While the 2022 NBA Draft isn’t until June 23rd, the next week is an important one for the San Antonio Spurs. First of all, there’s the NBA Draft Lottery on May 17th. That’s when the Spurs will find out where they will pick in the lottery. There’s about a 50% chance San Antonio will draft 9th, a 20% chance the Spurs will move into the top four picks, and a 30% chance they fall back to 10th or 11th.
While the lottery is obviously a key date, there’s a lot more that is going on in the NBA draft universe that the Spurs will have an eye on. On May 16th and 17th, there’s the G League Elite Camp which will involve 44 draft prospects. The best players in the Elite Camp move on to play in the NBA Draft Combine, which is from May 18-20 and will feature an additional 76 prospects.
At the combine, players will be measured, interviewed, tested and go through drills. Most notably, there are scrimmages that will take place during the combine. Unfortunately, most of the top prospects in the draft have opted out of participating in the combine in recent years. Some prospects even decline to take part in the measurements and interviews.
That said, the Spurs have historically taken the combine very seriously. Joshua Primo and Joe Wieskamp, San Antonio’s two selections in the 2021 NBA Draft, both played in the scrimmages last season. In fact, of the first 23 players selected in the 2021 draft, Primo was the only one who participated in the combine scrimmages — and the Spurs picked him 12th overall. Another recent data point: Luka Samanic shined in the scrimmages, which led to the Spurs drafting him 19th in 2019.
A week from now, it’s safe to say that we’ll have a better idea about which players the Spurs may target in the draft. In addition to their lottery pick, the Silver and Black also have the 20th, 25th and 38th selections in the draft.
Before the hoopla begins, here’s the second edition of the Spurs Big Board. Factors taken into account for this Big Board include what the Spurs typically look for in prospects, rumblings I’ve heard behind the scenes and San Antonio’s draft priorities this year.
- Paolo Banchero
- Chet Holmgren
- Jabari Smith
- Jaden Ivey
Banchero is in the top spot, just like he was in the Spurs Big Board 1.0. As I wrote, his offensive upside is too vast to overlook. Holmgren is up a spot due to his elite defensive, shooting and competitiveness. Smith remains in the top three due to being arguably the safest pick in the draft for the Spurs. Ivey is fourth but he’s physically gifted enough to justify being taken anywhere in the top four.
- Bennedict Mathurin
- Dyson Daniels
- Johnny Davis
Mathurin is a dynamic 6-foot-6 athlete who the Spurs were really interested in last year before he decided to go back to Arizona. Daniels, who has reportedly grown to 6-foot-8, is a really good defender and passer who may now be able to guard four positions. Davis is a tough, hard-nosed guard who brings effort on defense and potential on offense.
- Keegan Murray
Murray is older (turns 22 in August) and doesn’t fit San Antonio’s recent mold of picking players with untapped potential. That said, he was so productive at Iowa that it’s difficult to justify putting him lower than 8th on this Big Board. At the end of the day, though, his placement here doesn’t matter much because the Spurs wouldn’t pick him in the top four picks and it’s very doubtful that he drops to ninth.
- Jalen Duren
- Jeremy Sochan
Duren rises from 11th to 9th. The more I watch him, the more I think it makes sense for the Spurs to draft him. He’s the youngest player in the draft (just like Primo) and there were signs at Memphis that he’s more than simply a rim-running center. Sochan drops from 6th to 10th. The more I watch him shoot a basketball, the less confident I am that he’ll be a consistent shooter in the NBA. He’s a talented, do-everything type of player but if he can’t shoot, he’s basically an upper middle class Keita Bates-Diop.
- Malaki Branham
- Blake Wesley
Branham (13) and Wesley (18) are both on the rise. Branham, at 6-foot-5, is an amazingly polished offensive player for someone who just turned 19. Wesley is a shifty, slippery athlete with eye-popping potential on both ends.
- Ousmane Dieng
Dieng was terrible to begin the season in the NBL. But as the season went along, he found his footing in Australia. He’s a 6-foot-10, 19-year-old ball-handler with a high ceiling who may be worthy of a gamble.
- Shaedon Sharpe
As I’ve written, I don’t think the Spurs will draft Sharpe. But, even factoring in my own disbelief, I can’t put him any lower than this. He’s too talented and too great of an athlete.
- Jaden Hardy
- Patrick Baldwin Jr.
Hardy and Baldwin really struggled last season. Hardy shot 37.3% in the G League and Baldwin shot 34.4% as freshman at UW-Milwaukee. However, both were elite high school prospects. I think the Spurs are a team who could ignore the recent struggles and select either one based on the total body of work. Hardy’s ultimate ceiling is as a go-to scorer, so that alone could make him worth the risk. Baldwin is a 6-foot-10 perimeter player with a beautiful jumper. If he hits, the spacing Baldwin’s shooting would bring to the Spurs would be extremely valuable.
