The 2023 NBA Draft has a number of older prospects who may be available in the second round who should be ready to come into the league and play a role right away. Due to a combination of NIL money, transfer rules being softened and extra eligibility due to COVID-19, more players in recent years have opted to stay in school than we saw previously. Those changes can be felt in this year’s draft.
While none of these players are high-end level talents, they know how to play the game and are mature enough to step in and contribute. For a team like the Spurs looking to surround Victor Wembanyama with capable teammates who can aid his transition to the NBA, this type of prospect will surely be tempting in the draft.
Jaime Jaquez Jr.
Jaquez has a multitude of traits that make him an appealing fit for the Spurs. He’s competitive, smart and tough. He has an advanced feel for the game on both ends of the court. His footwork is superb, his decision-making is dependable and he does all the small things that help a basketball team win games.
Taking a deeper dive into what makes him intriguing, Jaquez can score in a variety of ways. He runs the court hard and is effective in transition. In halfcourt sets, he’s very talented as a post-up threat. He can score in midrange in isolation sets. In motion or free-flowing sets, Jaquez wastes no time between getting the ball and finding the best path to the basket.
Offensively, if Wembanyama is going to spend time on the perimeter, the Spurs will need players like Jaquez who are threats no matter where they get their touches. I also like his passing, particularly when he’s on the move.
Defensively, Jaquez is useful in help situations. At 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, he understands his help-defense responsibilities and makes timely rotations.
The two concerns with Jaquez are his shooting and his athleticism. Even though he’s 22 years old, he never was more than a subpar three-point shooter during his four years at UCLA. He hit less than a third of his threes during his UCLA career. The good news is he hit 77% of his free throws last season and the mechanics on his jumper are clean, so there’s a definite chance that he’ll learn to shoot it straight at some point in the next few years.
Athletically, while he’s strong and coordinated, Jaquez is limited when it comes to speed and jumping ability. He’s also below average in terms of flexibility and lateral agility. Despite this deficiency, it looks to be possible that Jaquez is such a master of footwork, angles and processing speed that he’ll be able to thrive regardless.
While Jaquez might not be the most exciting prospect, his fit on the Spurs is seamless. The Spurs need high basketball IQ competitors who know how to make the most of their touches and positively impact winning. Jaquez fits all of that, which makes me believe he’d be a great pick at 33 if he’s still on the board.
Jones is another ready-made prospect who appears able to step into a valuable role early in his career. The 21-year-old spent three years at Xavier and took giant strides forward each season. By his junior season, Jones was a well-rounded assassin with only minor flaws. He averaged 15 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 50.9% from the floor and 37.8% from three-point range.
What I like most about Jones is he’s big (6-foot-5 barefoot with a 8-foot-7 standing reach) and is legitimately a very good passer no matter if he’s running the offense or operating as a secondary creator. He just has a natural feeling for making the right pass at the right time.
Scoring-wise, Jones turned himself into a great finisher by incorporating a deft floater. He’s strong and uses his body to create looks. His finishing in the paint was excellent, which paired well with his accurate three-point shooting. Jones is also a low mistake player with a team-first mentality.
Defensively, Jones held up well at Xavier and should hold up well in the NBA. His lateral quickness is pretty good, he can hold his ground when bumped and doesn’t back down from a challenge. He’s also a solid team defender.
The main worry with Jones is actually his shooting. He hit only 65.3% of his free throws, which is frighteningly low for a supposed three-point shooter. His stroke is also a little bit stiff, which adds to the worry.
Overall, I like Jones. He’s not an exciting prospect but it looks like he’ll be a useful do-it-all bench player who can fill in the gaps. He lacks star upside, which is a reason why he could slip to 33. But given all he can do on the basketball floor, I’d be happy if draft day ends with Jones in a Spurs uniform.
At a quick glance, Sasser isn’t too exciting. He turns 23 before training camp. He’s only about 6-foot-2. He averaged right around three assists while being a lead ball-handler on a very talented squad.
But at a closer look, Sasser is actually rather intriguing. He spent four seasons at Houston where he and his team were extremely successful. Offensively, Sasser is a high volume three-point shooter and shot over 40% over his final two seasons combined. He also hit nearly 85% of his free throws as a senior, so it looks like he’s a certified sharpshooter.
Sasser is also a highly skilled ball-handler who exhibits great fluidity getting to his pull-up jumper. He never hesitates to shoot open shots but he’s also capable of making smart, simple passes.
Defensively, Sasser plays a lot bigger than his height due to his 6-foot-7 wingspan. He’s scrappy and strong, which allows him to switch onto bigger players and hold his own. He’s also swift enough to stay in front of quick guards at the point of attack.
