Jun 25, 2011; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs draft pick Kawhi Leonard speaks at a press conference at the Spurs practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-US PRESSWIRE
The draft is almost here. It’s an incredibly exciting time for every team and a prime chance to improve the franchise dramatically. Houston is making a ton of moves and seems poised to make another move tonight. They want Dwight. Badly.
On the Spurs front, there is not much to note. Occasional rumors here and there. They’ve shown interest in various lower level prospects and Bradley Beal. DeJuan Blair is on the trading block though he probably has been on the block for an entire year now. Only diluting matters is the Spurs’ lone pick, the 59th pick, giving little chance for discussion. Still, it’s a time I relish as a basketball fan. I’d be remiss not to mention the Spurs’ unparalleled drafting success though. Let’s begin shall we?
No. 1: Other than David Robinson (’87) and Tim Duncan (’97), the Spurs haven’t received much from their No. 1 overall pick. Obviously, San Antonio has hit the mark though both Robinson and Duncan were considered consensus picks. In reality, Spurs fans can thank luck for the amazing fortune of acquiring two all-time greats. Between them, they’ve totaled 354.6 win shares (and counting).
No. 3: Two years after Robinson’s selection, the Spurs made another solid pick when they selected Sean Elliot out of the University of Arizona with the third pick. Elliot was an important cog of the organization and his immaculate 3-pointer against Portland in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals was brilliant. You probably remember it vividly as the “Memorial Day Miracle.”
No. 15: Kawhi Leonard was technically selected by the Indiana Pacers but, for the sake of this piece, I’m going to include Leonard. Within minutes of his selection, he was shipped to San Antonio for fan favorite George Hill. Chad Ford rated Leonard as a top 10 prospect but his poor shooting deterred most NBA teams. R.C. Buford wasn’t one of those executives, as he believed in Leonard’s work ethic and athleticism to supersede his deficiencies. Leonard had immense pressure to succeed as he was expected to improve the team so the Memphis debacle wouldn’t happen again. It also so happened that he was highest drafted Spur since a guy named Tim Duncan. So yeah. Leonard didn’t disappoint. He finished the season with an impressive 37.6% shooting from behind the arc, making the complaints about his perimeter shooting obsolete. Perhaps his only mistake as a rookie was the suit he wore on draft nigh.
No. 20: James Anderson averaged 22.3 points in his junior year with Oklahoma State, giving credence to the notion that he would be a valuable scoring threat for any NBA team. San Antonio drafted Anderson with the intention of giving them a cost-effective wing with unusual (for the Spurs) athleticism. Anderson’s scoring never materialized and, along with a rash of injuries, he probably won’t be a Spur next season. Hey, it happens.
No. 26: When San Antonio drafted lanky point guard George Hill out of, wait for it, Indiana University-Purdue- University Indianapolis, I had no idea what to think. It seemed like a reach given the lack of interest in Hill but, as usual, I was wrong. Hill turned into yet another great value and a prototypical Spur. He was miscast as a point guard given his slashing 2-guard tendencies though minutes behind Parker were much more plentiful. His relentless energy and charisma endeared him to the Spurs fan base. I love Kawhi as much as the next guy but I still wish George wouldn’t have been apart of the deal. Remember when everyone wanted to get rid of Tony Parker to make way for George to run the point? Yeah, good times.
No. 28: Something about the 28th pick elicits an uncanny ability to find gems. San Antonio drafted 19-year-old Parker at this pick and, obviously, that selection payed huge dividends. The Spurs also uncovered speed demon Leandro Barbosa; unfortunately, they never cashed in on their insight because they traded Barbosa shortly after. They also found Slovenian point guard Beno Udrih who gave the Spurs three decent years. And the last gem is Tiago Splitter. Even if he is flipped in a deal this year, Splitter was still a great value.
No. 29: The other first-rounder from last year, Cory Joseph, is awaiting a chance. I covered his uphill battle to NBA relevancy today.
No. 37: Who cares if DeJuan Blair is fat and has no ACL’s? The Spurs surely didn’t. They capitalized on the mass hysteria surrounding Blair, receiving the voracious power forward out of Pittsburgh in another nice draft day steal. His rookie year, especially, showed that the concerns on his health were largely irrelevant. Blair will never be a star but his energy will prevent him from becoming a total bust either.
No. 40: Hey, would you look at that … they still found considerable value even without Buford and Pop at the controls. With the 40th pick, they selected George Gervin who only led the league in scoring four times; Gervin finished with career averages of 25.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. Not too shabby.
No. 45: Ugh. Goran Dragic. Why must you torture me so? (For the record, he was drafted by the Spurs. Then, not only does he play well, but he terrorizes the Spurs to to the tune of 23 fourth-quarter points in Game 3 of the 2010 semifinals. Phoenix exorcised their playoff demons by sweeping the Spurs.)
Nos. 55 and 57: Luis Scola and Manu Ginobili. The fact that San Antonio found these gems at the tail end of the second round is still remarkable. It’s just a shame that a world where Ginobili and Scola play on the same NBA team didn’t materialize.