The San Antonio Spurs are potentially a superstar away from taking back their spot among the elite of the Western Conference. The Spurs haven’t had success in recent years when it comes to finding high-caliber talent.
San Antonio should look to maximize their chances of discovering an organization-altering prospect. The 2022 NBA Draft may not have a ton of All-Star potential, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few players worth an upside swing in the first or second round.
After another season of ups and downs, San Antonio knows which holes on the roster need filling. Whether it’s a lack of three-level shot creation or frontcourt depth behind or alongside Jakob Poeltl, there aren’t many ways the Spurs can stumble in a class that has plenty of players who shore up some of their deficiencies.
Above all, the Spurs must ensure they have at least one prospect they can stick in Austin and develop as an on-ball creator and a competent team defender that can potentially blossom into a cornerstone piece of this franchise for the next decade.
Round 1, Pick #9:
- Bennedict Mathurin, Wing, Arizona: The Spurs have a surplus of six-six players on their roster, but none of them have the tools to become a reliable two-way force with self-creation ability that bends a half-court defense. Mathurin is a decent shot-creator who can get to the line at an above-average rate and shoot from beyond the arc. He has a developing handle that could one day complement his explosive athletic ability. Yet, his real bread and butter come from his off-ball skills. Mathurin is an exceptional cutter with a knack for knocking down tough shots off movement. The 19-year-old frequently lost defenders with timely backdoor cuts, and he can operate as a lob threat on BLOB and ATO plays thanks to his constant movement. Defensively, Mathurin is versatile enough to defend guards and wings right out of the gate and navigates screens well. He also showed numerous flashes as a strong team defender, routinely making the correct weakside rotations. Bennedict Mathurin gives the San Antonio Spurs a modern wing that can do a little bit of everything, with legitimate three-level scoring upside.
Round 1, Pick 20:
- Nikola Jovic, Forward, Mega Basket (ABA League): Nikola Jovic and the San Antonio Spurs feel like a perfect match. With San Antonio not close to competing for anything significant with the roster as constructed and Jovic possibly needing some seasoning in the G-League, the timeline works for both sides. Jovic has moments working in the mid-post reminiscent of Jayson Tatum, but the efficiency is far from reaching All-Star status. That said, his passing and ball-handling are the skills that stick out when watching him play. His dribble package and pick-and-roll playmaking are relatively advanced, considering he measured at around six-ten at the NBA Draft Combine. Jovic is somewhat limited as a man-to-man defender because of his athletic shortcomings but occasionally flashed serviceability within the scheme of the team defense. Subpar athleticism doesn’t necessarily equate to low upside, and Jovic has plenty of potential as a scorer, shooter, and secondary facilitator. Should he tie everything together, the Serbian forward could become a significant member of the Spurs’ frontcourt rotation for years to come.
Round 1, Pick 25:
- Jake LaRavia, Forward, Wake Forest: I originally had LaRavia heading to San Antonio in the second round in my previous mock draft for PtR. However, LaRavia makes too much sense for the Spurs, a team that could use a backup power forward with two-way versatility. LaRavia sat out of the NBA Draft Combine Scrimmages likely due to a first-round promise from a team, and it is probably safe to say Jake will not be available outside of the first thirty picks. The Spurs get a healthy dose of shooting, playmaking, and defense bundled in a six-nine, 235-pound frame. Bring LaRavia off the bench or let him soak up some minutes with the starting unit for stretches in the middle of the game and reap the rewards.
Round 2, Pick 38:
- Leonard Miller, Guard/Forward, Ft. Erie International Academy: Pinning Leonard Miller to one position is a nearly impossible task. And that statement should set the tone for discussing the Canadian prospect. Miller is as much of an unknown commodity as the mystery meat in a five-layer lasagna from your local school cafeteria. He hasn’t played a minute of college or professional basketball up to this point, and he grew over six inches from his sophomore to senior season in high school. Miller looks comfortable as a pick-and-roll ball-handler yet shoots a basketball like someone preparing for a shotput competition. He is about as raw as a prospect gets, and any team willing to take a bet on him should have no immediate timeframe for him setting foot onto an NBA court and giving them consistent production. Despite so many question marks surrounding his game, there are a lot of fascinating flashes or guard skills packaged into a six-ten frame. Leonard put the ball on the floor, ran the offense as a primary facilitator, and torched opposing defenses off the dribble with an array of scoring moves during his lone season of postgraduate hoops. He is a smooth athlete who knows how to use pace and herky-jerky motions to his advantage, but he also turns the ball over at a concerning rate and plays defense as though it was an optional part of the game. There isn’t much public tape available for Milller, but the San Antonio is in a position that investing in him with the 38th pick in a neglible risk. The Spurs can lob Leonard Miller to Austin for a few seasons and give him a chance to blossom into an offensive focal point. If PATFO are looking to swing for the fences, San Antonio could hit an Aaron Judge level dinger if Leonard Miller fully taps into his upside by year three or four in his development.
The San Antonio Spurs selecting Mathurin, Jovic, and Miller signals this team is looking to maximize upside with all four of their picks in the 2022 NBA Draft. In Mathurin, they add someone that can play right away, but he also has untapped upside. While Jovic and Miller might run with the Austin Spurs for most of year one, and in Miller’s case, possibly year two, playing the long game is ideal for this rebuilding squad.