The San Antonio Spurs have customarily put a lot of stock in performances at pre-draft camps and competitions when evaluating potential draft picks. From Tony Parker at the 2000 Nike Hoops Summit to George Hill at the 2008 NBA Combine to Derrick White at the 2017 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, San Antonio’s draft history is littered with players who stood out while competing against other prospects in the weeks leading up to the draft.
A lot of interesting prospects have bubbled up to the surface during this year’s pre-draft camps. Here’s a look at the ones who might have done enough to get drafted by San Antonio.
Bailey had a really slow start to his freshman season at UCLA, as his team had a wealth of offensive talent. Late in the season, after injuries hit UCLA, Bailey began to blossom and show why he was such a highly touted recruit. At the combine, the 19-year-old kept his momentum flowing in the right direction.
In two scrimmages, Bailey played 50 minutes and had 36 points, 14 assists and six rebounds. What really stood out was his ability to run pick-and-rolls. At UCLA, he wasn’t used as a point guard until late in the season. Bailey was a point guard in the scrimmages and his decision-making and precision passing in halfcourt sets turned a lot of heads.
One scout I talked to brought up the Spurs as a team that likely loved what Bailey exhibited during the scrimmages.
“I know that [R.C. Buford] loves these herky-jerky left-handers who play with uncanny rhythm and timing off the screen,” said the scout. “Bailey isn’t for everyone but I can imagine [the Spurs] falling for him. He’s like Beno [Udrih] or an old Manu in that way.”
Considering that general manager Brian Wright does most of the draft prep these days, I’m not sure what to take from the scout’s opinion — but it’s at least somewhat noteworthy.
Bailey is about 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan and a nearly 8-foot-7 standing reach, which is huge for a point guard. He’s not a great athlete and he plays upright and a bit stiff, which particularly hurts him when he’s handling the ball. He doesn’t have the quick twitch movements to navigate in crowds without losing the ball. Bailey’s jumper is also flat and he sometimes hesitates to fire from deep.
A good finisher at the rim, Bailey also has a pull-up jumper he can go to that helps keep defenses on their toes when he’s running pick-and-roll sets. Defensively, his lack of high-end athleticism limits his ceiling but he’s rugged on that end and doesn’t hesitate to get his hands dirty. He still has to learn how to defend when off the ball but he gives maximum effort when matched up one-on-one.
Overall, this would be a very Spurs-like pick. Bailey showed glimpses as a freshman and then followed it up with a strong showing at the combine. At 33, Bailey wouldn’t be my first pick but he seems intriguing enough.
Prosper only played in one scrimmage but he was dominant. In 22 minutes, he had 21 points and seven rebounds and got to the free throw line 12 times. And he might have been even better on the defensive end. His length overwhelmed opponents and his quickness was even more electrifying than advertised.
Prior to the scrimmage, Prosper was thought of as a likely second round pick. After that showing, he may have moved himself into the first round. As a junior at Marquette, the native of Montreal averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds, while shooting 51.2% from the field, 33.9% from the three-point line and 73.5% at the free throw line.
Prosper’s most exciting attribute is his defense. Nearly 6-foot-7 without shoes, he measured as having a 7-foot-1 wingspan and an 8-foot-8 standing reach. He gives great effort on D, moves his feet really well and is strong enough to hold his ground in the lane. Marquette used him against all types of opponents and Prosper never looked overwhelmed.
Offensively, Prosper has work to do but he has tools. The 20-year-old’s shot looked increasingly more fluid as his college career progressed. He has a 40-inch vertical and can finish high above the rim. Even though Prosper was usually Marquette’s third option on offense, he stayed involved by cutting wisely to the rim.
At his best, Prosper would be a 3-and-D wing. My main question with him is his burst and his balance. If action gets too hectic, Prosper will sometimes be a step behind and can be caught leaning the wrong way. Offensively, he’ll need to hit threes and finish open opportunities at the rim.
Prosper doesn’t have an especially exciting ceiling but he exhibited growth in the scrimmage as a competent offensive threat who can play a suffocating brand of defense. I think he’d be a strong pick at 33 for the Spurs. Prosper would be a plug-and-play wing who you can count on to compete, fly high and focus on stopping the other team.
Sheppard played four seasons at Belmont and had a really impactful senior season, averaging 18.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists on 47.5% shooting from the field and 41.5% shooting from three-point land. Heading into the combine, scouts wondered whether he’d look overmatched in the scrimmages due to playing a higher caliber of athlete than he was accustomed to playing against. Instead, Sheppard ended up being one of the best players on the court.
