FanPost

Why we should trust PAFTO draft acumen and bet against Primo being a bust.

There has been a lot of questions about past decisions to draft Joshua Primo with the 12th pick in the draft. Other prospects were seen as safer bet (Wagner, Moses Moody, …) while other seems to better fill the roster needs while still retaining a lot of upside (Kai Jones, Sengun were popular names). I myself favor drafting Moody, Booknight or Wagner for their fit (all are believed to bring shooting) and potential upside. So with the Spurs on the clock and Moody still available I was pretty pleased. Yet the Spurs surprised me and took a guy I wasn’t expecting to be in the first round. I didn’t even looked any of his highlights or scouting video.
So have PAFTO lost their mind by drafting a high school kid?
Their track record up to this point is a resounding no.
Are the people calling Primo a bust right? tThey have 90% chances not to be.
But first we need to define what's a bust nd what's a success.

One way to do that is to simply look if they were better player selected after the Spurs pick. This is almost an impossible bar to reach because basically it is evaluating if for every single draft the Spurs took the best available player (i won’t look at undrafted free agent here).
The other way is simply to see if the Spurs draft pick outperform their slot. For that I will subjectively use TheAthletic chart published right before Thursday Draft.

1- Did the Spurs always took the best player available?

Spoiler alert: no.
For the last few year of the draft I just listed a few players but it is impossible to judge definitely, that would be possible once all the player of each draft have retired, and I won’t wait that long ;)
For best player available I will just use WS from basketballreference.com
Unsurprisingly, using that criteria, the Spurs didn’t always pick the best player available. In fact since 2000, it happened only once. And you will be very surprised which player it was.

Spurs First Round pick since 2000.

Draft year

First round

Rank

Best player available

2020

Vassel

11

Too early

2019

Samanic

19

Too early

Johnson

29

Too early

2018

Walker

18

Shamet Robert Williams Bruce Brown Jalen Brunson

2017

White

29

Josh Hart Monte Morris

2016

Murray

29

Zubac Brogdon

2015

Milutinov

26

Nance Jr, Looney, Harrell, Richaun Holmes, etc

2014

K Anderson

30

Jokic Jerami Grant Dwight Powel

2013

Jean Charles

Bust 28

Allen Crab, James Ennis Muscala

2011

Joseph

29

Jimmy Butler 30 Bojan Bogdanovic31

Leonard

15

Jimmy Butler

2010

J Anderson

20

T Booker, Vasquez

2008

Hill

25

DeAndre Jordan

2007

Splitter

28

Carl Landry Marc Gasol

2005

Mahinmi

28

David Lee Lou Williams Brandon Bass Gortat

2004

Udrih

28

Varejao Ariza

2003

Barbosa

28

Kyle Korver

2002

Salmons

26

Carlos Boozer, Matt barnes

2001

Parker

28

No

The only draft for which the Spurs picked the best player available was Tony Parker. It is not Kawhi because Butler drafted 30th has actually slightly more winshare. It’s obvious that that criteria is not the end all be all and that almost anyone would say that Kawhi is the best player of draft. But even if we admit Kawhi as the best player, that just made it only one of two draft " successes " for the Spurs. Even for Murray and White, they were better player available in the second round that the Spurs missed. It is a bit early to tell and it is still possible that Murray and White leapfrog some of the player I listed.
Remarkably it appears that most of the misses were on big man: 13 were big man from 2000 to 2015. Of course during all that year the Spurs had Duncan, Robinson, Splitter so drafting bigs wasn’t the priority. But the Spurs did drafted some bigs and they had some misses, especially Jean Charles and Milutinov. They also missed on some very good guard like Lou Williams or Kyle Korver, but it was when they had star guard on the roster already (parker, Ginobili, just drafted Udrih) so it didn’t really make sense to draft another, knowing they won’t have playing time or would have to be traded. It was also very unlikely that any guard they drafted would have been better than Parker or Ginobili so why draft a guy that won’t be better than what you have? The argument of drafting them and trade them for position of need is not perfect either: they were a championship team who didn’t have cap space to absorb large contract so most of the year it would have been difficult. This is completely different than 2021 where they have cap space and no star guards.
The draft that looks really bad so far is 2018 with Lonnie at 18. His winshare is almost 0 and they are a lot of productive player taken after him. I believe it just took him more time because the Spurs used the Gleague far more than other team on first round pick.
Murray and White suffer from that too and from injuries.