At the end of the day, Sasser is a prospect who can slide into a role in the NBA as a three-point bomber who plays feisty defense and makes very few mistakes. He’s not much of a playmaker but he plays within a team concept and has a history of winning.
On the current Spurs, there’d be a lot of overlaps with Sasser and Devonte’ Graham but I wouldn’t hate the pick at 33. A better defending Graham actually sounds like a good complementary piece next to Wembanyama.
Another senior, Jackson-Davis was amazingly productive in his fourth season at Indiana. He averaged 20.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.9 blocks. He knocked down 58.1% of his shots from the field and limited his turnovers.
The burly 23-year-old, 240-pounder made large strides while at Indiana. As a senior, he greatly improved as a passer and that made him a well-rounded offensive weapon. A superb athlete, Jackson-Davis is dangerous in pick-and-roll sets and is a trustworthy finisher in the paint. His ability that stands out the most is his lightning quick processing speed when he catches the ball in the middle of the floor.
Defensively, he’s a weakside shot-blocker who is difficult for opponents to deal with in one-on-one situations. His savviness on offense translates to defense where he’s reliably in the right spots.
With those numbers and those strengths, why is Jackson-Davis not a lock for the first round? Well, he can’t shoot. He never hit a three and never shot better than 70% from the foul line at Indiana. He’s also short for a center at a shade over 6-foot-8.
That said, I think he’s a decent fit in San Antonio. Wembanyama has enough height that you can put a shorter big next to him and get away with it. That said, I wouldn’t be thrilled with Jackson-Davis at 33 but would approve of the pick at 44.
The more tape I watch of Brown, the more I like him. He does a lot of things well and has a uniqueness about him that could allow him to stick in the league.
The first unique thing about him is his frame. He weighs 250-plus pounds and is 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and an 8-foot-10 standing reach. Brown isn’t fast up the court or laterally quick but he jumps high and has really good hand-eye coordination.
Offensively, Brown is a fantastic passer. Whether he’s grabbing a rebound and making a fullcourt pass or catching the ball on the move and hitting a three-point shooter in one motion, Brown’s passing is truly special. He’s also a really good dribbler for a player his size, which allows him to get to where he wants to go. Shooting-wise, the signs are very positive. As a senior at Missouri, he hit 45.5% of his three-pointers and 79.2% of his free throws.
Brown’s question marks are mostly at the defensive end. What position can he guard? His lack of quickness will make it difficult to defend out on the perimeter. At Missouri, his rates of rebounds and blocks were low, which doesn’t provide much confidence that he can be an interior defender, either.
Despite the flaws, I like the idea of Brown on the Spurs. He’s 23 years old so he doesn’t have much untapped upside but he’s a large dude who can shoot, dribble, pass and make smart plays. The coaches would have to figure out how to make him work on defense but that doesn’t look to be impossible.
If you pick Strawther, you’re picking him for one reason: his shooting. As a 21-year-old junior at Gonzaga, he averaged 15.2 points and shot 52.6% from two-point range, 40.8% from three-point range and 77.6% at the line. At 6-foot-6 without shoes, he has deep range with a shooting stroke that is nearly picture-perfect. He’s deadly off the catch and makes shooting off the move look easy.
That’s where it ends with Strawther, though. He’s not much of an athlete. He’s nothing more than a simplistic passer. He’s not much of a defender.
But, yeah, Strawther can shoot three-pointers accurately and he has shot enough deep ones that you can confidently say he will sink them at the NBA level. I think 33 would be a reach for him but 44 is fine.
Andre Jackson Jr.
Jackson is like the opposite of Strawther. He’s a top-tier athlete. In fact, the moment he enters the league, he’ll be one of the 20 best athletes in the NBA. He’s fast, strong, shifty and he has a relentless motor that never tires. He’s quick laterally, he can jump and he’s explosive. As a player who is 6-foot-6 barefoot, he’s about as athletic as you can imagine.
When it comes to having a feel for the game and playing a smart brand of basketball, Jackson is near the top of the class. He thinks the game and makes flawless split second decisions.
Offensively, Jackson uses his smarts to pass the ball and keep the offense humming. He’s also great at moving without the ball and finding open space. Defensively, he’s a really good individual defender but an even better team defender. His winning style of play as a junior helped carry UConn to a national championship.
The catch with Jackson, though, is he’s a laughably bad shooter who struggles mightily to put the ball in the basket. His stroke looks unsalvageable. To make matters worse, he’s not even someone who is able to dribble to the rim and score when he has an open lane. The 21-year-old averaged 6.7 points in 29.1 minutes per game in college. How bad is he going to struggle to score as a pro?
I don’t think Jackson should be the pick at 33. His inability to score is just too scary. At 44? Sure, why not? Jackson is an exciting player to watch and there’s always a chance he’ll find his offensive niche.