When looking at the Spurs’ needs for the 2020 NBA Draft, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a wing, whether it be in the 3-and-D or scoring mold. While this is not necessarily wrong, there is not much depth in this class when it comes to these types of prospects in relation to demand around the league.
However, what this class DOES have in abundance are potential lead guards. You may ask, “Why do the Spurs need another guard when they have drafted one in each of the last four years?”. While Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, and Keldon Johnson are all exciting prospects, none of them are likely to have the complete package of skills to be a primary lead guard option.
Alabama’s Kira Lewis could be that player for San Antonio. An astonishingly young sophomore, Lewis has spent his two years in Tuscaloosa putting up numbers for the Crimson Tide and is quickly rising up draft boards. He is a small but shifty guard with blinding speed, which makes him a terror in transition. Lewis is no slouch in the half court either, using a bevy of change of pace and direction moves to keep defenses on their heels out of the pick and roll. You cannot just play off Lewis either, who despite some small (but fixable) mechanical issues, translates well as a shooter. His size limits him on defense, but his quick feet and hands and lateral mobility allows him to guard his position effectively as well as make plays off ball. In a time where the NBA is moving towards having multiple creators on the court at the same time, he can play both on and off ball. While Lewis is one of the more underrated players in the draft, he sure is no sure bet to pan out as an offensive engine. However, if he makes the right improvements and is utilized correctly, he could be the steal of the class.
The benefit of Lewis he is fits in with the Spurs in multiple scenarios. If White and/or Murray are able to take that next step and become an offensive engine, Lewis can used as a secondary creator, a role that he should thrive in. If their development stagnates, Lewis and/or the likely high 2021 draft pick can take up the mantle as the center of San Antonio’s offense, with a plethora of complementary pieces surrounding them.
Below is an in depth scouting report of every aspect of Lewis’ game and how he could possibly fit with the Spurs.
Lewis has good height and length for a point guard. However, his frame is about as slight as it gets. Of course, Lewis can add muscle onto his frame, but his build is not the most optimal for putting on significant weight. There is also a real possibility that the weight could lead to a drop off in his elite tool: speed. Lewis is an elite prospect in terms of top gear speed and changing speed and direction. However, his lack of elite vertical pop prevents him from being a top level athletic archetype (Ex. John Wall).
You could say Murray also has a similar level of speed/quickness in transition (more due to his length, but still), but Lewis is already more effective in the half court due to his shooting ability.
Lewis can and does get to the rim easily due to his first step and burst, with the potential to finish with craft at the hoop with either hand. However, a couple issues arise when he gets to the basket. His lack of strength often leads to him shy away from contact, which affects his ability to draw fouls and finish through bigger defenders. Furthermore, he has just decent touch around the hoop, preventing him from having above average finishing. Since Lewis is not an elite vertical athlete, it is imperative that he learns how to embrace contact and draw fouls, something that will only come with added strength.
For the Spurs, they already have prospects who can put pressure on the rim (Murray, Johnson, Walker), but none of them are necessarily efficient around the hoop. Lewis speed alone should make him an average finisher, and if he puts on weight and gets better at accepting contact, Lewis could be dangerous at the rim.
Overall, Lewis projects solid shooter who can knock down shots both on and off ball. He had a steady diet of pull up threes this season, specifically out of the pick and roll, which Lewis can make consistently. As someone who had a 62% effective field goal mark on catch and shoot attempts, he should translate seamlessly to an off ball threat if need be. There is not much of a sample of him shooting off screens, but his shooting percentages off the catch and form suggest potential here. Mechanically, Lewis has a pretty consistent upper body and while his lower body is mostly sound, there are instances where it is not completely square to the hoop, which currently causes up and down shooting performances.
None of San Antonio’s best five players are consistent shooting threats, so as the Spurs transition into their youth movement, Lewis’ presence could be imperative as a spacing threat.
Lewis does not have an elite handle, but he uses it well in tandem with his quickness and is both efficient and effective with his moves. He’s able to use both hands to create, but seems more versatile and comfortable attacking his left. Lewis loves to use change of pace moves with a one dribble sequence to get defenses off balance, enough time for him to get to his spots.
While San Antonio does have capable options waiting in the wings, it never hurts to have someone of Lewis’ caliber to share the workload.