Spurs Second Round pick since 2000.

Draft year

Second round

Rank

Best player available

2020

Tre Jones

41

TBD

2019

Weatherspoon

49

TBD

2018

Metu

49

Shake Milton

2017

Blossomgame

59

2015

Lalane

55

2014

C Jefferson

60

2013

Thomas

58

2012

Denmon

59

Robert Sacre

2011

Bertans

42

Hanga

59

Isaiah Thomas 60

2010

Richards

49

Jeremy Evans

2009

Blair

37

Jerebko Jodie Meeks Pat Beverley Marcus Thornton Danny Green

McClinton

51

AJ Price

De Colo

53

Patty Mills

2008

Gist

57

Dragic

45

2007

M Williams

33

Marc Gasol Glen Davis

Printezis

58

2006

Markota

59

2004

Karaulov

57

2002

Scola

56

No

Holcomb

57

No

2001

Bracey

58

No

2000

Carrawell

41

Michael Redd Brian Cardinal Jason Hart

Hightower

54

The Spurs draft record looks a bit better for the second round. The main reason being the Spurs drafting 55 or lower in12 of their 25 second round pick. Even among those 12 picks, they missed Isaiah Thomas and Robert Sacre. They also didn’t get many steals, as only De Colo, Blair and Bertans played significant time for San Antonio. Even Blair and De Colo weren’t the best player available since patty Mills, Danny Green, Pat Beverley, Jonas Jerebko, Jodie Meeks were all available. Even worse the Spurs had 3 second rounder. So when you look at who they pick you can claim success, if you look at who they miss it looks like a failure. Draft is also not the end of everything since the Spurs ended up with both Danny Green and Patty Mills less than two year after the draft.
The biggest misses are probably Michael Redd and Marc Gasol (the year the Spurs drafted Tiago Splitter in the first round).

2-The Spurs draft outcome vs historical draft outcome.

I am using the Athletic data from 2000-2017 to classify the Spurs success vs league average. I did not have access to the Athletic article so I might have different appreciation of the terms used by the author. Nonetheless it shouldn’t be a huge difference.
Here are the category and my understanding of it:
Bust: didn’t play any NBA minutes
Just a guy: play some NBA minutes, got at least 1 or two NBA contract (not just two way contract)
High rotation: guy who average at least 10mpg for more than two season
Top starters: starter more than 50% of his game for several season and/or average more than 10 point
Borderline All-star: made 1 All-star Max in his career
Franchise Core: made several All-Star game or won DPOY/6th Man/MVP or All NBA.
I use those criteria loosely just to get an idea of what I understand by those term.

You can skip the first tab below and jump to the second tab who agregate the results.

Draft year

Second round

Rank

Player outcome

2020

Tre Jones

41

TBD

2019

Weatherspoon

49

TBD

2018

Metu

49

TBD

2017

Blossomgame

59

Bust

2015

Lalane

55

Bust

2014

C Jefferson

60

Bust

2013

Thomas

58

Bust

2012

Denmon

59

Bust

2011

Bertans

42

Hanga

59

Bust

2010

Richards

49

Bust

2009

Blair

37

McClinton

51

Bust

De Colo

53

2008

Gist

57

Bust

Dragic

45

2007

M Williams

33

Bust

Printezis

58

Bust

2006

Markota

59

Bust

2004

Karaulov

57

Bust

2002

Scola

56

Holcomb

57

Bust

2001

Bracey

58

Bust

2000

Carrawell

41

Bust

Hightower

54

Bust

Spurs 2nd round pick outcome vs NBA average

Draft rank

31-40

41-50

51-60

Number of pick

2

7

16

Number of bust

1

2

14

Spurs Bust %

50 %

30 %

87.5 %

Historical bust %

63 %

75 %

90 %

Top starters

0

1 Dragic

1 Scola

Borderline all star

0

0

0

Franchise core

0

0

0

High rotation

1 Dejuan Blair

1 Bertans

Just a guy

0

2? Metu Weatherspoon?

