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Taking a look at draft prospects through Spurs-colored glasses: The Wings

Comparing players that might be drafted to players that wore the silver and black

2022 NBA Draft Lottery Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

We’ve reached part three of my prospect comparisons, which is all about the wings. Is it coincidence that wings anagrams to swing? In today’s NBA, I don’t think so. Everywhere you look, rosters are littered with 6’5” to 6’10” guys that can handle the ball, shoot, defend, and rebound — some can do all of those at an elite level, while some can only do a couple. That’s why this is such a swing position. You hit on one of these prospects, and your ceiling raises. So let’s look at a few of the potential wings the Spurs can take a chance on.

Again, here are my disclaimers from parts one and two:

Disclaimer No. 1: These aren’t perfect. The game has changed so much over the years, which will be evident in the videos I add for the Spurs player I’m comparing the prospect to, so some imagination will be necessary.

Disclaimer No. 2: Some footage was harder to find than other when it came to the Spur I was comparing the prospect to, so I included what I felt best.

Malaki Branham

Comparison: Vinny Del Negro

Let’s face this fact, Vinny had a pretty good run in the mid-90s as a Spur. Being behind The Admiral and Sean Elliott, he wasn’t tasked with being some incredible go-to scorer. Branham was in a similar situation, as he was asked to just relieve some of the scoring burden of E.J. Liddell. In this role, Branham was extremely efficient, making 41.6% from three on 2.8 attempts per game. What’s promising is he became a better player as the year went along. In the 2022 part of the season, Branham averaged 17 points per game on 52.8% shooting (43.2% on 3.4 three-point attempts). And I’d be remiss if I didn’t that at 6’5.5”, he has a 6’10” wingspan.

Tari Eason

Comparison: Willie Anderson

There are comparisons to another former Spur out there for Eason, but for one, he’s still active and I’m trying to avoid those, and two, I just didn’t want to watch highlights of that Spur. There just happened to be another Spur from yesteryear that was a lengthy wing that could create havoc on defense and score a little. As a rookie, Willie Anderson led the Spurs in scoring, but the following year was reverted to being a role player because that’s when The Admiral debuted. As far as Eason goes, his shot looks a little too much like a shot put right now, but he has shown improvement in that area. What makes Eason so intriguing come from his size, length, and athleticism. Standing 6’8” with a 7’2” wingspan, he’s a disruptive defender that averaged 1.9 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.

Ochai Agbaji

Comparison: Michael Finley

Some might know Finley more as a Dallas Maverick than a Spur, but he did become one of the good guys eventually. When it comes to Agbaji, he’s one of the few players expected to go in the first round that played four seasons in college. What’s promising is how much he improved each year at Kansas, ending his last season there averaging 18.8 points, shooting 40.7% from three on 6.5 attempts per game. Between his strong offensive stats and his defensive ability, Agbaji took home Player of the Year in perhaps the strongest conference in college basketball. He’s a no-frills player (with a few thrills) that just produces.

Kendall Brown

Athletic Bruce Bowen

The player who slid down draft boards the most over the course of the 2021-22 season, Kendall Brown, is a 6’7.5” athletic freak that found himself in a tough position at Baylor. Scott Drew has always run a guard-centric offense – just look at the team he won the National Championship with. Adam Flagler, James Akinjo, and LJ Cryer ran the show, with Matthew Mayer also handling the ball a bit from time to time. This left Brown as merely a spot-up player that would attack closeouts if given the chance. Brown just isn’t the shooter to play this part at the moment, so his offensive numbers were minimal. What stands out on film is just how explosive he is. He’ll be able to defend guards and wings alike (Matisse Thybulle comes to mind, except Brown isn’t quite to that level). With some help from Chip, Brown could become the same kind of player Bowen was for the Spurs. The only thing is that Bowen didn’t have quite the same all-around offensive potential.

AJ Griffin

Chuck Person

While Brown was sliding down boards, A.J. Griffin was rising up them. This was mostly due to his ability to knockdown shots when teams were focused on Paolo Banchero and the Duke guards, as well as being able to attack rotating defenses. That shooting stroke helped him end the year with a three-point percentage of 44.7 on 4.1 attempts per game. To use Person’s nickname, he was essentially Duke’s Rifleman this year. He’s still learning how to best utilize his size and skills, having missed a couple of years due to injury. But if those injury questions stay in the past, you’re looking at a prototypical 3-D wing with upside to be even more.