The 2020 NBA Draft is mere hours from commencing, and the Spurs own the 11th and 41st pick in one of the most controversial classes in recent memory. With little consensus among scouts and league enforced limits on in-person meetings with prospects due to the ongoing pandemic, San Antonio must now identify the correct candidate for their first lottery selection in literal decades.
Between Zoom meetings, face-to-face interviews, and workouts, the Silver and Black have made contact in some way, shape, or form with 15 prospects in total during the pre-draft period. From highly-touted Israeli teenager Deni Avdija to relative unknown Terry Armstrong, it appears PATFO are doing their due diligence, so let’s briefly explore each player and rank them from worst to best.
15. Terry Armstrong | South East Melbourne Phoenix | International | Guard
Like I mentioned above, Terry Armstrong is far from a household name. The 20-year-old guard decommitted from Arizona, instead opting for the LaMelo Ball route of playing professionally in the National Basketball League in Australia. He rarely got meaningful minutes, and he wasn’t on my radar heading into the season, so I highly doubt the Spurs spend their second-round selection on the slender swingman.
14. Isaiah Stewart | Washington | Freshman | Center
Stewart is the definition of a bruising big man, and while that was a highly coveted archetype a decade ago, the league has mostly moved on from centers who can’t space the floor. Decent form and an above-average free throw percentage (77.4%) hint at a possible future as a floor-spacer, though it’ll be hard to ignore his defensive deficiencies at the next level. The Spurs could do worse than Stewart with the 41st pick. Then again, they could do much better.
13. Vernon Carey Jr. | Duke | Freshman | Center
Vernon Carey Jr. is a mountain of a man who fits a similar mold to the previously discussed prospect. Registering 17.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game in limited minutes (24.9 MPG), the Duke alum was a prolific scorer in the NCAA. He was willing to shoot the three-ball when open and knocked it down at a solid clip (38.1%), but questions about guarding smaller players and protecting the rim in the NBA have kept him from solidifying first-round interest.
12. Zeke Nnaji | Arizona | Freshman | Forward
Nnaji is another gifted big who saw his stock fall throughout the year despite a solid showing at Arizona as a freshman. A fluid athlete with excellent hands and a silky mid-range jumper, Nnaji should provide a scoring punch off the bench for whichever franchise selects him. Iffy post defense and limited switchability might hurt his utility on the other end in the NBA, though he’s easily worth an early-second-round flyer.
11. Theo Maledon | ASVEL | International | Guard
A fringe first-round talent who could feasibly slip into the second round, Theo Maledon is about as seasoned as international prospects come. The French point guard was one of the few teenagers starting in the EuroLeague, which was only made more impressive by the fact he increased his production across the board from Ligue Nationale de Basket play. San Antonio isn’t in dire need of another guard, though he would be an excellent value at 41.
10. Jalen Smith | Maryland | Sophomore | Forward
I’m not as high on Jalen Smith as other draft pundits, but I have enough sense to realize his physical attributes combined with his shooting and rim-protecting potential make him an intriguing prospect. The Maryland sophomore showed tremendous growth in his second collegiate season, and he should become a fine role-player once he enters the league. He won’t fall to 41, and the Spurs shouldn’t consider him in the lottery, so the odds he lands in San Antonio are slim.
9. Jaden McDaniels | Washington | Freshman | Forward
Jaden McDaniels was a virtual lottery-lock as an incoming freshman, but after a disappointing display in his lone season at Washington, the lanky forward took a nosedive on big boards. While his unique offensive skillset offers immense promise for a team who can reel in his shot selection, McDaniels often checked himself out of games on both ends when struggling to score. The 19-year-old is a smart risk for a team who can afford to whiff, though San Antonio doesn’t fit into that category.
8. Tyrese Maxey | Kentucky | Freshman | Guard
Kentucky always seems to produce at least one overlooked prospect who surpasses all expectations, and Tyrese Maxey could be the guy to fit that description this season. I had the pleasure of covering the electric combo guard during his time at South Garland High School, and everything about him screamed future pro. With a relentless motor, solid court vision, and a knack for getting to the charity stripe, Maxey might end up the steal of the draft.
