Jeremy Sochan’s Defensive Upside May Be Too High for the Spurs to Ignore

One of the most glaring holes in the San Antonio Spurs current roster is the lack of a defensive power forward. For a franchise that enjoyed Tim Duncan for a couple decades, that’s a jarring departure from the past. If the Spurs want to fill that void, picking Jeremy Sochan in the 2022 NBA Draft with their ninth overall selection would make the most sense.

The Case For Drafting Jeremy Sochan

A sixth man at Baylor, Sochan averaged 9.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.7 blocks in 25.1 minutes per game. While he didn’t start games, when the going got tough, the 19-year-old freshman was his team’s most reliable and productive performer. For a player who is listed at 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, his advanced feel for the game at his young age is impressive. 

Sochan’s value revolves around his defense. He’s extremely light on his feet, he has fast reaction speed, he’s deceptively strong and he processes the game quickly. As a result of those attributes, he can basically defend everyone on the basketball court. He might struggle with the burliest of centers or the quickest of point guards — but it’s not hyperbolic to state that he can swiftly switch and adequately guard all five positions.

In one-on-one matchups, Sochan’s defense is stout; it’s difficult to find footage of him failing in individual matchups. Team-wise, he’s even better. His rotations are so timely that he seems to always be a step ahead of the offense.

Offensively, Sochan also offers a host of tantalizing traits. For a teenage big man, he’s a really good ball-handler and passer. He can bring the ball up the court in traffic without issue and he makes smart passing reads from the perimeter. While power forward is his most natural position, his all-around skills should make his team’s offense run more smoothly.

Sochan’s basketball IQ, size, strength and eclectic base of skills give him potential as a scorer. He hit 58.5% of his two-point attempts and scored in a variety of ways despite rarely ever having plays called for him at Baylor.

The Case Against Jeremy Sochan

The worry with Sochan is his shooting. He shot only 29.6% from three-point range and 58.9% from the free throw line. Unfortunately, those percentages are what scouts have come to expect from Sochan. Throughout his career, which includes stops in various locations across the globe, he has consistently been a sub-30% three-point shooter and a sub-60% free throw shooter.

The more I study his shooting motion, the more skeptical I become that Sochan will develop into an adequate shooter. Much like Killian Hayes (who I soured on prior to the 2020 draft due to his shooting mechanics), Sochan has a two-handed shot that results in his thumbs guiding the ball during his release. While that doesn’t automatically mean he won’t learn how to shoot (former Spurs sharpshooter Chuck Person was also a thumber), it’ll make his journey to becoming a league average shooter more arduous than most.

If Sochan can’t learn to shoot it with more accuracy, his overall impact will suffer. He’s a good ball-handler and passer for a big … but not so good that those abilities will allow him to stay on the court without a jumper. In a scenario where he ends up shooting like Killian Hayes (the Detroit Pistons drafted him seventh overall and he’s a career 26.8% three-point shooter), Sochan’s ceiling is likely as a bench player on a contending team. Think of a rich man’s Keita Bates-Diop.

Will the Spurs want to gamble their lottery pick on Sochan shooting it straight? Due to their roster’s lack of defense at power forward, they might. 

Jeremy Sochan: Spurs Outlook

If the Spurs pick Sochan with the ninth overall selection, I think he starts right away and slides Keldon Johnson to small forward. I wouldn’t expect him to spend any time in the G League because his game is too advanced for that level.

On paper, Sochan seems like a Spurs-like pick. He has worldly experience, playing in leagues spanning from high school in Indiana to the professional ranks in Germany. Although he was born in Oklahoma and raised in the United Kingdom, he plays for the Polish national team. Despite his young age, he has already thrived in diverse settings — and that could bode well for his professional career.

When the Spurs are on the clock in the lottery, the Spurs will ponder picking Sochan in order to fortify the team’s defense. Whether or not they pull the trigger will depend on how much they believe in his shooting.