May 22, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gives direction to his team against the Golden State Warriors during the first half in game four of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
The 2017 NBA Finals are over, so it’s time to get into the NBA Draft. What are the San Antonio Spurs in for, for this selection show?
The San Antonio Spurs haven’t been the focus of the NBA Draft since 1997, when they selected Tim Duncan at No. 1 overall. This is due to them having one of the best regular season records in almost every year since, along with winning championships in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014.
Despite not winning it all in 2017, the Spurs had the second-best record in the NBA, leading to them picking at No. 29 overall in the upcoming Draft. They also own No. 59 in the second round.
Time is dwindling until the 2017 NBA Draft, so let’s outline what the Spurs’ outlook is. This includes positions of need, the past and the future.
Jun 23, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Dejounte Murray (Washington) greets NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected as the number twenty-nine overall pick to the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs picking at No. 29 is all too familiar, as they’ve selected in the bottom 11 selections in every year since 1998. The 2017 pick, however, is the third time in seven drafts that they have had the 29th overall spot.
In 2011, with the No. 29 pick, the Spurs selected point guard Cory Joseph from Texas. He played four seasons with the organization, mostly as a backup or third-string player at his position.
2016 saw San Antonio select Dejounte Murray from Washington. He’s just one season into his time with the team, but flashed upside with a starting spot in the Western Conference Finals.
It’s always possible the Spurs go to a point guard again, as they may lose Patty Mills in free agency. Tony Parker is also out until January, due to a quadriceps injury. If they’re ready to commit to Murray as the starter in the fall, could the plan be for another young option as the backup? If not that, then what about as the third string?
Another option is going international, which the Spurs have done in the first round in two of the last four NBA Drafts. They already worked out a Latvian center, so could this be the direction?
Either way, the Spurs have plenty of experience with this pick and in this area of the draft. It will potentially be a depth selection for a roster that will look to take the next step in 2018.
Sep 26, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) poses for a picture during media day at Spurs Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Would a Trade Make Sense?
The San Antonio Spurs have mostly kept quiet with trades in the NBA Draft. Sometimes, they’ll slide around the second round, but in the first round, more often than not, it stays quiet.
For the Spurs, the most significant draft-day trade of millennium saw them deal for Kawhi Leonard in 2011. They sent three-year point guard George Hill to the Indiana Pacers, while getting the No. 15 pick (Leonard) and the No. 42 pick (Davis Bertans). Of course, the San Diego State product’s career hasn’t disappointed, as he’s become the Face of the Franchise with Tim Duncan retired and Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker aging.
Six years later, could the Spurs use another trade to shake up the franchise?
If the Spurs had more assets that were under contract for 2017 and beyond, this would have more potential. Danny Green, who has been integral to this core, has an expiring contract. The same goes for Pau Gasol’s deal. If the team wants to make a deal on draft day, could money from these two players — along with picks — be used to move up or get someone under contract for more than one year?
The dark horse candidate will be LaMarcus Aldridge, who struggled at times in his second season in the Lone Star state. However, with $20-plus million owed next year, how much value is there?
Trading during the NBA Draft seems unlikely for the Spurs, at least in Round 1. Round 2 could be different, but nowhere as significant as a deal in the top 30 picks would be.
Jul 11, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Livio Jean-Charles (28) dribbles the ball during an NBA Summer League game against the Knicks at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
As noted, the international strategy usually plays a part in the San Antonio Spurs’ NBA Draft strategy. They’ve done this twice in four years, with history stretching into the late 1990’s. So there’s a chance of one or both picks in next week’s draft being players Spurs fans won’t see for who knows how long.
Despite the potential wait, sometimes, it has been worth it. This goes back to player that became critical to the team’s success in the 2000’s.
In 1999, Manu Ginobili was selected with the No. 57 overall pick. He didn’t step onto an NBA court for three years, debuting in the 2002-03 season and winning a championship. Now, Ginobili is nearing the end of his career, is one of the best players in team history and will likely have his number retired.
Tiago Splitter, while not a star, became a worthy role player on the 2014 NBA championship team. He was selected in 2007 at No. 28 and didn’t report until 2010.
So based on the past, the Spurs looking overseas is a legitimate option, especially where they’re picking in Round 1. It’s a risk to take, while keeping a roster spot open for a potential free agent signing or Adam Hanga, who was picked back in 2011.
Going this route is normal for the franchise, but will it satisfy the fans? They’re trying to compete with the young Golden State Warriors, so the fresh legs of someone who’s guaranteed to be in the NBA for the 2017-18 season could come in handy.
Next: Position of Need
Mar 23, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Purdue Boilermakers forward Caleb Swanigan (50) shoots during the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks in the semifinals of the midwest Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Positions of Need
The San Antonio Spurs had a terrific 2016-17 regular season, going 61-21. That may mask deficiencies, though, along with those that developed in the NBA playoffs.
As noted, point guard could be a position the team will target, as injuries and players leaving will impact the depth chart. If this route is taken, it will be the second consecutive year the team has used their pick on this position
Either big man spot could be boosted, which seems like a more likely direction for the Spurs to go in. Dewayne Dedmon declined his player option and Pau Gasol started showing his age last season, so it makes depth at center and power forward a potential focus.
The bottom of the first round could be full of available players at both big man positions. Ike Anigbogu, Tony Bradley, Jordan Bell and Caleb Swanigan may all be there at No. 29, if the Spurs avoid the draft-and-stash strategy.
If Manu Ginobili retires, would a wing player be an option? Kyle Anderson is already there as depth, but he hasn’t developed a scoring knack. That could leave PJ Dozier, Justin Jackson and Wesley Iwundu as options in Round 1.
There’s still time for the pre-draft situation for the Spurs to play out, but this is how everything looks before the selection show on Thursday, June 22. What will the organization do?