The San Antonio Spurs enter the 2020 NBA Draft armed with the 11th and the 41st overall selections. It’s no secret that the Spurs have been shopping DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills, so it’s possible they could move up or down the draft board. Then again, it’s also possible that the Spurs stay where they are and look for the best player available.
Regarding the trades, everyone I’ve talked to insists that the Spurs are more active than ever. They’ve basically made all their veterans openly available and are listening to all offers. I was told Mills to the Milwaukee Bucks at one point looked likely and that Golden State’s interest in Aldridge remains real. The Lakers reached out to discuss DeRozan, it was said, but those talks never progressed.
All in all, I’d say there’s a 30 to 40 percent chance the Spurs make a trade tonight or line up a deal that will be completed over the next week. Considering that the Spurs are usually quiet during the draft, this is definitely not business as usual for San Antonio.
A total of 65 players made the cut for the final Big Board. Who are the Spurs most likely to consider in the draft? Using intel (mostly from rivals, of course) and San Antonio’s draft history as a guide, this is my best estimation. Some of these prospects will surely be crossed off the list by the front office due to character or fit concerns but I’m reasonably confident this will prove to be accurate. We shall see.
1. LaMelo Ball
2. Anthony Edwards
The top two players remain the same from the previous Big Board. However, both LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards have character yellow flags that the Spurs would need to be comfortable with to draft them. The drama surrounding Ball gets most of the attention but Edwards’ question marks are actually more serious. If the Spurs think these two will fit culture-wise, their talent is too immense to overlook. But if the fit isn’t there, even if San Antonio moves up in the draft, they could nix this duo from consideration.
3. Obi Toppin
If the Spurs actually want to run it back with their veteran core intact, Obi Toppin is the pick that would fit the best. His elite scoring ability could hypothetically be enough to catapult the Spurs back into legitimate contention for a top five or six seed in the Western Conference if things go perfectly. However, if the Spurs are focused on a complete rebuild, picking Toppin doesn’t make nearly as much sense — so it’s unlikely that they would trade up to get him in that scenario. That said, if he falls to 11 and the Spurs still have that pick, he’d be too good of a value to pass.
4. Onyeka Okongwu
5. James Wiseman
Onyeka Okongwu is a strong fit. If he falls to 11, he’d be an obvious pick for the Spurs. Even trading up for him is easily justifiable. If the Spurs draft Okongwu, he becomes the clear successor to Aldridge and the Spurs gain a lot of leverage with regard to Jakob Poeltl in free agency.
On the previous Big Board, James Wiseman was #9 so this is a little bit of a jump for him. By all accounts, he was impressive in his pre-draft workouts. If the Spurs trade up, it wouldn’t be too surprising if he is San Antonio’s target. The fact that he is reminiscent of David Robinson is difficult to ignore.
6. Patrick Williams
Patrick Williams has been rising up draft boards in the last month or so due to strong workouts and the growing belief that it’s possible that he could play both forward positions. There’s even talk now of him going fourth overall. He was already #8 on the previous Big Board so putting him #6 isn’t too much of a leap. I would be a little bit surprised if the Spurs moved up to pick him but it’s possible. But if Williams is there at 11, San Antonio is very likely to pick him.
7. Tyrese Haliburton
I don’t think there’s much of a chance that Tyrese Haliburton falls to 11 but if he does, that’d be another easy selection. (Speaking of which, the four players who could hypothetically fall to 11 who would be no-brainer picks are Toppin, Okongwu, Williams and Haliburton. Ball, Edwards and Wiseman won’t fall to 11.) As a skinny combo guard, Haliburton isn’t the greatest fit on San Antonio’s roster but he’s too multi-talented to ignore. He can pass, shoot and make plays on defense, which are all things the Spurs desperately require.
8. Isaac Okoro
9. Deni Avdija
Previously, I had Isaac Okoro and Deni Avdija as #14 and #15, respectively. The issue with both of these players is their jumpshot, or lack thereof. But if you look beyond their shooting, they both bring enough to the table to pick at 11. Okoro is a natural-born winner who could become a great defender. Avdija is a do-everything combo forward who has an advanced enough game to start early in his career. If the Spurs think they can fix the shot of either of these two players, they could confidently pull the trigger at 11.
10. Devin Vassell
Devin Vassell seems to be slipping a little bit but he still makes a lot of sense for the Spurs. He’s a very strong team defender with a smooth three-point shot that should translate to the NBA level. His offensive repertoire needs some refining but the Spurs would find it difficult to pass on a player who could become an elite defender and an elite spot-up shooter, right?
11. RJ Hampton
If the Spurs want to swing for the fences on a pure athlete, RJ Hampton fits the bill. He’s exceedingly fast and extremely shifty in the open court. His jumper is iffy but reports indicate he has improved quite a bit over the last six months or so. The Spurs could use a bulk scorer and Hampton could provide that if his jumper is for real.
