Why Nikola Topic’s Torn ACL Shouldn’t Change Spurs Draft Plans Much

It hasn’t been a fun week for Nikola Topic, the 18-year-old point guard from Serbia who was once projected to be a top pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. After injuring his knee twice this season, it was revealed this week that he had suffered a partially torn ACL. Additionally, his reported 7-foot wingspan turned out to be only 6-foot-5.5 this week when he was confronted with an official tape measure.

While neither of those happenings are good news for Topic, I don’t think it substantially changes how he’s viewed by the San Antonio Spurs. 

First of all, as I’ve reported since the beginning of this draft cycle, there hasn’t been much of a connection between the Spurs and Topic. European scouts have unanimously told me that the Spurs weren’t one of the teams doing the extra legwork tracking the Serbian’s play this season. Interestingly, Topic admitted that he hasn’t been contacted by the Spurs during the draft process — which might confirm San Antonio’s lack of interest.

If the Spurs were never interested in Topic, this news doesn’t change anything. They weren’t going to pick him before and they aren’t going to pick him now. 

However, there’s a chance that the Spurs like Topic so much that they were doing all they could to throw other teams off their trail. If San Antonio has indeed been smokescreening, I don’t think the torn ACL or the short wingspan changes much. Perhaps if they were secretly planning to pick him at No. 4, the Spurs would simply wait until No. 8 now. 

In a scenario where the Spurs were hoping for him at No. 8 before this news, he’s still draftable at No. 8. Having a lottery pick sit out with an injury is much more palatable when you have a pair of lottery selections. Plus, with San Antonio’s long-term outlook, it makes more sense to pick their highest ranked prospect rather than to pick a player from a lower tier simply for immediate satisfaction.

The Case for Drafting Nikola Topic

Topic is a 6-foot-7-in-shoes point guard who had a productive season in the Serbian league. His team built their entire offense around him and the teenager flourished.

The most promising trait for Topic is unquestionably his passing. He has great court vision, reads defenses perfectly, passes with pristine timing and his basketball IQ is extremely high. He’s the type of point guard who knows exactly where all four of his teammates are on the court at all times and is prepared to punish a defender that takes one false step.

When it comes to scoring, Topic had a lot of success in Europe driving to the lane and finishing at the rim. He’s really good at finding paths to the hoop and finishing with touch and craft. He processes the game so fast that he knows how to beat a shot-blocker before the shot-blocker has even formulated his plan.

Shooting-wise, Topic is nearly a 90% free throw shooter so there’s hope that he will be able to shoot straight from the field at some point down the road. 

Overall, Topic plays a smart, mature game. In theory, he could form a deadly two-man game with Victor Wembanyama. 

The Case Against Drafting Nikola Topic

Even before he suffered a torn ACL and a clipped wingspan, there were plenty of question marks on Topic’s scouting report. 

The Serbian’s lack of athleticism is a concern. While he exhibits some wiggle when going to the rim, he’s otherwise underwhelming in the athleticism department. Defensively, his lack of speed, quickness or length are definite issues. It’s not clear what type of player he could guard in the NBA.

Offensively, we know Topic can pass but how will the rest translate? He finished at the basket well in Europe but everything he did was below the rim. I’m not even sure he has the athleticism to elevate above the rim in traffic. Successful below the rim finishers in the NBA are typically blessed with strength, burst, power or speed — and he isn’t that type of athlete. 

While he shoots free throws well, Topic doesn’t shoot anything else well. He’s not a threat in the mid-range. Topic is also a poor three-point shooter at this stage of his development. His mechanics are primitive and he struggles to shoot off the dribble or off of movement.

Although Topic was productive in Europe, some scouts point to his team in Serbia giving him unlimited touches as a leading reason why he was able to put impressive numbers in the scorebook. How he will adjust to fewer touches in the NBA is another question mark.

Doctors will obviously take a close look at his knee. His second injury this season was of the non-contact variety, which are always scary. From sources I’ve talked to, NBA teams are operating under the assumption that he will miss the entire 2024-25 season.

Nikola Topic’s Fit on the Spurs

If the Spurs pick Topic at No. 8, it could actually be viewed as an exciting turn of events. That’d mean that San Antonio likes his pairing with Wembanyama so much that they are willing to overlook his injury concerns.

In the 2025-26 season, if the Spurs haven’t solved their starting point guard issue by then, Topic would undoubtedly be given an opportunity to win that role.

Final Thoughts on the Spurs Drafting Nikola Topic

From everything I’ve heard, the Spurs were never looking to draft Topic. But obviously there’s always a chance he has quietly been their main target in this draft. Getting a tall, smart, pass-first 18-year-old point guard who shoots 90% at the free throw line has to be enticing — at least on paper. If Topic was their player two weeks ago, he’s most likely still San Antonio’s player now.