Dragic, and 9 other picks.
- Three picks who have not played for the Spurs but were either first round draft-and-stashes (Livio Jean-Charles, Nikola Milutinov) or picked with the intention of eventually signing but it never worked out (Luis Scola) are included.
16. Nando De Colo (France) | 53rd | 2009
A potential second round steal that didn’t quite work out, De Colo joined the Spurs in the 2012 offseason at another time when they were stacked in the front court. Although his passing game was Manu-esque, and he was a part of several of those “Beautiful Game” montages, he just couldn’t crack the deep rotation, requested a trade the next season, and was back in Europe after the 2013-14 season, where he has been a star ever since (including being named Euro League MVP in 2016 with CSKA Moscow). It seems the NBA just wasn’t for him, even though he could have been a very productive player here, especially as the league has evolved even more towards his style since he left.
15. Beno Udrih (Slovenia) | 28th | 2004
A rare foreign draft pick that wasn’t a draft-and-stash, the Spurs were on the hunt for Tony Parker’s back-up, and they found a solid one for a couple of years in Udrih. He wasn’t anything special, but he helped the Spurs win two championships by being a part of one of their biggest advantages: bench strength. However, his production slipped in his third season, and he was traded along with cash considerations for a protected second-round pick. He would go on to have his best years with the Kings, but he will always be fondly remembered in Spurs circles.
14. Keldon Johnson (Kentucky) | 29th | 2019
This is a tough one to place. Based on current hype and most recent impressions, it’s easy to skyrocket Johnson into the Top 10. However, a little restraint must be exercised. He has only played in 17 NBA games, and odds that his absurd numbers from the Bubble — such as shooting nearly 65% from three — remain even remotely close to that are basically zilch. While he showed potential to be a two-way star, a larger sample size is needed before we can really start judging this pick. As a result this placement may feel a little low (although right in the middle after 17 games ain’t bad), but another statement steal at 29th for the Spurs is on the horizon.
13. Cory Joseph (Texas) | 29th | 2011
Jospeh was an afterthought pick after the draft-and-trade of Kawhi Leonard earlier in the night, but another PG was needed after losing George Hill in the deal. Although CoJo never made it to second-string point guard in four years with the Spurs, he often started when Parker was out due to his defensive prowess (as well as to keep Patty Mills with the Spurs’ vaunted second unit of the time). He’s perhaps most fondly remembered for reenergizing the Spurs with a garbage time dunk over Serge Ibaka in Game 4 of the 2014 Western Conference Finals, possibly saving them from a similar fate as 2012 in the process.
12. DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh) | 37th | 2009
The Spurs had nothing to lose with this pick. Initially projected to go in the lottery, Blair fell all the way to the Spurs in the second round due to fear over his lack of ACLs. He showed up in San Antonio ready to prove his doubters wrong, and for his first three seasons he did just that despite being undersized for an NBA center. Unfortunately, he began struggling with weight issues (not good with precarious knees), and by 2013 Tiago Splitter was the better option as the Spurs returned to true contention. Still, Blair was an infusion of character to the “boring” Spurs and is mostly remembered as a feel-good story by fans, despite some antics that may or may not have symbolized revenge in the 2014 Playoffs.
11. Lonnie Walker IV (Miami) | 18th | 2018
With their highest pick since Tim Duncan at the time, the Spurs picked one of the better players remaining and began addressing a need: to get younger and more athletic on the wings. While he spent most of his rookie season in Austin, he was perhaps one of the most “monitored” players for fans who otherwise don’t have much desire to follow the G-League. He appeared in all but seven games in San Antonio last season, showed flashes of brilliance along the way, and even started every game in the Bubble as the Spurs went young. Focus and consistency remain areas for improvement, but he still has one of the highest ceilings of all the Spurs’ youth.
16. Nando De Colo (France) | 53rd | 2009
Nando De Colo was one of those overlooked international second-rounders who I always felt would thrive in Silver and Black once he got an opportunity with the team. However, the French swingman was never a rotational mainstay throughout his two seasons in San Antonio, and the Spurs shipped him to the Toronto Raptors midseason after he requested a trade. De Colo eventually made a return to Europe, where he’s built a legacy as one of the premier superstars of the EuroLeague. His play-style was a bit ahead of its time, and he truly could have been a phenomenal NBA role player had he stuck around to see the rise of pace-and-space basketball that surfaced shortly after his departure.
15. Beno Udrih (Slovenia) | 28th | 2004
Die-hard fans might remember Udrih as the second-string point guard who helped steer San Antonio’s second-unit during their 2005 championship. Unfortunately, the Slovenian facilitator took a massive dip in production in the following seasons and finished his time with the Spurs as a mere afterthought on their 2007 title team. While the longevity of a 13-year NBA career is an accomplishment on its own, Beno’s best days as a professional clearly came outside of the 2-1-0.
14. Lonnie Walker IV (Miami) | 18th | 2018
Lonnie is the highest original draft pick the Spurs have made since Tim Duncan. And though he has yet to live up to the high expectations that come with that denotation, the high-flying two-guard has shown flashes of immense potential. Breakneck speed, explosive leaping ability, and a sweet shooting stroke all suggest the 21-year-old has the foundation to become a special player. Next season will be a make-or-break campaign for him if he wants to solidify his future with the organization. With several players slated to come off the books, San Antonio should have enough touches available for El Cuatro to prove himself.
13. DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh) | 37th | 2009
A lottery-level talent who took a draft-day slide due to injury concerns, Blair was a risky pick who immediately paid off for the Spurs. The Pittsburgh product remains one of the few rookies Pop has ever entrusted with major minutes, which is all the more impressive considering they were still in the thick of title-contention. All-Rookie Second Team honors were the peak of his four-season stint with San Antonio, though he more than exceeded the highest hopes for most second-rounders. Weight gain and the emergence of Tiago Splitter spelled the end for the undersized big man, but DeJuan Blair the Dancing Bear will always be one of my favorite role-players.
12. Keldon Johnson (Kentucky) | 29th | 2019
Keldon Johnson balled out in the Bubble, and as much as I want to place him higher up these rankings, we only have an eight-game sample size in Orlando and another nine contests that came before the restart to gauge him properly. The rookie wing looked like a two-way force in his limited NBA appearances, and coach Becky Hammon called Johnson the steal of the 2019 Draft during Summer League. Gregg Popovich even coined the nickname “The Mustang” as a result of his relentless hustle on both ends. It’s too early for all of the Kawhi comparisons, though I anticipate the Kentucky Alum will be MUCH further up this board in the next few years.
11. Cory Joseph (Texas) | 29th | 2011
Cory Joseph doesn’t get a ton of love, but the point guard out of the University of Texas was about as steady as a backup as you could find. He also served as a fine spot-starter when Tony Parker couldn’t suit up. His name belongs to a shortlist of Canadian hoopers to win an NBA championship and get a shoutout from Drake on a single. And his commitment to bettering himself by requesting a demotion to the G-League to finetune his game might be one of the most selfless moves in franchise history. He may be a forgotten man in the annals of Spurs draft history, but Cory-Jo was an excellent value at 29.