San Antonio Spurs: Top 5 rookies SAS will face in 2017 preseason
By Rob Wolkenbrod
The San Antonio Spurs will get a look at some of the NBA’s newest players in the preseason.
On Monday, October 2, the San Antonio Spurs will have their preseason schedule begin. It’s the unofficial start of games for the NBA before the regular season kicks off later in the month.
The preseason will feature the arrivals of the new faces of the league, including the rookies that were selected in the 2017 NBA Draft. 60 players were picked, and while not all of them will play in early October, most of the first round should see action over the four-to-five game span.
The Spurs should see some of the NBA’s rookies before the regular season starts. Who are the biggest new names they’ll face?
5. PF Tyler Lydon – Nuggets
It took the Denver Nuggets until the No. 24 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, when they selected power forward Tyler Lydon. The Nuggets had the No. 23 selection, but moved down in a deal with the Utah Jazz.
Lydon may not be a major contributor for Denver in the 2017-18 season. He’ll come in to the NBA as a lanky player (6-foot-9, 220 pounds) and will need to get stronger to defend players of his size. Defense was always a question at Syracuse, too, which could limit him to an end-of-the-bench role if it doesn’t improve.
What got Lydon selected in Round 1 is his outside shooting. He’ll at least provide the 3-point shot for the Nuggets and be a difficult cover in spurts, given his athleticism up and down the court.
If the San Antonio Spurs break out a small-ball lineup on Sunday, October 8, look for it to be against a lineup with Lydon. Even in unimportant action, it’s a chance to work on a defense that will go against the run-and-gun teams like the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors.
San Antonio may not get a full look at Lydon, but to at least develop a scouting report against him.
Next: Zhou Qi
4. C Zhou Qi – Rockets
Zhou Qi is the latest international mystery man to join the NBA. One year after the Houston Rockets selected him in the 2016 draft, he signed a fully guaranteed deal to play in the United States.
The San Antonio Spurs will get their first look at Qi on Friday, October 13, which is the last game of the preseason. He’s a 7-foot-1 center from China, and will be the country’s first player to appear in an NBA game since Yi Jianlian.
The Rockets got their first on-court look at Qi in the 2017 Summer League. He had inconsistent production, shooting just 30 percent from the field through five games. Upside was shown as a shot blocker, however, with two per game.
Qi’s game doesn’t represent the modern-day look of the NBA’s big men. He’s lean, isn’t known for an outside shot, and will play out of position at power forward, for now. This is due to how skinny he is (210 pounds), so bigger players will batter him under the basket.
With the fully guaranteed deal and this being the last game of the preseason, look for Qi to get extra exposure before the regular season starts. That could mean a lot of Joffrey Lauvergne or Davis Bertans covering Qi, if he still resides at the power forward position.
Next: Harry Giles
3. PF Harry Giles – Kings
About two years ago, Harry Giles looked like the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Then came a wrath of knee injuries, which took him out of action in high school and at Duke. It sunk him down to the No. 20 overall pick, where the Sacramento Kings traded for and selected him.
Giles has the talent to work around the rim and have a steady work ethic. However, questions about his knees will cloud every other part of his game, including his ability to block shots, get up and down the court, and not be worried about aggravating his knees. That’s easier said than done, as players like Derrick Rose struggled to work around past ailments and only suffered further.
Giles should get limited action throughout his first season, as the Kings have Willie Cauley-Stein, Georgios Papagiannis, Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos, and Skal Labissiere to make the front court. It’s a positive for the former top-ranked recruit, who can ease his way into action and rest his knee when he’s not playing for half or most of the game.
The San Antonio Spurs should see Giles at least once, however, as they play Sacramento twice, on Monday, October 2 and Friday, October 6. It will be his first test against multi-year pros of the NBA, and a look at if the Kings need to send him to the G-League.
Next: Jonathan Isaac
2. PF Jonathan Isaac – Magic
Jonathan Isaac, who the Orlando Magic selected at No. 6 overall, was one of the 2017 NBA Draft’s most intriguing players. He stands at 6-foot-10, 210 pounds, and could stand to add muscle as a forward that will go against some of the toughest players in the league.
Everything else about Isaac’s game is intriguing, however, if it all pans out. The mid-range game will be there, along with terrific athleticism that makes him a guard in a power forward’s body. It’s a potential nightmare matchup for anyone defending him.
At Isaac’s size and mobility, he should be one of the NBA’s newest “positionless” players. He won’t be designated to any spot on the court, especially if his outside game develops. It’s eye-popping upside if everything comes together.
The San Antonio Spurs will get their first look at Isaac on Tuesday, October 10, the second-to-last preseason game. It could be a final tune-up for the Florida State product and a chance for the Spurs to develop a scouting report out of him. How San Antonio matches up against him will be interesting, as LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol aren’t as athletic and Rudy Gay’s Achilles injury may limit his mobility.
Next: De'Aaron Fox
1. PG De’Aaron Fox – Kings
The highest-selected rookie the San Antonio Spurs will play is De’Aaron Fox of the Sacramento Kings. Fox was selected No. 5 overall, and as the third point guard, behind Markelle Fultz (No. 1) and Lonzo Ball (No. 2).
Fox came into the draft as a player that does a lot of things well, with the exception of a consistent 3-point shot. He was arguably the most athletic player, which goes for everyone in the 2017 selection show. The passing skills were highly regarded, with Ball ahead of him from his Jason Kidd-esque comparisons in college.
Fox has a clear-cut lane at point guard for the Kings, as Darren Collision departed. If Frank Mason III makes the roster, he should be the backup, so unless this second-round pick breaks out, the Kentucky product should make the Opening Night lineup.
Who guards Fox in both games will be interesting. It could be Kawhi Leonard, if the Spurs decide to roll him out as the team’s point guard. If not him, it could be Danny Green, who made the All-NBA Defensive Second Team for the 2016-17 season.
Must Read: 25 forgotten players that were on the Spurs
Which rookie are you most looking forward to see play against the Spurs in the preseason?