The closer we get to the NBA Draft, the more the conversation about what to do with the No. 12 pick heats up. Names like Kai Jones, Jalen Johnson, and Alperen Sengun have all been tossed around for the Spurs to take there, and for good reason. All three of those players have sky-high potential, and they all fill a need for the team.
One of their most apparent, and possibly greatest, need is shooting. The Spurs have been known to not take many three pointers in the modern, three-point laden era, but they had still managed to stay near the top the league in three-point-percentage. Before this past season, the only season since 2010-11 the Spurs weren’t top-five was the 2017-18 year, which will forever be remembered for the Kawhi saga. However, after letting Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli leave in the offseason, the Spurs then went on to shoot the lowest amount of threes per game and was 24th in the league in percentage.
With these shooting struggles and the roster they’ve currently constructed, the Spurs should definitely be looking at putting guys next to Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and maybe/maybe not DeMar DeRozan who can shoot 40%+ from three. The easiest way to do that is with the draft, where they won’t be competing with other bidders looking to sign the same player. While there may be shooters down the board available at 41, nobody in the draft is as good as Corey Kispert, and none of those “shooters” are as close to the all-around player he is.
In his last season with Gonzaga, he shot 63% on 5.9 2pt attempts, 44% on 6.5 3pt attempts, and 88% on 3.1 free throw attempts per game, which equates to a true shooting percentage of 67.4% and eFG of 64.4%. His 44% from three was tied for fifth best in the nation. For a team that had Jalen Suggs, a likely top-4 pick, Kispert, along with Drew Timme, carried the offensive load for the NCAA runner-up all season, as they both were in the top-5 of offensive win shares and offensive box plus/minus.
Beside the fact that Kispert is the best shooter in the draft, another reason why the Spurs should look at taking him is that he’s a proven commodity. Many feel teams should aim for the moon with the 12th pick, because even if they miss, at least they land amongst the stars, but that’s not quite how the NBA works. Taking a prospect who seems to be just about as NBA-ready as any player in the draft isn’t a bad thing. Sure, he may be 22-years-old, but he’s consistently been in the top-10 amongst mock drafts and was the NCAA runner-up’s best player throughout the season.
Everybody, including the Spurs, know exactly what they’re getting from a guy like Kispert. That wouldn’t necessarily be the case with most of the other prospects likely to still be available at that spot. If the players currently on the roster are seen as guys who could lead them to the playoffs, which they’ve been close to making the last two years, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t add someone ready to contribute right away, especially given that he would fit right into said-roster.
Perhaps the most underrated aspect Kispert’s game that the Spurs shouldn’t overlook is he’s more athletic than given credit for. A lot of what is seen on tape is him launching threes from all over the court, but there are also just as many highlights of him blowing by the defender, closing out to get into the paint, and using his touch for shooting above-average floaters.
Looking at his combine results, he had the second fastest shuttle time at 2.99 seconds and a 37.5” vertical, which isn’t Keon Johnson’s record-breaking 48” vertical, but it’s still a solid leap. These two numbers reflect on what he could potentially be defensively, because as The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor writes in his breakdown of Kispert, he’s a “reliable, hard-nosed positional defender who puts himself in the right spots, whether in off-ball help situations or in man-to-man matchups.” The Spurs wouldn’t need him to be an All-NBA defender, but somebody they can rely on to pair alongside Dejounte, Derrick, Keldon, Lonnie, and whoever else they put out on the court.
As a closing argument for the case of drafting Corey Kispert, think about what drafting a player does compared to signing a free agent. Sure, there are shooters on the market this offseason the Spurs could offer contracts to and fill this void, like Evan Fournier, Doug McDermott, Tim Hardaway Jr., and even a restricted free agent like Duncan Robinson. But, in order to get somebody like that, they’d most likely have to pay in the range of $12-18 million and beat out other teams offering contracts to them. Also, these players would all be in their 30s by the time their contract expired, if not by the time next season started.
Drafting Kispert would lock him in at a salary around what Devin Vassell is making, which at its most is 5.8 million in 2023-24. On top of paying him this rookie wage, the Spurs would get the chance to offer him an extension before he hits free agency, like they’ve done with Dejounte and Derrick. This means, should he pan out, he could be a part of the Spurs core for the next eight years, with the next four being on a team-friendly deal, keeping open the chance to offer players like John Collins the max contract they’re looking for.
All in all, Corey Kispert isn’t going to be the flashiest of picks that carries this tremendous potential to be a top-5 guy in the league. However, his potential is being the best in the league as the type of player every good NBA team needs: a shooter. Look across the league, and you’ll see top teams trotting out Joe Harris, Cam Johnson, the Bogdanović’s, Danny Green, and even Donte DiVincenzo and Bryn Forbes. These types of players that are put next to the main ball handlers to spread the floor, knockdown shots without needing the ball in their hands all the time, and who know, “I’m here to shoot, move the ball, and compete on the defensive end.”
Those players, or what some call “the others,” are who take teams to the next level, as they help make the game easier for the team’s best players. He’s not the athletic freak Kai Jones and Keon Johnson are, or potentially the next Nikola Jokic, like Alperen Sengun, but what Corey Kispert is, is an awesome basketball player that fills a team need immediately. That alone should be worthy of the 12th pick.