7B. Aaron Nesmith | Vanderbilt | Sophomore | Forward
One of the top long-distance threats in this draft class, Nesmith figures to fit in as a floor-spacing wing right away. His sophomore season was cut short by injury, but that inconvenience shouldn’t impact his stock. The 21-year-old marksman also brings a little defensive playmaking to the table. And though just an average team defender, his gravity as a three-point shooter should make up for his shortcomings elsewhere.
6A. Patrick Williams | Florida State | Freshman | Forward
Legitimate rumors were linking the Spurs and Patrick Williams to each other only two weeks ago, but those whispers have since faded. The super-sixth-man out of Florida State has slowly crept outside of San Antonio’s range, and while flashes of defensive versatility and playmaking potential are undoubtedly enticing, trading up enough slots to secure Williams probably isn’t worth it with better prospects on the board.
5. Tyrese Haliburton | Iowa State | Sophomore | Guard
Haliburton often gets lost in the mix with all of the capable point guards in this draft class. However, the Iowa State floor general deserves serious consideration in the mid-lottery. The 19-year-old sophomore was among the best team defenders in college basketball last season, and his court vision and basketball IQ make him a safe option for anyone in need of a secondary initiator. He’s reminiscent of Dejounte Murray in many ways, and the overlap leads me to believe this union is unlikely.
4. Isaac Okoro | Auburn | Freshman | Forward
Okoro might not be the most polished offensive prospect, but his white-hot motor, league-ready build, and top-notch athleticism bode well for his immediate future on the defensive end. Working on his jumper with Chip Engelland would probably be the top priority for the freshman forward, though we’ve seen defensive-minded youngsters evolve into talented two-way contributors with the Spurs.
3. Onyeka Okongwu | USC | Freshman | Center
Onyeka Okongwu packs a variety of attractive skills into an imposing six-nine frame, which is why he’s my top-rated big man in this class. Not only does he protect the paint about as well as anyone entering the league this season, but he has the speed and footwork to excel in drop-coverage and switch-heavy schemes. Okongwu is also a proven rim-runner whose shooting potential could make him a valuable inside-out scorer.
2. Deni Avdija | Maccabi Tel Aviv | International | Forward
The undisputed darling of #SpursTwitter, drafting Deni Avdija would be a dream scenario for fans. Unfortunately, unless San Antonio finds a way to trade up in the NBA Draft, the Ligat HaAl MVP won’t be donning Silver and Black anytime soon. His passion, passing, and shooting potential are exciting, and Deni would be a seamless fit alongside the young core. With that in mind, I would caution those who are ready to label him a can’t miss prospect.
1. Killian Hayes | ratiopharm Ulm | International | Guard
Killian Hayes sits atop my Big Board, and the Spurs shouldn’t think twice about snagging him if he remains undrafted by the time San Antonio is on the clock. There are few players with his combination of poise, potential, and productivity, and he should have little trouble transitioning to the NBA. Hayes can make every pass in the book, and with a growing scoring repertoire and a sound foundation on the other side of the ball, he should be a first-class two-way contributor for years to come.
Bonus Round (Players that interest the Spurs)
7A. James Wiseman | Memphis | Freshman | Center
NBA Draft Analyst Matt Babcock reported San Antonio is interested in James Wiseman earlier today, and that isn’t all that shocking. I’m lower on Wiseman than most, though his size and athleticism are appealing for organizations lacking in those areas. The comparisons to David Robinson are overblown, and three games worth of college film aren’t enough to sway me one way or the other. Criticisms notwithstanding, I like the idea of talent like Wiseman in the Spurs’ unmatched developmental system.
The Spurs are reportedly showing considerable interest in Saddiq Bey. His BBIQ and elite standstill three-point shooting make him one of the safest selections in the draft, though taking him with the 11th pick would be an underwhelming decision. If San Antonio believes Bey is their guy, seeing as he should still be on the board outside of the lottery, they might as well trade down. Last year’s 11th overall pick Cam Johnson owns a near-identical physical and statistical profile, and though he put together a strong rookie season, there’s little doubt he would go lower in a redraft.