In his first scrimmage, Sheppard was unselfish, made all the right plays, displayed an extremely high basketball IQ and was able to hang athletically. Scouts who doubted him were already coming around on him. In his second scrimmage, he exploded for 25 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals and shot 8-for-10 from the field and 3-for-5 from three-point territory. That explosion was enough to shepherd him from possibly being undrafted to becoming a possible first round pick.
Sheppard is only a mediocre athlete who doesn’t play with much suddenness or burst. He also isn’t as long as a typical NBA prospect. Defensively, when watching his Belmont tape, it’s frightening how often nonathletic players were able to drive right around him. His finishing at the rim against length was unsightly. Also, Sheppard hit only 68.4% of his free throws, which is a worrisome mark for a supposed sharpshooter.
That said, there’s quite a bit to like about him. Sheppard is right around 6-foot-6 and is great at shooting when sprinting off of screens. He’s comfortable firing going either direction, which is a somewhat rare trait. Passing-wise, Sheppard is sharp. He makes quick reads and can be counted on to make the good-to-great pass, which is much appreciated in San Antonio’s system. Sheppard isn’t an accomplished finisher but he’s smart enough to make things happen when on the move.
Defensively, Sheppard tries to make up for his lack of quickness with anticipation and hard work. That allowed him to be effective at Belmont at times but we’ll see if that translates to the NBA. He’s smart, gritty and tall so he has a chance to hold up on that end.
All in all, the Spurs picking Sheppard at 33 would look like the obvious move in retrospect. He plays a mature game, interviews really well and having a movement shooter like him next to Wembanyama would be a win.
Podziemski is one of the most polarizing prospects in the draft. He could be drafted anywhere from the top 20 to the middle of the second round.
Let’s start with the negatives:
-While Podziemski is 6-foot-4, he has a stubby frame. In fact, his 8-foot standing reach will likely be the shortest of anyone who gets drafted.
-He wasn’t able to get minutes at Illinois so he transferred to Santa Clara in order to get on the court. History tells us players who transfer to weaker conferences to get playing time rarely pan out in the NBA.
-While Podziemski tested well athletically at the combine, his tape says he’s not much of an athlete. He doesn’t get his shot off quickly, needs screens to get into the lane and rarely gets off the floor to a notable degree.
-Add together his limited frame and iffy athleticism and it’s questionable whether he can survive on the defensive end in the NBA. He doesn’t appear to be quick enough to defend point guards or big enough to defend anyone else.
Before souring on Podziemski, you have to factor in his eye-popping positives:
-The 20-year-old put up fantastic statistics as a sophomore at Santa Clara. He averaged 19.9 points and shot 48.3% from the field, 43.8% from three-point range and 77.1% at the line.
-For someone who appears to be stubby and unathletic, he sure does stuff the stat sheet. Podziemski averaged 8.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals and half a block. He also got to the line 4.5 times per game. Those numbers would be really strong even for a beast of an athlete. Huh.
-His transfer away from Illinois doesn’t look as bad when you consider that he was stuck behind a trio of 23- and 24-year-old guards as a freshman.
-Podziemski passed the ball well at Santa Clara, averaging 3.7 assists. And despite the other team focusing on him, his turnover and foul rates were low.
At the combine, Podziemski did nothing but help himself. While he had a quiet second scrimmage, he stole the show in his first scrimmage by going for 10 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals in only 21 minutes.
Do I think the Spurs would draft Podziemski at 33? I don’t know. San Antonio typically stays away from subpar athletes in the draft. They also tend to look for those wingspan outliers — and Podziemski is the opposite of that.
But, man, Podziemski was damn productive as a sophomore, backed up his production at the combine and has been comparing himself to Manu Ginobili. I wouldn’t be mad at the Spurs for picking him at 33. At the very least, it’d be fascinating to see how his NBA career unfolds.
Vukcevic is a large human who sailed the seas from Europe, lit it up in his scrimmage and then dipped. He did enough in that one game to get drafted. In just 16 minutes, he scored 21 points, shot 8-for-10 from the field and sank all three of his three-point attempts.
“Large” might be an understatement. Vukcevic is 6-foot-11 shoeless and has a 7-foot-3 wingspan and a 9-foot-3 standing reach. The issue with Vukcevic is athleticism. He’s slow laterally, slow running the court and doesn’t jump well. Unsurprisingly, he struggles on defense and doesn’t do much other than shoot on offense.
I don’t see Vukcevic as an option that makes a whole lot of sense next to Wembanyama. A non-defending center with limited versatility and limited utility on offense? Yeah, no, I don’t see it. It also hurts that Vukcevic is telling teams he doesn’t want to be stashed and instead wants to play in the NBA right away.
