The Spurs are exactly one week away from making their highest draft selection since 1997, and although landing the right player with their lottery pick should be their top priority, fans shouldn’t dismiss the importance of their second-rounder.
While the 2020 NBA Draft is admittedly short on “can’t miss” prospects and star power at the top of the talent pool, this class is chock-full of high-quality role-players who could step in and make a difference for a franchise from day one.
Along with the 11th overall pick, the Spurs also own the 41st pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, and a smorgasbord of skilled players will be available for the taking in that range. San Antonio’s frontcourt is sparse, so addressing their lack of depth might be the best application of their sole second-rounder.
5. Daniel Oturu | Minnesota | Sophomore | Center
A unique blend of shooting potential and shot-blocking make Oturu an intriguing prospect for any team looking for a backup center, though his lack of footspeed and hip fluidity make him a liability for switch-heavy schemes. The six-nine big man out of Minnesota University is the definition of a glass cleaner (11.3 RPG) and a solid roll-man who may have some utilization out of pick-and-pop sets. His tremendous growth from freshman to sophomore season gives me a reason to buy into the notion he might have some untapped talent. However, as an undersized center without elite athleticism or a polished post-game, it is unlikely he’ll ever carry the same scoring load (20.1 PPG) at the next level. Given his motor and mobility, Oturu should thrive in transition and feast on put-back opportunities, which makes him a suitable fit for San Antonio should their small-ball experiment continue into next season.
4. Zeke Nnaji | Arizona | Freshman | Power Forward
Nnaji is an exciting offensive talent that often gets lost in the mix when talking about the 2020 draft class. An athletic forward with strong hands, soft-touch, splendid body control, and a smooth mid-range jumper, Nnaji should have no trouble providing a franchise with a reliable second-unit scoring option. Despite shooting a subpar percentage from deep in his lone collegiate season, other indicators suggest he might even be able to stretch the floor out to the three-point line down the road. Turnovers were a huge issue for the one-and-done big man, and he offers little in the facilitating department, though a significantly reduced role and NBA coaching should help him cut down on giveaways. It’s on the other side of the ball that I have several questions about Nnaji. His post defense was less than satisfactory, he isn’t much of a defensive playmaker, and he doesn’t project as a switchable stopper. I don’t see Zeke becoming a massive liability, and the Spurs could sorely use some frontcourt depth.
3. Paul Reed | DePaul | Junior | Power Forward
You can find my in-depth scouting report on Paul Reed here, but all you need to know is the six-nine forward has all the length, vertical pop, and foot-speed to be a defensive menace. His 4.5 stocks (steals and blocks) per game were among the highest in the country, and though gambling got him into trouble here and there, Reed excelled at converting turnovers into fastbreak scoring opportunities. While shoring up his defensive fundamentals and remaining disciplined will be key heading into the NBA, the 21-year-old has flashed the switchability to guard up and down four positions (PG-PF). Reed is far from a reliable offensive asset, and playing under control will be integral if he wants to stay on the floor for a winning team. For now, Reed may be best suited for putting his high motor to use cleaning up misses, catching lobs, and coming up with loose balls. Should his three-point jumper and face-up game ever come along, the DePaul University junior could become the steal of the draft.
2. Killian Tillie | Gonzaga | Senior | Power Forward
A casual basketball fan might not recognize Killian Tillie if he passed them on the street, but the Gonzaga senior deserves so much more praise than he gets. The well-rounded forward might have been a lottery prospect in this class if not for his lengthy injury history, and the concerning possibility he’ll always need to be on a minutes restriction is one of the biggest knocks on his value. Tillie is a high IQ player with few holes in his game with the ability to stretch the floor and make plays as a supersized facilitator. A smart cutter, Tillie doesn’t need the ball to get involved in the offense, and he would make an excellent addition to a team in need of a glue-guy off the pine. He possesses elite touch around the basket, can finish with either hand, and he rarely commits careless turnovers. Although Tillie could struggle to guard smaller players in the NBA, his sound technique, active hands, and excellent anticipation should allow him to fit in seamlessly as a heady team defender.
1. Xavier Tillman | Michigan State | Junior | Power Forward
Xavier Tillman is my top target for the 41st pick and the least likely to be available when the Spurs are on the clock for their second-round selection. The 245-pound bruiser is highly intelligent on both ends of the floor and offers a variety of skills that should immediately translate in the NBA. Despite lacking top-end athleticism and size (six-eight) at his position, Tillman mitigates those disadvantages by making the most of his wingspan (seven-one) and court awareness. The assist numbers may not pop off the stat sheet, but the Michigan State product is as talented of a big man passer as you’ll find in this class. And though his jumper isn’t consistent, Tillman showed progress as a shooter and willingly let it fly when open. The 21-year-old forward was a defensive anchor and rim-protector in college, and while those roles may not carry over, his brilliance as a team defender and help-man should make him a valuable two-way contributor. San Antonio could use a prospect with his poise, maturity, and leadership, and PATFO would be smart to snag Tillman if he’s still on the board.
Honorable Mentions: Isaiah Stewart, Reggie Perry, Udoka Azubuike, and Vernon Carey Jr.