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Building the Spurs back into a contender starts with the 2022 NBA Draft

Last year laid the foundation for the rebuild now it’s time to build upon that base

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star Matt Stone / USA TODAY NETWORK / USA TODAY NETWORK

On Thursday night, the Golden State Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics to capture their fourth championship in eight years to close the door on the 2021/2022 NBA season. Exactly a week later on June 23, the next season will kick off, as the NBA Draft will give teams their first chance to make additions.

For the San Antonio Spurs the event will really set the tone for their off-season. Two months ago, when San Antonio’s season ended for the second straight year with a play-in game loss I wrote, “(The Spurs) now have the resources to go in any direction they choose, whether that may be option A: cashing in on one player, or option B: slowly building through the draft. The first season of the rebuild was a success because it laid the foundation for this franchise to decide how they want to proceed in building this team back into a contender. Now the next few months will show us which path they will go: A or B”. This Thursday will be the first opportunity to see which direction the Spurs front office decides to go in.

Neither option is necessarily bad. Cashing in assets for established players means that the Spurs can be back in the playoff hunt starting next season, and if the new additions click with some of the current Spurs, they could be a threat for years to come. But one has to wonder after looking at this year’s NBA finals (and when considering the Spurs’ own history of success) if building through the draft isn’t the more optimal path. Eight out of the ten starters in the NBA finals were drafted by their current team and were developed by the same coaching staff. The majority of the players had played together for years and developed chemistry over time, which is a huge reason why both teams were able to get through three grueling playoff series.

The Spurs front office will have surely noticed that trend and, considering they have a high level of trust with their scouts, they could rely on their intel to pick the right players and build the Spurs back through their own developmental system in San Antonio and Austin, like they have before. They already have a plethora of young talent of different caliber, from newly All-Star Dejounte Murray and US Gold Medalist Keldon Johnson to their last two lottery picks of Devin Vassell and Josh Primo. The Silver & Black might not have a lot of star talent in the pipeline, but they certainly aren’t lacking in the youth department.

So the question becomes, would adding what could be another four draftees into the mix help the Spurs long-term goals? Possibly, but they are going to have to decide sooner rather than later which young players they like the most, because 1) they can’t pay them all, and 2) there aren’t enough minutes to go around to get sufficient developmental progress. So even if they choose to continue the youth movement, the clock is ticking. There might be the time to take some chances, which the Spurs seem willing to do.

When looking back through last year’s draft content, I found a piece that I wrote about San Antonio’ general manager Brian Wright and his post-draft comments to the media, which could be applied to this years draft and may give a good insight into who the Spurs may select this year.

“Best player available, best potential long-term ceiling. Some key targets we want to hit, versatility & shooting,” Wright said immediately after the 2021 draft ended.

It sounds like whoever is the best player available come the 9th pick will be who San Antonio selects, even if it’s another guard, which is the right approach. If the Spurs don’t cash in their picks for a star in a trade, they’ll need to find one in the draft and develop him, as Boston and Golden State did. Unfortunately, the players that have surefire centerpiece potential are most likely going to be gone in the top five picks, so they might need to swing for the fences on some riskier prospects.

Take Shadeon Sharpe as an example. A once potential top-5 pick is starting to fall in the pre-draft process after underwhelming workouts, according to reports. With so little information available on him, he could fall as far as number nine where San Antonio would have the option to select him. Sharpe certainly has a high ceiling and is still considered to some as one of the best players coming out of this draft despite being a bit of mystery after not playing last year. He can shoot the heck out of the ball and is certainly versatile with his 6’5 frame and 6’11 wingspan. Sharpe in particular stands out as a potential target, but there might be others who would make good targets if what Wright said last year remains true this Thursday and whose ceiling is at the top of the Spurs’ list of desired attributes.

With a roster already set at eight guaranteed contracts, four non-guaranteed and a possible $30+ million to spend in free agency, it seems unlikely that the Spurs bring in four new rookies with three being guaranteed contracts from the first round. But if the Silver & Black do make each designated selection that they currently have, expect the same approach with each. Wright made it clear last year that they wouldn’t deviate from the BPA mindset, so for now until Thursday the waiting continues as the NBA’ most secretive organization keeps their cards close to their chest.