- Bryce McGowens
- Kendall Brown
- Jalen Williams
McGowens is a natural-born scorer who has a knack for getting to the free throw line. Brown hit rough patches as a freshman at Baylor but he’s a fantastic athlete and has shown glimpses of being a plus defender and passer at 6-foot-8. Williams is regarded as a second round prospect right now but the playmaker out of Santa Clara is a high character kid with an extremely high basketball IQ. He can score, shoot and pass and is the type of player that could draw San Antonio’s attention during the combine.
- Leonard Miller
The Nike Hoop Summit is another pre-draft camp that the Spurs have historically paid a lot of attention to over the years — beginning with Tony Parker. Miller, a 6-foot-10 wing out of Canada, was a virtual unknown until playing well during that event. Putting him 20th on this Big Board might be a bit high but if Miller keeps his hype train moving in the right direction, the Spurs would likely need to grab him with one of their first round picks to get their hands on him.
- TyTy Washington
- Mark Williams
Washington and Williams are both solid players but wouldn’t be great fits for how the Spurs typically play. Williams is a very good shot blocker and finisher but it’d be difficult to justify drafting a center in the first round who can’t shoot or pass. Washington is a combo guard who needs the ball in his hands a lot to create value.
- Ochai Agbaji
- Tari Eason
Agbaji is a really good athlete and a really good shooter but the 22-year-old doesn’t have much upside remaining. Eason was insanely productive at LSU, however he was also completely undisciplined and I have trouble imagining his wrecking ball style of play being a fit in San Antonio. Then again, he’s a 6-foot-8 power forward with massive defensive potential, so I can’t discount Eason completely.
- Dalen Terry
- Harrison Ingram
Terry is a 6-foot-7 perimeter player who has an exciting amount of potential as a defender and a passer. Ingram struggled at times as a freshman at Stanford but, like Terry, he’s 6-foot-7 and can really pass. Ingram’s riskier because his defense is less consistent but his ceiling is higher.
- Gabriele Procida
- Nikola Jovic
- Jean Montero
At this point in the draft process, most pundits have Procida as a late second round draft pick. However, his athleticism, toughness and shooting stroke will surely make the Italian perimeter player a prospect the Spurs take a close look at. Jovic is another big, skilled wing with a ton of potential but the Serbian might not have enough athletic burst. Montero is a speedster who shined at the Nike Hoop Summit but the 6-foot-2 Dominican guard might lack a true position.
- Michael Devoe
Devoe was the MVP of the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, the same pre-draft camp where Derrick White and many other eventual Spurs draft picks first caught San Antonio’s attention. Devoe, a 6-foot-5 guard out of Georgia Tech who is known for shooting ability, was the first prospect the Spurs had in for a workout — so that might or might not mean something. As it stands, he’s not getting much attention (ESPN doesn’t even have him listed as one of the top 100 prospects in the draft) but if he keeps playing well in the pre-draft process, Devoe is the type of player who the Spurs tend to pick.
- AJ Griffin
- MarJon Beauchamp
- Jake LaRavia
- Kennedy Chandler
- Trevor Keels
- EJ Liddell
All six of these prospects have a real chance of being selected in the first round. However, they all project to be most useful as role players on a contending team. For a team like the Spurs that needs an infusion of game-changing talent, I don’t like the fit of any of the six.
Griffin is a fantastic shooter but a limited athlete with injury concerns. Beauchamp looks like he’ll be a solid eighth or ninth man in a rotation. LaRavia would be a useful piece next to a superstar. Chandler is small but should have a long career as a backup. Keels should be a stout yet undersized defender. Liddell lacks mobility but is talented enough to enter a rotation early on in his career.
- Josh Minott
- Peyton Watson
- Max Christie
These three are high-risk, high-reward prospects. Minott is an athletic big who was productive on a per-minute basis at Memphis. Watson massively struggled as a freshman at UCLA but he’s 6-foot-8 with an uncommon amount of mobility for his size. Christie really struggled as a freshman at Michigan State but he passes the eye-test as someone who could become a knock-down shooter in the NBA.
- Jaylin Williams
- Christian Koloko
Williams isn’t a notable athlete but he’s a center with passing upside and potential as a shooter. Koloko is a 7-foot-1 center who is improving at a rapid pace but is still raw.
- Terquavion Smith
- Ryan Rollins
- JD Davison
Smith, Rollins and Davison are undersized guards who are just intriguing enough to make it on this list. Smith only weighs 160 pounds but has impressive scoring instincts. Rollins has advanced offensive moves, while Davison is fast and can pass.
- Jabari Walker
- Justin Lewis
- Christian Braun
- Wendell Moore
These four most likely fit the role-player-at-best mold but there are a few reasons to believe otherwise. Samaki’s son has good size, is a solid defender and can shoot it straight. Lewis plays hard and rebounds. Braun has a good feel for the game and shoots with accuracy. Moore was a highly productive junior at Duke who can do a bit of everything.
- Ismael Kamagate
- Walker Kessler
Let’s round off Big Board 2.0 with a couple of center prospects. Kamagate is an impressive athlete who is shockingly strong but still has a lot of work to do and is already 21. Kessler is one of the best shot-blocking prospects of all-time but he moves on the perimeter like a slower Boban Marjanovic, which doesn’t mesh with how the Spurs typically play defense.