It’s officially a new era for the San Antonio Spurs Spurs. The playoff streak is in the past. The climb to advance to the postseason next year will be uphill. It’s not completely clear who the franchise’s core pieces are going forward or which players on the current roster are capable of being a part of San Antonio’s next successful team.
The Spurs’ first step to reclaiming their former glory will take place during the 2020 NBA Draft. They have the 11th overall selection in the draft, a pick that will be their first lottery choice since their no-brainer decision to go with one Timothy Theodore Duncan back in 1997.
While the end of their playoff run won’t mean the Spurs will completely shift what they look for in a player out of the draft, there are some considerations that should now enter the equation.
Should the Spurs Draft the Best Player Available?
Generally speaking, yes. When the time starts ticking down on the 11th pick, if San Antonio has one prospect they view as head and shoulders above the rest, that player should be the selection. The Spurs, at this point, need an infusion of talent and the lottery is one of the best places to discover just that.
What form that talent comes in should be of little concern to the Spurs. If the best player on their board is a 6-foot-4 combo guard, the fact that they already have a plethora of guards on the roster shouldn’t deter the selection. This is the first time since David Robinson agreed to sign with the Spurs that the franchise truly doesn’t need to factor in positional fit at all during the draft.
A handful of the younger players on the squad, notably Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV and Keldon Johnson, all had stretches during the 2019-20 campaign where they impressed. However, no one has yet separated themselves to the point where fit should be a concern when drafting.
Furthermore, with the NBA becoming more positionless by the hour, it’s less important than ever to ensure that all your pieces fit a traditional lineup. Are your best three players point guards? No big deal, says today’s league, go ahead and put them all out on the court at the same time.
That said, if there are multiple prospects that the Spurs view at approximately the same level, there are a few considerations the front office should use as tie-breakers.
Previous iterations of the Spurs with annual championship aspirations would be thrilled to land a ready-made role player in the draft. That wasn’t just because they were selecting later in the first round — it was also due to the fact that a serviceable player on a rookie contract was worth his weight in gold to those contending squads that had to tiptoe around the ledges of the luxury tax.
Right now, as the Spurs attempt to build back into being contenders, a role player is less valuable. Finding an eighth or ninth man ten years ago in the draft would be a coup. Today, finding a bench-only piece would only inspire yawns.
However, this should only be a subtle shift in drafting philosophy. Using potential upside as a tie-breaker would be smart. Selecting a player with a really high ceiling who is very unlikely to sniff his potential would be a shift too far in this direction.
The Spurs should continue to target high character players who they believe will work hard and fit into the team concept, as that strategy has allowed the organization to be wildly successful in the draft for more than two decades. But now it’d be wise to also factor in long-term upside as an additional focal point because acquiring a star player will be the front office’s priority every waking moment until that happens.
It’s been a while since the Spurs had a pressing need for a high-usage, high-volume scorer. But with DeMar DeRozan’s future with the team in flux and 35-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge entering the last season of his deal, San Antonio will soon need a player or two to step forward as primary scorers.
Since scorers cost a lot in free agency, finding one in the draft would be prudent. In an NBA where offense is now king and defense is usually a secondary concern, a team isn’t going to get far without dependable scorers to lean on.
A few glimpses of scoring potential have been spotted among the young players currently on the Spurs, though it’s too early to label any of them as ready to take the batons from DeRozan and Aldridge.
It wasn’t long ago that if you were 6-foot-10 or taller and could jog and chew gum at the same time, you’d have a spot in the NBA. Today, the pendulum has swung the other way. Underskilled and minimally-pliable big men don’t hold much value and their paychecks will only continue to shrink, as the supply of such players exceeds the demand.
The Spurs, however, are one of the few teams in the league who will be in the market for a long-term big man in the draft. San Antonio only has one big under contract beyond next season and Luka Samanic hasn’t yet proven that he’s truly an NBA caliber player.
Jakob Poeltl will be a restricted free agent and there’s certainly a possibility that the Spurs give him a multi-year deal. Then again, the Spurs could opt to draft a big to replace Poeltl. Going that route would not only save money, it could allow the franchise to gamble on a prospect with a higher ceiling.
Wanted: Outside Shooters
During the 2019-20 campaign, the Spurs were last in the league in three-pointers attempted per possession. For the last five seasons, the Spurs have ranked no higher than 25th in the league in that category.
With the hopeful departure of Bryn Forbes and the likely waving goodbye to Marco Belinelli after his substandard year, the Spurs will have some work to do to reach the critical mass of needed three-point shooting in the rotation in order to have hope of forming a quality offensive attack. More non-shooters added to the mix without addressing this need could cause the entire house of cards to come tumbling down.
Now, it’s not imperative that their draft pick is a shooter. It’s entirely possible to address this need through free agency and via individual improvement by some of the more encourageable youth. But, if a prospect projects as a shooter, that’s a definite plus because it will allow that player to get on the floor sooner with the current core while providing an open avenue to carve out a permanent niche.