More Spurs Draft Day Intel, Rumors and Discussions

The San Antonio Spurs ended up using all three of their first rounders in the 2022 NBA Draft. At nine, they took Jeremy Sochan to add talented size and defensive versatility. At 20, the Spurs drafted Malaki Branham for his three level scoring ability and his offensive efficiency. At 25, San Antonio went with Blake Wesley due to his tantalizingly high upside.

1) It took a lot of effort and a lot of league-wide discussions but I’m confident that the Spurs Big Board was right on the money. Sochan was seventh on the Big Board and was the highest player left when the Spurs selected at nine. Branham was 15th on the board and was the highest remaining prospect at pick 20. Wesley was 18th on the Big Board and the second highest player when it came time for San Antonio to select at 25. The only player higher than Wesley was No. 17 TyTy Washington, a point guard who I had elevated earlier in the day due to the Dejounte Murray trade rumors.

2) To touch on the Murray trade talk for a second, I’ve been told that the trade was completely dead by the start of the draft. That doesn’t mean that Murray to the Atlanta Hawks can’t be revived at some point but discussion between the two teams was non-existent once the draft started. 

3) Back to the draft, Sochan was who the Spurs were hoping for at seven. Sources say the Spurs knew that Bennedict Mathurin and Keegan Murray weren’t going to drop to nine, so they were focused on Sochan. The front office even talked about trading up for him. As it turned out, they got their man by standing pat. 

4) Sochan to the Spurs has been whispered about for a while. I had Sochan at No. 6 on my first Big Board and had the Spurs picking him in each of the last two mock drafts

5) Around the NBA, other teams thought San Antonio was targeting Ousmane Dieng. I’m not exactly sure how they did it but consider it a wildly successful smokescreen. One source I talked to believes that the Spurs knew that the Oklahoma City Thunder really wanted Dieng so that’s why he was the chosen player to feign interest in. Considering that the Thunder ultimately traded multiple first rounders to acquire Dieng with the 11th pick, that was a smart move by San Antonio — if that was indeed the thinking behind it. Causing the Thunder to panic resulted in a lot of commotion from picks 8 to 11, I’ve been told.

6) After the draft, Spurs GM Brian Wright said that Branham was in the mid-teens on their board and right outside the lottery. Branham was 15th on our Big Board — so, yeah, that was right on the money. 

7) I thought Branham falling to 20 was unlikely but that drafting him there would be a no-brainer. As it turned out, that’s exactly what happened. Branham was the last player left on the Big Board who I thought the Spurs could possibly pick at nine. That they were able to get him at 20 was spectacular value. 

8) Following the NBA combine, I heard a lot about how impressed the Spurs were about Branham after talking to him. In the post-combine Big Board, I had Branham 11th and wrote the following:

“Last year, Scottie Barnes and Joshua Primo were the two players who reportedly interviewed the best at the combine. This year, Branham was one of the two players who got rave reviews for his interviews.”

9) With the Murray trade no longer being discussed, I was hoping that the Spurs would pick Wesley at 25. When Adam Silver called his name, I was thrilled. I wasn’t surprised, though, because there was a ton of talk behind the scenes that he dominated in a group workout in San Antonio.

As I wrote last week:

“Wesley had a workout in San Antonio and his representatives are saying that the Spurs expressed a lot of interest in their client. It’s impossible to know how much truth there is in that but he’s definitely someone I could imagine the Spurs picking at 20 or 25.”

10) That group workout is already legendary. It consisted of Wesley, Branham, Dyson Daniels, Wendell Moore, Ryan Rollins and Bryce McGowens. The prospects played three-on-three and the matches were shockingly intense, I was told. In fact, I was told a couple of the players had to be separated a few times.

Of the six players, Wesley was supposedly the best of the bunch. No one could stay in front of him, not even the defense-first prospects in Daniels (who was picked eighth in the draft) and Moore (who went 26th). Following that group workout, Wesley’s agency was very confident that the Spurs were supremely interested in their client — and told me as much.

11) Brian Wright said that Wesley was within the top 20 on the Spurs front office’s board. He was 18th on our Big Board — so, again, that fits.

12) The Spurs ended up trading the 38th pick to the Memphis Grizzlies for cash and a future second round draft pick. The Spurs then essentially used that cash to then sign Dominick Barlow to a two-way contract. Barlow was No. 54 on our Big Board but went undrafted.

13) An international scout told me after the draft that the Spurs were planning to select Gabriele Procida at 38. Unfortunately, he went 36th. As I previously reported, the Spurs were also interested in Max Christie — but he ended up going 35th. (In an alternate universe where Branham doesn’t fall to 20, a likely outcome would have been Wesley at 20 and Christie at 25.)

14) While it’s a little bit disappointing that Procida didn’t drop to 38, I actually like how it played out. Getting a second round pick and Barlow is a win. Barlow is a 6-foot-10 center with a 7-foot-3 wingspan. He moves really well, he has a three-point stroke and he’s improving at a rapid rate. 

15) Barlow played for the Overtime Elite, which is basically an alternative to the G League Ignite. The problem with the Overtime Elite in their first year of existence was that their prospects played against lowly competition. It was very difficult for NBA scouts to do their job given the circumstances.

16) The Spurs got lucky with Barlow because during the combine, his team in the scrimmage was led by Spurs assistant coach Mitch Johnson. Barlow wasn’t recruited much out of high school so teams struggled to get a read on him. The Spurs, though, got positive reports from Johnson and had Barlow in for two workouts. San Antonio obviously ended up liking him because they had a two-way contract ready for him to sign the moment the draft ended.

17) One source says that Barlow’s representatives told teams not to draft him in the second round because he preferred to go the two-way route. I’m actively trying to follow up on this to see if I can get it confirmed on record.

18) Scouts I’ve talked to are really impressed with San Antonio’s draft haul. The Spurs got an infusion of talent and three high-character players who should seamlessly fit into a team-first concept. 

One discussion I had stands out because the scout made the great point that the Spurs managed to get three first round prospects that are on three separate development tracks. Sochan is on the fast track and should be ready to help right away. Branham is on the intermediate track. He’ll need some seasoning but he won’t require more than a half-season in the G League. That leaves Wesley, who legitimately needs a lot of seasoning and a lot of developmental work. A season or a season and a half in the G League is likely on the menu for him. 

The Spurs will have three first round draft picks on the roster next season but there shouldn’t be much overlap if you look at each player and his developmental track. Yes, Branham and Wesley are essentially the same size but they’ll be able to develop concurrently due to where they are on their learning curves. 

19) Another scout pointed out how amazing the Thaddeus Young trade looks in retrospect. The Spurs ended up trading Young and the 33rd pick for the 20th pick. Considering that the 19th pick ended up being traded for the 22nd pick and the 29th pick, the Spurs got insane value for a guy on an expiring deal who averaged about 14.5 minutes per game in the playoffs.

20) Last year, the Spurs picked the youngest player in the draft in Joshua Primo. This year, they again went with youth. Sochan, Branham and Wesley each recently turned 19 years old. In fact, they were all born within 65 days of each other. Add in Barlow and the four players the Spurs walked away with on draft day were born 71 days apart.

21) All in all, I think the draft went as well as could have reasonably been expected for the Spurs. They got two lottery-level talents in Sochan and Branham — and a player in Wesley who they were high on after watching him destroy the competition during a group workout. Add Barlow, an intriguing prospect who the Spurs got to know better than any other team, and the draft couldn’t have gone much better.