Mar 23, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Wichita State Shockers forward Cleanthony Early (11) reacts after scoring against the Kentucky Wildcats during the second half in the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men
Holding the last pick in the upcoming NBA draft seems anticlimactic for the San Antonio Spurs. So who did ESPN give them in the latest mock draft?
Early has versatility that Gregg Popovich will covet
Every year a team always seems to capture the imagination of the nation during March Madness. For 2014 that team was the Wichita State Shockers, who rode an incredible wave of momentum into the NCAA tournament, topping off at 35-0 before losing a heartbreaking thriller to Kentucky in the third round. After their equally impressive run in 2013 it was clear the Shocker might have some NBA talent on their roster, and one such players is who ESPN has going to the San Antonio Spurs with the 30th pick. His name is Cleanthony Early. At 6’7″, 210 lbs he has pro basketball size. Scouting reports see an ability to rebound, an improving jump shot, and the versatility to play defense. At the same time he’s 23-years old, so he’s definitely not a young pup. Some would say he’s a Spurs type of player. Head coach Gregg Popovich likes players who do multiple things well and doesn’t care about drawbacks as long as they fit the system he runs. Early needs to work on his ballhandling, but if he’s there at #30, it shouldn’t surprise anybody if he ends up in San Antonio.
Rise of Kawhi Leonard calls for bench help at small forward
Aside from his skill and fit for the scheme, Cleanthony Early would also serve a more immediate purpose. Coming off his NBA Finals MVP award, it’s clear that rising star Kawhi Leonard is going to become featured more and more in the San Antonio Spurs plans, especially as the old guard of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker continue to age. It will rest upon the team to find ways to keep Leonard fresh during the season, and that means adding depth to the bench at small forward. That is where Early comes in. He plays the same position, has the same measurables as Leonard and can find ways to score points. Amazingly he’s also a year older than, so maturity won’t be a problem. With some added zest from Pop on the fundamental side, the Shocker star should fit right in to the well-oiled machine the Spurs have built over the past fifteen seasons.