The San Antonio Spurs are already equipped with the kind of talent that can make them contenders in the 2016-17 NBA season, but are not yet prepared to take on the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors.
The Spurs have legitimate roster concerns still to address to be considered title favorites. The most notable of those concerns are shooting depth, rim protection, and the point guard spot.
The Spurs worked out the 6’5″, 190 pound Florida State prospect Malik Beasley this week and it seemed to go well. Beasley has a great three point stroke and has a sleek, athletic body. During his workout with the Spurs, he responded well with the Spurs staff. He mentioned that the Spurs and the same outlook as he does and that the Spurs motto to keep “Pounding the Rock” was how he played aspired to play.
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Beasley compared himself to likes of Danny Green, being that they are both shooters and do not have much of an off the dribble game. Green is an inch taller than Beasley, however Malik is a superior athlete by a long shot. Beasley will almost certainly not make it to the Spurs’ 29th pick. He is projected to go mid first round, and the Pistons are eyeing him at 18.
The Spurs have also shown some interest in and like Timothe Luwawu, a 6’7″ defensive Frenchmen (compared to Nic Batum) who boasted a 39% three point shot in international play. Luwawu never worked out with the Spurs but he did meet with their officials.
Just like shooting, size is a big problem for the Spurs. Even if Duncan re-ups for the 16/17 season, he will turn 41 next year and will not play a huge role on the team anyway. The Thunder dominated the Spurs with Adams and Kanter, and the Spurs have to get a big one way or another during this offseason.
The Spurs have been linked to Pau Gasol multiple times, once even by his brother Marc, claiming that Pau would probably sign with San Antonio. The Spurs have been linked to many bigs this draft, with such names as Ante Zizic, Cheik Diallo, Ivicia Zubac, Damian Jones, and even the draft’s mystery man Thon Maker.
Zizic and Zubac are both 7-footers from Croatia, and their size could be the answer to the Spurs “big” problem. Both prospects have good length and athleticism to play the center position in the NBA, however they are both 19 years old and are not ready to contribute on an NBA level quite yet.
Maker is too much of a question mark to speculate on at this point. He has been placed anywhere from pick number 10 to Toronto’s pick at 27 in various mock drafts. All that can be said at this point is if the Spurs do trade up to get him, he is probably something special (just like that Kawhi Leonard kid).
As far Diallo and Jones, they are more the type that could step in help the Spurs this year, like Myles Turner did for the Pacers last year. Diallo is a 6’9″, 220 pound athletic Freshmen out of Kansas who has major comparisons to Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo. If the Spurs really want a defensive big, Diallo could be worthwhile, accumulating 4.6 blocks per 40 minutes last year as a Jayhawk. Diallo is projected to be drafted just before the Spurs pick, so they may have to trade up get him as well.
Damian Jones is a 7’0″, 240 pound center out of Vanderbilt and has great size and mobility for the NBA. With a near 7’4″ wingspan and a 37″ vertical, Jones can be a physical presence an NBA court as of today. His free throw shooting is a problem, but he is a big with solid NBA potential. Unlike many of the other prospects the Spurs are looking at, Jones should be available with the 29 pick, and the Spurs would not be forced to trade up to select him.
April 7, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) during the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Spurs 112-101. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The Spurs’ final option in the draft is to take a point guard. This is rare to even consider for Spurs fans because they have gotten so used to Tony Parker running the offense for the last 15 years. Kris Dunn is the feature point guard in this draft followed by Wade Baldwin IV, who are both expected to be drafted in the lottery. Barring any surprising trades, the Spurs most likely will not have an opportunity to take either one of them. In addition, the Spurs have been linked to Mike Conley a number of times this offseason. How confident the Spurs’ front office feels about the possible Conley signing will determine whether or not the Spurs consider drafting a point guard. However, there is one intriguing prospect the Spurs could gamble on.
Kentucky sophomore Tyler Ulis clocked in at just 5’10” (with shoes) and 150 pounds at the NBA Draft combine. Even though he is puny for NBA standards, he played huge at Kentucky last year, averaging 17 points and 7 assists. Ulis has uncanny leadership and passing skills, and has been compared to Chris Paul for his ability to control the flow of the game and be a dominating floor general. He even won the SEC defensive player of the year award last year. If he was five inches taller, Tyler Ulis could be the premiere player of this draft. It is unknown whether his skill will translate to the NBA and if he can keep up with the likes of bigger guards such as Westbrook and Livingston. Jon Rothstein tweeted that the Spurs apparently have done “extensive research” on Ulis, so if that is true, Popovich and his staff might truly believe in the smaller Ulis.
Whatever happens in the draft will just be the start of the Spurs’ reload to prepare for another title run next year. With Leonard and Aldridge officially the heartbeat of the team, the new era of Spurs basketball starts now.