5 Exciting Boom-or-Bust Prospects the Spurs Can Draft

The San Antonio Spurs need an infusion of talent in order to return to their customary spot in the playoffs. With four picks (9, 20, 25 and 38) in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Spurs will have opportunities to find that needed talent on Thursday night. 

San Antonio could opt to play it safe and hope to come out with a few rotational pieces. Alternatively, the Spurs could swing for the fences with a pick or two and try to get lucky with a boom-or-bust prospect. While the five following prospects all come with a daunting amount of risk, all of them have All-Star upside — and that’s the type of talent that could speed up San Antonio’s journey back to the playoffs. 

Shaedon Sharpe | 19.1 years old | 6-foot-5 | SG

The ultimate boom-or-bust prospect in this draft is unquestionably Shaedon Sharpe. There’s a chance he becomes a transcendent scorer who ends up being the best player drafted on Thursday night. On tape, his ability to create space for his jumper looks to be special. He has natural offensive skills that can’t be taught, including a beautiful jumper, impeccable balance and explosive athleticism. 

At his best, Sharpe makes the game of basketball look easy. He instinctively reads defenders well and almost never gets flustered with the ball in his hands. For a teenager, his poise and patience are uncommon traits.

However, there’s also a legitimate chance that Sharpe turns out to be more hype than substance. In fact, it’s not hyperbolic to state that Sharpe could end up being a poor man’s Lonnie Walker IV. Yes, that’s the type of risk picking him would entail. 

As awesome as he looks on tape, Sharpe’s footage is from his high school days. The competition level is iffy and the intensity level is even iffier. He looks like a preternatural scorer and it’s easy to see why he was the number one recruit in the nation — but there’s simply not enough evidence to know with certainty whether Sharpe is a future All-Star or a future cautionary tale.

Sharpe enrolled at Kentucky last season but never played a minute for the Wildcats. Why didn’t he play? The most logical answer is that he didn’t want to damage his draft stock. And, honestly, it looks like a brilliant decision because he’ll almost assuredly land in the lottery. If he would have struggled at Kentucky, Sharpe could have missed out on millions of dollars with a few bad showings — so who could blame him for sitting out?

If the Spurs are to get their hands on Sharpe, it’d be with the ninth overall pick in the draft. While I don’t think the Spurs will pick him due to the lack of competitiveness he exhibited by sitting out at Kentucky, I could very well be wrong. If the Spurs do select Sharpe, it’d be an exciting move because that would mean that the franchise believes in his character enough to take the plunge. At the end of the day, I trust San Antonio to get a good read on his character. If that checks out, Sharpe’s basketball playing ability is well worth the gamble.

Johnny Davis | 20.3 | 6-foot-6 | SG

Johnny Davis is an unconventional boom-or-bust prospect. He plays with tenacity, he competes on defense and he’s a team-first type of guy. That said, the translation of his offensive output is enough of a question mark that he could be anything from a go-to scorer to someone who isn’t even in the NBA in five years. 

As a sophomore at Wisconsin, Davis was relied upon to carry the scoring load. His teammates had minimal talent so if it wasn’t Davis leading the charge, Wisconsin was rudderless. As a result, he poured in 19.7 points per game and was involved in seemingly every offensive possession.

Unsurprisingly, Davis’ efficiency suffered due to being a focal point without adequate help. He shot just 42.7% from the field and 30.6% on three-pointers. He also averaged more turnovers (2.3) than assists (2.1). The only thing that kept his efficiency from being completely repugnant was his free throw rate. He got to the line 6.3 times per game and hit 79.1% of his freebies.

Defensively, Davis should be able to defend shooting guards and small forwards. He’s a stellar rebounder. He makes hustle plays by the bushel. He willed Wisconsin to more wins than they could have logically expected. 

But what will Davis do offensively in the NBA once he’s surrounded with capable teammates? The answer to that question will determine whether he’s a boom or a bust.

It’s possible that Davis’ efficiency improves dramatically once he no longer needs to carry such a strenuous load. With added spacing, he showed enough promise at Wisconsin that it’s not out of the question that he could average 20-plus points. Combine that with everything else he does on the court and he’s a star.

Conversely, Davis could be even more inefficient in the NBA. He made a lot of tough shots at Wisconsin. If he struggles to create separation and his three-point shot doesn’t improve, those tough shots will be even tougher in the pros. In this scenario, Davis is a bench player — at best.

If the Spurs want Davis, they’ll need to pick him ninth overall, as he’s not expected to fall out of the lottery.

Ousmane Dieng | 19.1 | 6-foot-9 | SF

While there’s talk that Ousmane Dieng could be San Antonio’s pick at nine, I think that’d be a mistake. While his potential is enough to make a basketball fan daydream all afternoon, his bust potential is terrifying if he’s taken in the lottery.