Technically speaking, Lewis COULD make almost every pass in the book. He is more comfortable kicking the ball out to shooters on the wing after defenses collapse. Lewis does not seem to be the most adept interior passer, but he did show flashes and Alabama did not have a significant roll threat this past season, so there is a real possibility that this becomes a strength in the future.
Whether he can make the read is a different question and will be addressed in the next two sections, but in terms of ability, Lewis can execute passes at a level higher than anyone on the Spurs’ current roster.
Pick and Roll
Lewis has gained comfort operating the pick and roll with Alabama. His speed and ability to get downhill quickly leaves defenses on their heels. If they sag, Lewis can step into a pull up three, which he knocked down at a solid clip this past season. If defenses try to pressure him, Lewis just uses his shift and handle to get past the defense and set himself up for a floater. When defenses pack the paint, he is good at make reads with a live dribble and kicking out to wherever the help came from. One area of improvement is not relying so much on his speed, instead incorporating change of pace moves to give him a better advantage. Additionally, I would like to see him attack the shoulder of the defense a little more, taking away the smallest margins of hope left for getting in front of Lewis.
When DeMar DeRozan inevitably leaves, someone will need to take up his pick and roll mantle, and Lewis’ potential as a threat from all three scoring levels could make him San Antonio’s best option.
Lewis has shown promise here but is still rather inconsistent. In terms of scoring the ball, he picks his spots really well and does not force too many bad shots. His tape as a passer tells a different story. While he improved significantly over the course of the 2019-20 season, he is still prone to forcing passes that are not there and sometimes fails to recognize reads on time (or at all in some instances). There are enough flashes where it should turn into a positive over time, but it is a question mark.
With Murray already being a questionable decision maker, it might be tough to bring in another guard who seemingly struggles with this aspect of his game, but Lewis’ age and improvements over the season bodes well for his development.
On Ball Defense
Lewis uses his quick feet and hands to his advantage and moves well laterally and has potential to be disruptive. His speed can cause his feet to be ahead of the rest of his body, leading to certain instances where players who can stop and start quickly can get Lewis off balance. Staying in control and really honing in on his footwork will likely mitigate this issue. Lewis is smart with his closeouts, making sure to cause some discomfort in his man’s release without being over aggressive. His lack of strength leaves him susceptible to being bumped off his spot.
Since San Antonio likes to pair Murray and White with a smaller guard to help mitigate spacing issues, Lewis can provide better on ball pressure than the current Patty Mills and Bryn Forbes tandem.
Lewis projects positively, but will need to lose some of the classic “young guy” lapses in concentration. Lewis has real potential disrupting passing lanes with his quickness and off ball reads. He has shown good timing and anticipation, but most of his steals come as a result of taking advantage of the offense’s mistakes. He could be much more impactful if he trusted his instincts better and was more aggressive as a playmaker. Lewis understands the nuances of help defense, knowing where to be, when to be there, and what to do. He misses reads on occasion, but overall does a good job being in the right spots defensively. While he should not be counted upon, Lewis has shown enough flash plays where he should have the ability to be in the right position to help affect or alter shots.
Due to his slight frame, Lewis projects as a single position defender who could even get bullied by stronger guards (Ex. Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry), even with potential added muscle. There is a world where he adds enough strength to hold up against smaller off guards and wings, but that is not too likely of a scenario. If he gets switched onto a big, help will have to come immediately.
Like every NBA team, the Spurs try to surround themselves with high level and high IQ team defenders. Lewis should not cost his team points in this area.
Lewis is active around a screen, either jumping the screen or getting over the top by getting skinny, but solid screens will cause him trouble due to his frame. He does a good job preventing the ball handler from making his first read, but is not very aggressive in taking advantage of his opponent’s mistakes. Lewis can sometimes rely too much on the screener’s defender and sometimes does not have as much ferocity to get back to his man.
Murray is more suited as wreaker of havoc off the ball, and White, Johnson, and Walker are more suited to guarding bigger players. Lewis’ ability to give consistent pressure in the pick-and-roll should allow San Antonio’s other disrupters to make plays.
It’s hard to know for sure what approach the Spurs are taking for the draft, both because of their usual secrecy and the lack of access due to the ongoing pandemic, but even if a guard doesn’t seem like a position of need for the Spurs, that doesn’t mean they should just waive off the idea all together if the right one falls in their lap.
To check out more potential 2020 draft targets, click here.