1 De Colo

For Second round pick the Spurs did slightly better than the league average for 2000-2017. I did not count Tre Jones and Wiesekamp because it is too early but Jones look like a just a guy or high rotation if everything breaks right for him. Weatherspoon, if he gets a NBA contract could also enter that just a guy category.
With their second round draft slot the Spurs were expected to get 21 busts out of their 25 picks. They got only 17. So they did better than what the league does on average (Jones and Wiesekamp excluded). The tab I am using isn’t super precise so hard to tell for the other category but we can at least conclude that the Spurs did better than expected. Remember that Ginobili -drafted earlier- is not included.
What does that mean for Wiesekamp? Well since there is only 7 guys drafted by the Spurs in that range, including 3 in the last 3 year, not much. The Spurs have done OK in that range but that might just be because two way contract make playing NBA game easier. A better indicator will be what kind of contract Wiesekamp get this summer. If it’s a normal NBA contract like Tre Jones it could bod well for him. Or it could means he is another Metu.

You can skip the first tab below and jump to the second tab who agregate the results.

Draft year

First round

Rank

Player outcome

2020

Vassel

11

TBD

2019

Samanic

19

TBD

Johnson

29

High rotation

2018

Walker

18

High rotation

2017

White

29

Top Starter

2016

Murray

29

Top Starter

2015

Milutinov

26

Bust

2014

K Anderson

30

Top Starter

2013

Jean Charles

28

Bust

2011

Joseph

29

High rotation

Leonard

15

Franchise

2010

J Anderson

20

Just a guy

2008

Hill

25

Top Starter

2007

Splitter

28

Top Starter

2005

Mahinmi

28

High rotation

2004

Udrih

28

High rotation

2003

Barbosa

28

High rotation

2002

Salmons

26

Top Starter

2001

Parker

28

Franchise

Spurs First round pick outcome vs NBA average

Draft rank

11-20

21-30

Number of pick

4

19

Number of bust

0

2

Spurs Bust %

0 %

10.5 %

Historical bust %

28 %

38 %

Spurs Just a guy

TBD

0

Historical just a guy%

38 %

33 %

Spurs High rotation

25 %

32 %

Historical high rotation %

12 %

Spurs Top starters

TBD

32 %

Historical top starters%

6 %

Spurs Borderline all star

TBD

0 %

Historical Borderline Allstar%

4 %

Spurs Franchise core

25 %

5 %

Historical franchise core%

2 %

2 %

If the Spurs did fairly well with their second rounder, getting slightly less bust than they should have, it is clear that they are doing much better with their First round pick: only 2 busts when they should have gotten 8.3. Expected Bust+just a guy: 8.3+8.9= 17.19. Spurs Bust+ just a guy =3. Even if you are including Samanic and Primo that’s 5, 12 less than expected. That’s awesome.
I could stop my demonstration here: there is only a 10% chance Primo is a bust.
You can argue that Barbosa and Salmons never played for the Spurs and therefore shouldn’t be counted here but that wouldn’t change the results much. The Spurs are pretty good at drafting in the first round, especially at avoiding bust. Of course they never get the best player available at their draft spot but which franchises do?
We can all be disappointed about the Primo pick but if history tells us one thing is that PAFTO is pretty good at drafting, even better than the average NBA teams.

For more on that subject you can also check :
http://82games.com/bestdraftingteams.htm
They did a similar exercise but from 1989 to 2008 with their own criteria. Still the Spurs appear at the top of the NBA.

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