Dieng is extremely similar to another recent Spurs draft pick: Luka Samanic. Like Samanic, Dieng has an impressive assortment of tools but there is little evidence that he is close to putting it together. And actually, if we’re being honest, I think Samanic actually had better tools. The 19th overall pick of the 2019 draft was a better athlete than Dieng, didn’t shy away from contact and was a better shooter.

Dieng’s potential lies in the more nebulous areas of the sport. For a 6-foot-9 perimeter player, he’s impressively coordinated and has potential as a ball-handler and passer. He also processes the game very quickly for a player who is so young and so long. When he’s at his best, he looks like a potential superstar in the making.

But the more research I do and the more international scouts I talk to, the more concerned I become about Dieng’s outlook. As it stands, he’s not a good outside shooter or finisher. I don’t want to say he’s soft — but that’s the truth at this stage of his development. Throughout his basketball life, he has been a work in progress who has never truly been elite.

Even if you go back to his high school days in France, Dieng’s numbers are pedestrian. This past season, he was putting up horrendous numbers in Australia’s NBL. In the last dozen or so games, Dieng’s team let him run the show. While his statistics improved with the increase in touches, his team went from bad to really bad — finishing with an NBL-worst record of 5-23.

Samanic was a long-term project … but Dieng is a project that would require an even longer term before any dividends could be expected. Do the Spurs have the patience for such a project? I have serious doubts.

All that said, Dieng’s theoretical upside is admittedly enticing. If he lands on a team that believes in him and lets him grow, it’s possible that he could become one of those big wing initiators that every franchise craves. Those players can win you championships.

Still, at nine, I don’t want the Spurs to pick Dieng. It’s too much of a gamble with a payoff that is really unlikely. But if the Spurs pick Dieng at 20, I’d be perfectly happy with that. Just like I thought Samanic was a worthwhile gamble at 19, Dieng would be a worthwhile gamble at 20. 

Jaden Hardy | 20.8 | 6-foot-4 | SG

The current iteration of the Spurs lack a star offensive centerpiece. Jaden Hardy could very well be available at 20 or even 25 and his ultimate ceiling is becoming a star offensive centerpiece. The Spurs selecting Hardy in the 20s would be fascinating because he’s the antithesis of a typical San Antonio draft pick. 

Last season, Hardy played on the G League Ignite. Skipping the pleasantries, Hardy was a ball-hogging chucker to begin the season. His shot selection was laughably poor. He took dumb shots and didn’t seem to know or care that his shots were detrimental to his team. To make matters worse, he played some of the worst defense of any prospect in the draft.

To Hardy’s credit, he got better as the season progressed. He never mastered the art of shot selection but he illustrated positive growth in that area. Once the worst of his shots were removed from his arsenal, his overall offensive talent was able to shine through. Hardy, at his core, is a super slick ball-handler who innately understands how to use angles and hesitation moves to get open. 

On the season, Hardy shot 37.3% from the field and 28.5% from three-point range while averaging 18.4 points in 32.0 minutes per game. Obviously, he’ll need to shoot much better to justify a spot in the league. He also needs to take steps towards playing a brand of basketball that isn’t an automatic net-negative on both ends.

But if Hardy continues to adjust and learn, wow, he could be a lethal offensively. Like Dieng, there’s no way the Spurs should pick Hardy at nine. But at 20 or 25? It’d be far from a typical Spurs selection but it’d be fun and could lead to San Antonio finding their next offensive maestro.

Blake Wesley | 19.3 | 6-foot-5 | SG

Blake Wesley is another boom-or-bust prospect whose statistics last season were unsightly. As a freshman at Notre Dame, he averaged 14.4 points in 29.3 minutes per game, while shooting 40.4% from the field, 30.3% from three-point range and 65.7% from the charity stripe. 

What makes Wesley potentially special is his ability to create separation. His movements are so sudden and so powerful that defenders are seemingly powerless to stay in front of him. That’s the type of rare trait that can’t be taught; you’re either born with it or you’re not. Wesley is one of the few humans born with it.

At Notre Dame, Wesley really didn’t know what he was doing most of the time. He forced a lot of ill-advised shots and could usually be found trying to do too much. But the hope is that he develops in the NBA and his unique separation ability becomes something he can weaponize on a possession-to-possession basis.

Impressively, Wesley averaged more assists (2.4) than turnovers (2.2) even though he was so raw — which points to an exciting amount of playmaking ability down the road. I also think Wesley has high upside as a defender thanks to those same physical traits that make him a potential beast on the offensive end.

Is Wesley going to be able to put it all together? Probably not. That’s why he could be available at 20 or 25. To begin, he’ll need to become a better shooter from every spot on the court. From there, his feel for the game needs to improve by a few leaps and a couple bounds. But if Wesley reaches his peak, it’d be a boom heard round the world.