12. Aaron Nesmith
Picking Aaron Nesmith is a move that would look obvious in retrospect. The Spurs desperately need shooting and Nesmith is arguably the best shooter in the draft. He’s also a smart, high-character kid with a strong work ethic. He’s not a plus athlete or a plus defender and never will be — but that shooting would be a useful attribute right away.
13. Saddiq Bey
A lot of rival GMs believe that Saddiq Bey is who the Spurs want to pick. I don’t really buy it. The Spurs have been great in recent years of concealing who they’re truly targeting in the draft. Unless something has changed and the Spurs now suddenly have leaks in their ship, I have to believe that their supposed interest in Bey is a smokescreen. I wouldn’t hate the pick — he’s a big wing who can shoot, defend and fill a role from Day 1 — but his upside is more limited than you’d typically want when drafting in the lottery.
14. Killian Hayes
On the previous Big Board, Killian Hayes was #4 so this is quite the tumble. There are a few reasons why I’ve dropped him. First of all, there’s little proof that the Spurs are interested in Hayes. No one I’ve talked to has been able to link the Spurs to Hayes. (Last season, for example, it was obvious that the Spurs were at least taking a close look at Luka Samanic.) Secondly, Hayes has looked like a sub par athlete during workouts. Considering the Spurs have rarely drafted international prospects who aren’t at least average athletically, that’s a strike against him. And, third of all, Hayes jumper appears to be getting worse. (He shoots the ball with his thumbs, weirdly enough.) Unless the Spurs have gone ultra CIA, Hayes is unlikely to be their guy, I believe.
15. Tyrese Maxey
16. Kira Lewis Jr.
Fit-wise, Tyrese Maxey and Kira Lewis Jr. are iffy, at best. Another undersized combo guard isn’t exactly what the Spurs need, to put it mildly. That said, Maxey is a stout defender who competes and has illustrated offensive potential. His similarities to Keldon Johnson are uncanny in many ways. And Lewis, a super fast creator with three-point range, has all the markings of a player who will be in the NBA for a decade. If the Spurs are underwhelmed by this draft and just want to pick someone who is sure to stick in the league, either one of these players could be the selection.
17. Theo Maledon
Interestingly, I’ve talked to a handful of individuals who are paranoid that the Spurs secretly covet Theo Maledon. Tony Parker’s protégé hasn’t been the most available person during this draft process, which has caused conspiracy theories to emerge. Could the Spurs really draft him at 11? I’d be surprised but not shocked. It wasn’t long ago that Maledon was considered a top five pick and the connection to Parker is impossible to dismiss.
18. Desmond Bane
Over the last 12 or so hours, there’s been a lot of chatter from rival teams regarding the Spurs targeting Desmond Bane in this draft. So much so that I’ve moved Bane up this high even though I didn’t have him as an option yesterday. I still think 11 is too high for Bane but if the Spurs move back into the teens or early 20s, he could be the pick.
Bane had a strong senior season at TCU. He has an advanced, pro-ready game. The 6-foot-6 swingman isn’t much of an athlete and has short arms but he can really, really shoot it, plays hard and has a high basketball IQ.
19. Aleksej Pokusevski
A lot like Hayes, I just haven’t heard anything to make me believe that the Spurs are interested in drafting Aleksej Pokusevski at 11. International scouts aren’t high on him and there have been questions about his motor. Add that to his frail frame and the fact that he’s never produced at a high level statistically — and I’d be really surprised at this point if San Antonio picks him, even though his theoretical ceiling is higher than the Tower of the Americas.
20. Jaden McDaniels
21. Cole Anthony
Despite coming off disastrous freshman seasons, Jaden McDaniels and Cole Anthony are probably still on San Antonio’s radar. The Spurs aren’t afraid to pick players based on their high school scouting reports, so that helps both of these guys. On the other hand, McDaniels and Anthony both have reputations for being me-first players who would struggle to fit in a system — so the Spurs picking either one has to be regarded as a longshot.
22. Precious Achiuwa
23. Josh Green
24. Jalen Smith
These are the last three players on this Big Board who I think the Spurs could justifiably pick in the lottery. Precious Achiuwa has untapped potential on both ends of the court but remains raw. Josh Green is an athletic wing who can defend and pass. Jalen Smith can rebound, block shots and shoot. Could the Spurs pick one of the three of these players at 11? They each fit well enough and have a good enough pedigree to justify it but, by my estimation, it’s unlikely.
25. Isaiah Joe
26. Robert Woodard II
27. Grant Riller
This is the part of the Big Board where San Antonio’s 41st overall pick comes into focus. Joe is a big-time shooter. The Spurs need players who can bomb from deep and Joe is never shy about letting it fly. Woodard is your standard 3-and-D wing prospect who is ready to fight for a spot in the rotation. He’d be good value at 41. Riller is a very good scorer from all three levels with an advanced game. He might not be an NBA athlete but his scoring ability would make him a strong pick at 41.
