How Amen Thompson’s Sky-High Potential Will Tempt the Spurs

Amen Thompson is one of the most mysterious and intriguing prospects in the 2023 NBA Draft. With the San Antonio Spurs in need of a dominant, franchise-altering linchpin, his tantalizing upside will be impossible for the organization to ignore.

On May 16th, if the Spurs win the NBA draft lottery and end up with the top choice, picking Victor Wembanyama will be a no-brainer. But if the Spurs don’t get the first overall selection, Thompson will be a player that the Silver and Black have to take a long, hard look at drafting.

The last two seasons, Amen Thompson played in the Overtime Elite with Ausar Thompson, his twin brother. Overtime Elite is a basketball league that is based in Atlanta and was created to give high school basketball players the option of going pro at an earlier age while preparing for the NBA draft. 

Amen Thompson’s Strengths

Thompson isn’t just the most athletic player in the draft, there’s a case to be made that he’ll instantaneously become the most athletic player in the NBA once his rookie season commences. He’s blindingly fast, he’s a great leaper, his lateral quickness is elite, his agility is otherworldly and his cuts are shockingly explosive. 

Not only is Thompson athletic, he’s a legit 6-foot-7 and he knows how to use his size and length. When you’re picking at the top of the lottery, he’s exactly the type of dynamic athlete with size you want to draft.

Beyond his physical attributes, Thompson has some interesting skills on the offensive end. First of all, he has a high basketball IQ. His smarts, size and athleticism combine to make him a high-quality finisher at the rim. 

Thompson’s most impressive skill right now is his playmaking ability. He handles the ball well, sees the floor from sideline to sideline and can deliver pinpoint passes in a variety of ways. When he uses his athleticism to break down the defense, he can process information fast and find his open teammate without skipping a beat. 

If everything works out well in his maturation process, Thompson will ultimately be a point guard. Given his physical tools and his 6-foot-7 frame, that’s an exciting possibility. 

Thompson faces a steep learning curve early in his career but his athleticism will make him useful early on. Defensively, he’s already adept at using his athleticism to create fast break opportunities. Offensively, it won’t take long for him to figure out how to get to the basket.

Outside of Wembanyama, Thompson likely has the highest ceiling of any player in the draft. He has a chance to be a big, go-to playmaker that a team can build around — and that’s the most valuable asset in the league. 

Areas of Concern for Amen Thompson

There’s little to no proof that Thompson will ever be able to shoot a basketball outside of 15 feet. He’s a poor three-point shooter even though he was rarely guarded on jumpers in the Overtime Elite. His free throw shooting is also poor.

Looking at his form, Thompson has a lot of work to do. None of his shots utilize the same mechanics, so he’s likely going to have to start over and rebuild his shot from the ground up. 

The other major question mark that is hovering over his head is the Overtime Elite itself. It’s very difficult to figure out his potential due to the competition level he has faced. The 20-year-old Thompson twins were easily the best players in the league — and they often went up against overmatched high school players.

A bad shooting perimeter player who hasn’t faced much real competition sounds like a risky prospect in theory. In reality, that’s an undeniable fact. Thompson could be a franchise player but he could also be out of the league by the end of his rookie contract. 

The team that drafts Thompson has to be prepared to put in a lot of work. He needs to learn how to shoot, he has to learn defensive fundamentals and he has a huge adjustment ahead of him going from crushing Overtime Elite crash test dummies to competing against NBA players.

If Thompson pans out, the prize will be immense. But there’s also a very real chance he flames out in short order. 

A Scout’s View: Amen Thompson’s Fit on the Spurs

“He’d be the luckiest man in the draft if he gets picked up by San Antonio,” said a scout for a Western Conference team when asked about Thompson getting drafted by the Spurs. “They’ll work with him and give him all the time and resources he needs to succeed. If he is given a chance to grow at his own pace, that’s all he could ask for.”

Final Thoughts on the Spurs Potentially Drafting  Amen Thompson

While I personally believe that Scoot Henderson would be the selection if the Spurs land the second pick, I don’t think the whispers of Amen Thompson being the pick are ridiculous at all. If Thompson reaches his ceiling, he could be the best player on a contending team who is a perfect fit for the positionless NBA of the 2020s and beyond.

That said, the downsides of picking him are frightening. I don’t remember the last top five pick who has such a clear and obvious path to being a bust. Being a non-shooter and playing in a league that has an unproven competition level sounds like the recipe for a cautionary tale in the making.

One thing to note, though, is that the Spurs probably have a better read on the Overtime Elite than any other team in the league due to Dominic Barlow. Barlow is the only NBA player to come out of the Overtime Elite, so it’s possible that San Antonio has the inside track on being able to translate Thompson’s production to the next level.

Overall, I think that Thompson is a long-shot to be the Spurs pick at No. 2 over Henderson. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the pick starting at No. 3 if Wembanyama and Henderson are off the board.