The 2022 NBA Draft has been completed, and I am sorting through the draft picks for the franchise direction. The Spurs didn't make the 2022 playoffs, but did make the playin tournament. Overall, the Spurs were 34-48 overall, with a +/- of +0.2, which is unusual. Generically, a team with an overall +/- of 0.0 should be around 41-41. The Spurs were particularly poor in "clutch" situations as a team (15-24) with a dramatic decrease in assists and terrible FT%, worst in the league in clutch situations. This isn't only due to Jakob Poeltl (47.1%), but also Dejounte Murray (67.7%). In one line of thought, most of the Spurs underperformance of their record is due to clutch issues.
While the offense was generally good (8th in NBA), points allowed was bad (23rd in NBA). Inside the offense, the Spurs were 26th in 3PM, and 18th in 3%.
Draft Perspective in Retrospect
Obvious thoughts going into the draft were that the Spurs were in need of a star, meaning a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd best player on an NBA Championship team. Last year, Primo was a swing at a star. It's about 2-3 years early to know that result. Joe Weiskamp was a draft-for-need situation concerning 3%. Too early to tell, again. Zach Collins, while not a draft pick, is a F/C who can defend, but can also make a FT (80%). Notably, the Spurs were 5-2 in clutch games with Collins, and 5-3 in clutch games with Josh Richardson. If the Spurs keep Josh, and Zach is healthy, there should be an immediate improvement in clutch. Over the last 15 games, the Spurs were 8-7.
I felt going into the 2022 NBA Draft that the Spurs needed A) a potential star, B) a defensive big man, C) depth at forward. Since the Spurs don't often do well in free agency, I felt filling a hole with a late 1st or 2nd rounder would be reasonable. Clearly, the Spurs didn't agree. Of the C's in the draft, the better defenders had poor to unimpressive FT%. Zach Collins was clearly superior. If true, signing Dom Barlow to a 2-way might provide some depth in a year or two hitting both B) & C), and he wasn't even drafted.
Sochan in my view has star potential at #9. I see him filling the role Kyle Anderson vacated when he left for Memphis that has never been replaced. Some will argue Kyle is/was a better shooter than Sochan is, but I'll counter that Kyle turned down a lot of shots. If Sochan can become a league average 3% shooter and can play some point forward I think he can be a star.
Malaki Branham is a scorer that might have more defensive potential than his stats at Ohio State would indicate. To me, his size, build and work ethic really remind me of ... Dejounte Murray, with shorter arms. However, this guy can shoot, while he doesn't quite seem to have the same defensive intensity or physical gifts. He can also be looked at as a straight-up replacement for LWIV. Despite his athletic gifts, Lonnie just couldn't shoot or defend consistently enough for his role in San Antonio.
Blake Wesley has athletic gifts and a defensive mindset. His shooting stroke doesn't look bad, but the results are poor to be kind. In Blake's case, a smaller role and better shot selection will positively impact his shooting percentage immediately. At Notre Dame, he was "The Guy", taking a ridiculous number of shots. Some were ill advised, some were at the end of the shot clock. That will change immediately in San Antonio/Austin. He won't be "The Guy", and as long as he buys into Spurs culture which I think he will, that shooting percentage will jump immediately. As Chip goes to work, he should also improve.
Dom Barlow was reportedly signed as a two-way player. He should be sent to Austin, where I think he will continue his rapid improvement he showed during Overtime Elite. He might also be able to absorb some minutes as a Center. He's a project, but he's got decent size, is willing to defend, and can make a FT. If he has the work ethic, he could turn into something. In the meantime if he takes the Drew Eubanks role, well that's ok too.
I expect Sochan to stay in San Antonio, and can see him getting 22-27 minutes a game, generally similar to Kawhi's first season (24.0). For a rookie under Popovich, that's a lot of minutes. Can Sochan play with Poeltl? Can he handle the ball well enough to do 4/5 Pick and Roll? If so Sochan could get even more minutes. I don't think so, my guess is Poeltl and Sochan have to be separated so Sochan can play with Collins or Landale. In that case 17-23 minutes feels about right.
Branham, Wesley and Barlow are going to Austin, almost regardless of how well they play. Keldon Johnson was on the same path. My guess is we will get first data on Branham in 2023/24, Wesley might be 2024/2025. Who knows about Barlow.
After seeing the video of Brian Wright, hearing his logic and looking at the numbers, the draft looks reasonable to me.