28. Leandro Bolmaro
Bolmaro is a talented Argentine who is unlikely to drop to 41. He’s not athletic but he has enough skill with the ball in his hands to be a solid prospect. If does drop to 41, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Spurs drafted him and stashed him overseas for a year or five.
29. Xavier Tillman
30. Killian Tillie
I see Tillman and Tillie as the two best center prospects who could be available at 41. Tillman is a smart player who can defend and fit a modern-day offense. On talent alone, Killian Tillie would be worthy of a lottery pick. However, the guy is extremely injury prone. If the wind changes directions too suddenly, history foretells Tillie going down with an injury. But if the Spurs chalk that up to bad luck, he’d be a really interesting pick at 41.
31. Tyrell Terry
32. Malachi Flynn
33. Nico Mannion
34. Cassius Winston
35. Tre Jones
36. Devon Dotson
37. Payton Pritchard
If the Spurs want a point guard prospect, there’s a glut of them that could drop to 41. None of them are super exciting but they all offer good value for a second round pick.
Terry is extremely intelligent and can shoot the lights out. Flynn is small but he has a knack for making big plays. Mannion struggled as a freshman but he looked like the epitome of a true point guard prospect in high school. Winston is crafty and can shoot. Jones was born to be a backup point guard. Dotson is super fast and competes. Pritchard was extremely productive as a senior in all phases.
If the Spurs are legitimately looking at trading Mills, don’t view Quinndary Weatherspoon as their third point guard and don’t select a point guard (or combo guard) at 11, drafting one of these players at 41 would make a whole lot of sense.
38. Nate Hinton
39. Tyler Bey
40. Ty-Shon Alexander
If the Spurs want an ultra competitor that should be a positive on defense from the very beginning who could also become a legit three-point threat, any of these three players could fill that role. Hinton isn’t an athlete but he plays harder than any player in the draft. Bey is a super athlete who can really defend but he was basically a 200-pound center at Colorado. He’d have to transition to the perimeter. Alexander is an on-ball defender extraordinaire who already shoot really well.
41. Zeke Nnaji
42. Isaiah Stewart
43. Paul Reed
44. Reggie Perry
45. Udoka Azubuike
46. Vernon Carey Jr.
47. Daniel Oturu
This draft is deep when it comes to draftable center prospects. Expect about half of these centers to be off the board by the time the Spurs pick at 41. These centers all have their flaws but for a second round pick, they’d be solid.
Nnaji plays really hard, understands what he does best and could become a shooter. Stewart is a beast in the block and uses his long arms well but has questionable athleticism. Reed is extremely active on defense but his offense needs a lot of work. Perry is strong and surprisingly skilled but will struggle to hold up on defense. Azubuike is a physical marvel and uber athletic but is really raw. Carey would have been a lottery pick 20 years ago and a first round pick 10 years ago but can he move his feet well enough to survive in today’s league? Oturu was productive in college and could be a good shooter in the NBA but his feel for the game is questionable at best.
48. Jordan Nwora
49. Elijah Hughes
Nwora and Hughes are intriguing wings. Nwora should be able to be a three-point threat in the NBA and Hughes has a prototypical body and enough skill to excite.
50. Cassius Stanley
51. Kenyon Martin Jr.
52. Saban Lee
If San Antonio wants a jaw-dropping athlete who they can try to mold into an NBA player, these are the three leading options. All three can run and jump spectacularly well. They aren’t very good at basketball yet but their athleticism alone makes them worthy of a second round pick.
53. Jahmi’us Ramsey
54. Immanuel Quickley
55. Skylar Mays
56. Mason Jones
57. Trevelin Queen
These five players all look like they have a chance to make it. They don’t have the best physical attributes but they are skilled enough to surprise at some point down the line.
58. Abdoulaye N’Doye
59. Yam Madar
60. Paul Eboua
If the uncertainty regarding the G League has the Spurs wary of what will happen in Austin this season, they could go the ol’ draft-and-stash route with one of these three players. N’Doye is a big point guard out of France. Madar is an Israeli who plays his heart out. Eboua is an impressive physical specimen out of Cameroon.
61. Jay Scrubb
62. Josh Hall
The Spurs are known for their scouting prowess so Scrubb or Hall being on their radar wouldn’t be too much of a shock. Scrubb played at a community college and was headed to Louisville before deciding to enter the draft. Hall was headed to NC State before deciding to jump to the NBA from a prep school in North Carolina.
63. Sam Merrill
64. Justinian Jessup
65. Markus Howard
The Spurs are a shooting starved franchise. Merrill, Jessup and Howard are elite shooters. They have their physical flaws but San Antonio has to at least consider these three due to their ability to light it up from deep.