I wouldn’t hate Vukcevic at 44 but, in my estimation, 33 would be a reach.
If the Spurs are in the market for the best shooter available in the second round, Lundy has to be in that conversation. As a senior at Penn State, he hit 40% of his three-pointers. Over his four years at the school, he shot 81.3% at the free throw line. His shooting mechanics are unorthodox … but it works.
Lundy isn’t much of an athlete. His function speed and jumping ability are both below average for an NBA prospect. He’s also downright geriatric for an NBA prospect at 23 years old.
That said, Lundy has good size for a shooter at 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan and an 8-foot-8 standing reach. He tries hard on defense and rebounds and blocks shots well for someone his size. While he isn’t a passer or playmaker, he also almost never turns the ball over. In the scrimmages at the combine, Lundy was a flamethrower. Across two games, he scored 30 points on 10-for-14 shooting from the floor and 8-for-11 shooting on three-pointers.
Lundy’s one-dimensional nature would make him an underwhelming pick at 33 but it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad pick. If he shoots it straight in the NBA, he’ll bring value right away. Picking Lundy at 44, if the Spurs decide to keep the pick, would be a much better value proposition.
While Walsh was featured in the exciting developmental projects write-up, he’s worth a mention in this article too. At the combine, Walsh only scored 15 points in 40 minutes on 4-for-16 shooting in two scrimmages. While his scoring was a disappointment, he shocked onlookers by handing out ten assists. Considering Walsh had only 33 assists in 36 games at Arkansas, his passing in the scrimmages illustrated a depth to his offensive repertoire that few scouts saw coming.
Another shooting wing prospect, Tyson was impressive in his first scrimmage. He hit four three-pointers and totaled 14 points, five rebounds and two assists. Tyson played five seasons at Clemson and shot 40.5% from three-point range and 83.8% at the line last season on his way to averaging 15.3 points and 9.6 rebounds. While he’s 23 years old, he’s also 6-foot-9 with a 8-foot-9 standing reach. Those statistics and dimensions alone make him draftable at 44.
Smith was a standout during last year’s scrimmages. He returned to NC State for his sophomore season and once again had his moments at the combine this year. At 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan, Smith is an explosive combo guard. He’s shifty and can put points on the board in a hurry. Unfortunately, he lacks efficiency and weighed in at only 163 pounds despite spending the last year trying to bulk up. I think he’s too slight and too inconsistent to draft at 33 but he’s an okay-ish bet at 44.
This draft is lacking when it comes to modern power forward prospects who are worthy of drafting in the second round. Camara, a native of Belgium, is one of the few. As a 23-year-old senior at Dayton, he averaged 13.9 points and 8.6 rebounds. He’s 6-foot-7 with an 8-foot-11 standing reach. Camara is a versatile, switchable defender who stays active. On offense, he runs the court hard and can hit open threes. There’s not much flash to his game but he gets the job done.
Camara caught the attention of draft scouts by averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. He then followed that up by scoring 24 points in his two scrimmages at the combine. This is the type of pre-draft play that has historically caught San Antonio’s eye.
Ricky Council IV
Council got lost in the prospect shuffle on a talented Arkansas team but the 21-year-old is worth a look. He’s an excellent athlete who is 6-foot-5 barefoot with a 6-foot-9 wingspan and an 8-foot-7 standing reach. His combination of speed, leaping ability and fearlessness makes him a dangerous driver and cutter. At the combine, he was excellent on defense and had flashes of excitement on offense. The knocks on Council are that he’s a poor shooter with a rigid release and that he doesn’t process the game quickly, particularly when it comes to passing. That said, Council at 44 would be a sneaky-good pick.
Speaking of overlooked prospects, Sanogo has somehow managed to be overlooked as an NBA prospect despite being the leading scorer on a national championship team. As a junior at UConn, he averaged 17.2 points and 7.7 rebounds. He was insanely efficient, hitting 63.7% of his two-pointers, 36.5% of his three-pointers and 76.6% of his free throws. Near the basket, he almost never missed, as he finished the season at above 75% on shots right at the rim. His jumper doesn’t look like it should go in the hoop — but it does.
Why isn’t Sanogo rated higher? He’s a 6-foot-8 center who can’t really jump. That’s … not amazing. He’s also not especially good at timing his rebounds or blocks. However, the dude is 260 pounds of muscle and moves his feet well. At the combine, he was clearly the strongest player on the court at all times. If the Spurs want to pair Wembanyama with a team-first, efficient, hard-working bruiser who will absorb all the contact under the sun, San Antonio could do a lot worse than Sanogo at 44.