Could the Spurs Really Target Old Man Dalton Knecht?

In recent drafts, the San Antonio Spurs have made it a point to select young prospects. In the 2022 NBA Draft, the Spurs picked three 19-year-olds in the first round in Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley. The year before that, San Antonio went with Joshua Primo, whose most notable trait was being the youngest player in the draft.

With that history in mind, is it at all fathomable that the Spurs will select 23-year-old Dalton Knecht in the lottery with one of their two selections? I’d classify the chances as unlikely — but it’s definitely within the realm of possibilities.

The reason for the change in drafting philosophy is the presence of Victor Wembanyma. If the Spurs now want to surround their franchise player with readymade prospects, the front office could shift how the franchise values youth in the draft.

The bottom line with Knecht is he’s not the type of player the Spurs have spent draft picks on … but, for all we know, the entire equation could have changed after Wembanyama’s arrival.

The Case for Drafting Dalton Knecht

Any discussion of Knecht should begin with his age. He turned 23 back in April and didn’t become a draftable prospect until he was a fifth-year senior at Tennessee. However, Knecht’s case is a unique one.

He began his journey at a junior college. A late bloomer, Knecht kept growing after high school and only relatively recently reached his current barefoot height of 6-foot-5.25. 

Knecht played only one year at Tennessee but he was instantly really, really good offensively. A big-time scorer, he was able to consistently put points on the board no matter what type of defense the physical teams in the SEC threw at him. He finished the campaign averaging 21.7 points in 30.6 minutes per game.

Most notably, Knecht is a certified three-point threat. He shot just a hair under 40% on a high volume of attempts from downtown. He also shot well on the move, off the dribble and in pick-and-roll sets. Knecht’s toughness can be seen in the numbers as he got to the line a lot and seemed to always shine brightest in the biggest matchups.

Watching Knecht play, it’s clear that he’s a solid athlete. At the NBA combine, his athleticism popped. Only one or two players tested out as better all-around athletes. Knecht posted a 39-inch vertical and he was one of the fastest in the shuttle run and lane agility.

All in all, Knecht has a proven amount of ruggedness, he’s a three-point shooter, he can score in a variety of ways and he’s also a really good athlete. Add in his late bloomer status and it’s easy to see why Knecht is expected to be a lottery pick in this iffy draft.

The Case Against Drafting Dalton Knecht

Unfortunately, there are many downsides to Knecht’s candidacy. First of all, his advanced age simply can’t be ignored. That’s a leading reason why analytic models are low on him. While Zaccharie Risacher gets a second round grade in most models, Knecht grades out significantly worse.

In addition to being old, the 23-year-old also didn’t post notable rates of rebounds, blocks or steals. He also averaged less than two assists. Knecht doesn’t look like a bad passer but he’s certainly not a go-to playmaker at the NBA level.

Defensively, his college tape isn’t pretty. He was a poor defender at Tennessee and other teams took note. The glimmer of hope, though, is that his athleticism will allow him to be a better defender in the NBA once he doesn’t have to carry such a large offensive load.

The final negative tidbit on Knecht is important. Even though he scored well and shot well from deep, he wasn’t an especially efficient scorer. His true shooting percentage of 57.8% at Tennessee would actually make him below average in that category in the NBA. Hitting only 77.2% of his free throws isn’t quite the number you want from a player who has to shoot well to make it in the association.

Dalton Knecht’s Fit on the Spurs

As long as Knecht connects on his jumpers, he’ll be a breath of fresh air in San Antonio. Early in his career, he should be able to slide into the role Doug McDermott used to hold. If his developmental curve heads in the right direction, Knecht could soon become more than that. Starting at some point early in his rookie season is certainly not out of the question.

Final Thoughts on the Spurs Drafting Dalton Knecht

Looking at things through a Wembanyama lens, Knecht has to be at least a little bit tempting. A shooter that performed in a difficult environment who may still have a lot of room to grow? That doesn’t sound bad at all. If the Spurs think Knecht will land somewhere between Bogdan Bogdanovich and Bojan Bogdanovic, they have to consider picking him, right?

Ultimately, though, my guess is the Spurs will opt for a prospect with more provable upside. Knecht is likely too much of a departure from what San Antonio typically targets — even in this post Wembanyama wonderland.