(Photo Source: Yahoo! Sports)
In our opinion, whoever the Spurs select with the 20th pick will serve as an early indicator of how negotiations with Tiago Splitter are faring this off season. In our latest Mock Draft we have the Spurs taking Solomon Alabi from Florida State. Given Pop’s recent non-committal statements on that topic we’ve gone with what we think is a very intriguing prospect at this stage in the draft. Alabi has only been playing organized basketball for about 7 years now, but has been pretty fully immersed in the world of USA-style hoops for that entire period of time (unlike say Ian Mahinmi). Alabi is listed at 7’1” tall. He has been measured with a wingspan of 7’3” and a standing reach of 9’1”. This length has served him well at the collegiate level but he relies a bit too much on that alone for his success. He won’t have quite the same advantage at the pro level and his relative light weight (241 lbs) could be a problem.
I’ve read consistently that he is a hard worker and has shown continuous improvement both during high school and college. Despite his lack of experience compared to the other prospects you’ll find in the draft he has a good understanding of the game. To be sure, he has increased the range on his jumper since his freshman year, going from about a 5-6 foot range out to 10 feet now. In addition, his footwork and post moves have shown improvement, though they still seem a bit mechanical.
However, if the Spurs do go after this guy, it won’t be for his offense. It will be for his motor and his enthusiasm for defense. One of the writers at NBAdraft.net has called this guy, “a shot blocker extraordinaire with good timing off the ball [Ed: 3.7 blocks/40min]”. Over at DraftExpress.com they say,
He shows pretty good timing and patience staying home and not biting excessively on pump-fakes, even if he can always continue to make strides in this area from a fundamentals standpoint. He can definitely stand to get stronger as mentioned already in both his upper and lower body, but already displays a good activity level and a solid understanding of how to operate on this end of the floor. He also does a pretty good job of moving his feet out on the perimeter, looking capable of hedging screens effectively and recovering, which is a nice thing to have from your 7-footer.
Does that sound like a skill set the Spurs could have used against the Suns in the Semis?
He appears to be pretty athletic for his size with excellent jumping ability, decent footwork, good energy, and a facility for getting up and down the court. He’s most comfortable playing close in, but has been able to stretch that comfort zone a bit as he’s gotten court time.
I’m not going to sit here and claim that this guy is the next coming of David Robinson as he is still very much a work in progress, but by all accounts this guy seems like a good fit both on a need basis and from a character standpoint. I’ve seen him compared to both Boniface N’dong and Antonio McDyess. My feelings are that the former case should serve as the floor of his potential and the latter as his ceiling; though in truth he’ll probably fall somewhere in between.
In closing I am going to let what that tool of a sportswriter Bob Ryan had to say about Alabi after the 2009 ACC tournament get you all hot and bothered for this guy:
Mark this name down: Solomon Alabi. He may very well be the next great thing. What we are talking about is 7-feet of astonishing young grace, agility and sheer athleticism. He is not just a dunker. He has a face-up jumper, a nice little jump hook and he can even put it on the floor a little. But what is so great about him is that every shot he takes looks like it is supposed to go in. When he first went to the foul line against Boston College on the night of February 24 I naturally assumed it would be a brickerama. Hah! He went eight-for-eight, swishes all. I’m sitting there going ‘Omigod, what is this?’ Yes, I am going to hit him with the dreaded ‘P’ word. His potential is enormous. Of course, he has a lot to learn. He needs to rebound more consistently, and he just needs playing time. He came to the USA in 2005, hoping to find an institution where he could develop his English and become a basketball player. He is said to be very intelligent and he is obviously a hard worker. Best of all, this game looks like it all makes sense to him. So I have seen the future of Bigs and its name is Solomon Alabi.
If this guy is still on the board when the Spurs selection comes up and they don’t take him, that means one of three things: Splitter is on his way, the Spurs fell in love with some other random player from upper Borat-istan, or we have absolutely no idea what the hell we are doing here. (note: these are not mutually exclusive.)