Random Thoughts After Spurs Land the 4th and 8th Picks in the Draft

The San Antonio Spurs have to be thrilled with how the ping pong balls bounced on Sunday afternoon. First, the Spurs learned that the Toronto Raptors fell in the draft and thus owe San Antonio the No. 8 pick. Then, the Spurs successfully climbed to the No. 4 pick.

This was one of the best possible outcomes for San Antonio. Their chances of acquiring the Raptors pick and also moving into the top four was only about 20%. 

As I wrote yesterday, the main problem with the 2024 NBA Draft is that it doesn’t have the high-end talent that would typically go in the top three spots in most drafts. Picking fourth in a draft without a real top three is pretty darn optimal. At No. 4, the Spurs should get a solid lottery prospect who doesn’t carry the price tag (or the burden) of a top selection.

Regarding the pick from the Raptors, the Spurs could have hoped that the basketball gods would thread another needle for the good guys and give San Antonio a lottery pick in a better draft. But I really like how things turned out. When you are owed a top six protected pick, getting the eighth pick is undeniably excellent. Maybe it could have gotten even better in theoretical scenarios but there were also paths to the Toronto pick losing a lot (or all) of its value. At No. 8, the Spurs will have options that are near what would be expected in a higher rated draft class.

All in all, things couldn’t have worked out a whole lot better.

-The two lottery picks who would be questionable fits on the Spurs are big men Alex Sarr and Donovan Clingan. It was clear during Victor Wembanyama’s rookie season that he functions best at center so adding a young center to the mix would have been awkward. 

With the way things turned out, it’s looking good that both Sarr and Clingan will be drafted in the top three. In fact, my early guess is that the Atlanta Hawks will take Sarr at No. 1 and the Washington Wizards will take Clingan at No. 2. If the Wizards don’t take Clingan, the Houston Rockets could take him at No. 3. If Sarr and Clingan go before San Antonio’s pick, that gives the Spurs a very good chance of landing the top player on their Big Board.

-The calculus of who to take at No. 4 could very well be altered by the fact that the Spurs also have No. 8. For example, if the Spurs see Robert Dillingham, Nikola Topic and Reed Sheppard as interchangeable point guard prospects, it may make sense to go with a swingman at No. 4.

For example, Zaccharie Risacher at No. 4 and then whoever is left out of Dillingham, Topic or Sheppard at No. 8 could be the logical move. 

If the Spurs value Dillingham, Topic or Sheppard at the top of their board, there’s no problem drafting any of the three at No. 4. Then at No. 8, San Antonio could go with the best wing — most likely Risacher, Matas Buzelis, Cody Williams or Stephon Castle.

-Another way to look at it is that, assuming Sarr and Clingan go in the top seven as expected, the Spurs are guaranteed to be able to draft two of the following players: Dillingham, Risacher, Sheppard, Topic, Buzelis, Williams and Castle. That’s exciting. 

San Antonio also has options if they want to go a safer, win-now route (Dalton Knecht) or a higher upside route (Ron Holland or Tidjane Salaun).

-My early favorite combos for the Spurs to end up with are Dillingham and Risacher, Topic and Castle, or Sheppard and Williams. Those could change after we see measurements at the combine, however.

-Could the Spurs end up trading one or both of their lottery picks? Sure, I could see that. If the Spurs see a specific player they want to pair with Wembanyama, using these lottery picks to acquire him would very likely be a justifiable move. I like a handful of these prospects but none of them project to be franchise-altering players.

Plus, with the number of picks coming to San Antonio in the upcoming years, there are only so many spots available on the roster to use on developing talent. Consolidating some of the youth and assets to acquire a higher level piece of the puzzle makes a lot of sense.

-The only thing that classifies as a disappointment about Sunday’s lottery from the Spurs perspective is the Hawks getting the No. 1 pick. Atlanta owes the Spurs multiple unprotected picks so it’s bad news that they now have a good chance to add talent. 

Then again, this draft really doesn’t have game-changing talent at the top. Sarr, for example, is a fine prospect but he’s probably a couple years away from being a notably impactful player. San Antonio’s picks from the Hawks became less valuable today — but not a whole lot less valuable. Specifically, the needle probably didn’t move on the value of the unprotected 2025 first round pick.

-In the second round, the Spurs also have two picks: their own 35th selection and the 48th pick via the Los Angeles Lakers. With two lottery picks to ponder, it’s going to be difficult to give much thought to these two lower level selections — especially because the Spurs will likely trade their second rounders due to the amount of youth already on the roster. 

-Last year’s Wembanyama lottery win will be a day Spurs fans never forget. Today’s outcome wasn’t nearly as important but it should go down as two steps in the direction of building San Antonio’s next contending team.