Since the end of the Tim Duncan era, the San Antonio Spurs have been undergoing some changes. First, they pivoted towards LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, which kept them competitive but never to the point of championship contention.
While the Spurs were trotting out Aldridge and DeRozan, they were simultaneously taking steps to create a smooth transition from present to future, building a foundation of young players for which to build their next house.
Armed with four Top 40 picks, San Antonio’s efforts are all leading into the 2022 offseason, making this summer their most important one in decades.
Who to pick
The Spurs are in possession of the ninth overall selection, which is their only lottery pick. They then select again at 20th, 25th, and 38th. Needless to say, the Spurs could try to trade up if they so wish. But there’s also merit in hanging onto all four picks, and spending one, if not two, selections on players to keep overseas. That way, the organization makes sure to get a continuous flow of incoming talent every offseason, regardless of whether or not they have any draft picks.
First round, ninth overall selection
Who to select with their selections is the bigger question, so let’s start with their first pick at #9.
Bennedict Mathurin out of Arizona would instantly give the Spurs a starting caliber shooting guard, who has two-way upside. Mathurin appears to be one of the most NBA-ready perimeter players in the draft, and it shouldn’t come as surprise if he’s a candidate for Rookie Of the Year next year, pending minutes. The 19-year-old netted an effective 17.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, while hitting 36.9% from deep.
While not a favorite near the top of the board, Mathurin’s polished game could draw some eyes from teams with higher picks over the next week and change.
They could also go for LSU product Tari Eason, an explosive two-way combo forward who they can mold into a potential star. The Spurs do need depth at both forward spots, and Eason fits that need like a glove, while also offering the Spurs lethal athletic ability they haven’t had since Kawhi Leonard. Eason’s ridiculous per-minute production (25.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.9 steals per 36 minutes) should be a major point of interest for the Spurs.
If they decide to go with a forward, there’s also Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan to consider, who is a more relaxed version of Eason, and one the best hole-pluggers in the draft. Sochan can do a bit of everything, netting 9.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.3 steals, and you can ask him to take on a multitude of roles, varying even from game-to-game.
Regardless who they choose, the ninth selection will see the Spurs inject significant talent into their roster.
First round, 20th overall selection
At #20, the Spurs should hope to see Serbian Nikola Jović available. He’s a raw 6’10 combo forward who has the ability to put the ball on the floor, shoot from the outside, and there’s even potential for him to become a multi-positional defender who can help out on the glass. He put up 12 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists this season, while canning 1.6 three-pointers per game.
If he’s available, it’d behoove the Spurs to keep him overseas for a year, maybe even two, as he develops and fine-tunes his game. That said, the Spurs should make it a priority to be heavily invested in his progress, and even help him find the right situation for him. If the best situation is remaining with Mega Bemax, that’s obviously optimal. But should the Spurs instead believe he’ll gain more from playing in Spain for France, it’d make sense to help him arrange for that kind of a situation. It’s worth noting that former Spurs star Tony Parker is the majority owner as ASVEL Basket in the French LNB Pro A league.
First round, 25th overall selection
Moving onto #25 and EJ Liddell becomes an intriguing option for the Spurs. At 6’7 and 245 pounds, Liddell is a new-age power forward who plays both sides of the floor (2.6 blocks), shoots the triple (37.4% on 3.8 nightly attempts), and even engages in a bit of playmaking (2.5 assists). The Ohio State product could be off the board by this point, but questions surrounding his ability to hit the NBA three-point shot reliably could also force him down, making him available to the Spurs.
They could also take a swing at Wendell Moore from Duke. The 6’6 wing, who sports a near 7’1 wingspan, showcases and effective all-around game this season, averaging 13.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. While Moore doesn’t project as a big-time scorer, his jack-of-all-trades skill set is one that would be welcomed in San Antonio.
Second round, 38th overall selection
Finally, at #38, the Spurs should once more swing big and go for an international talent with upside. Yannick Nzosa, out of Malaga, is a 6’10 forward who has a long, long way to go. But at 18 years old, there’s plenty of time for him to develop. The Spurs should unquestionably stash him for at least two years, if not more, and like Jović be very hands-on in terms of his development. Nzosa is a long-term gamble who might not pan out, but given that he’s still developing physically and skills-wise, there might be a player there in a few years who’s worth bringing over.
Unless noted otherwise, all stats via NBA.com, PBPStats, Cleaning the Glass or Basketball-Reference. All salary information via Spotrac. All odds via FanDuel Sportsbook.