The San Antonio Spurs own the No. 18 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Six weeks out, which needs could they address?
For the past two decades, the San Antonio Spurs have found more hits than misses in the NBA Draft. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard topped the list, with David Robinson preceding all of them, and the Gregg Popovich era itself, in 1987.
The 2018 NBA Draft will be San Antonio’s latest chance at selecting a franchise-altering player. It’s at the 18th pick of Round 1, however, the highest predetermined spot this organization will choose from since the 1997 selection show (when Duncan went No. 1 overall).
The 2018-19 roster could see a historic overturn if the Spurs trade Leonard this offseason. Will they prepare for this in the draft? If not, which needs should be addressed in June?
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3. Shooting guard
The 2018 offseason potentially marks the end of Danny Green‘s run with the Spurs, as he can opt out of a $10 million option for 2018-19. A departure leaves the Spurs with over 20 minutes per game to replace. Add in Bryn Forbes‘ restricted free agency and it can be up to 35 minutes, all at one position. Even Ginobili could retire and stretch this to 55 minutes.
So, yes, the Spurs may have a nearly empty shooting guard position next season. That makes it among the team’s top needs that likely can’t be filled in just the NBA Draft.
Luckily for San Antonio, there are a handful of shooting guard options that are projected to fall within the No. 15-30 range, according to NBADraft.net.
Miami’s Lonnie Walker and Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith lead this group. Both stand around 6’4” to 6’5” but offer different skill sets.
Khyri Thomas, Anfernee Simons, Gary Trent Jr. and Troy Brown are in the next tier of shooting guards. Simons and Thomas act more as combo guards, while Brown and Trent Jr. have the prototypical size of a player at the two spot.
Whether these players fit into Gregg Popovich’s scheme or not, there are options for the Spurs to replace potentially lost shooting guard depth. Will they use the No. 18 pick on one?
Next: Center/power forward behind LaMarcus Aldridge
2. A center/power forward behind LaMarcus Aldridge
When the San Antonio Spurs let Dewayne Dedmon and David Lee (he eventually retired) walk after 2017, it left a gaping hole behind Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge at center and power forward. Joffrey Lauvergne signed that offseason, but he acted as the second or third big man off the bench in his three-year NBA career, something that continued in 2017-18.
Rudy Gay and Davis Bertans were used as stretch fours, but neither provided the rim-protecting and rebounding presence San Antonio needed under the basket. So, aside from Aldridge and Gasol, it was an unusual frontcourt depth chart for Gregg Popovich.
At a position the Spurs are older at, the 2018 NBA Draft will be the opportunity to acquire a younger talent to plug in and learn from the veterans.
Mitchell Robinson, Robert Williams, Jontay Porter and Omari Spellman all represent options at No. 18 for the Spurs to upgrade the backup center/power forward spot. All but Williams are just one year removed from high school graduation.
Some of these players represent projects, however, especially Robinson. He stands at 7’1” and can guard the rim but needs to bulk up to potentially find NBA success, according to NBA.com. That does not mean the Spurs would shy away (see Dejounte Murray in 2016), but if they want a player to impact the 2018-19 roster, the New Orleans, LA native might not be the best fit.
Either way, the Spurs have options to choose from, much like the depth-filled shooting guard position in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Next: Wing depth
1. Wing depth
Let’s classify an NBA wing as someone that stands between 6’7” and 6’10”. The San Antonio Spurs have an elite player at this spot, Kawhi Leonard, but with his status in doubt, it may be time to add an insurance policy this June.
If the Spurs owned a lottery pick, especially a top 10 selection, they would have their options at wing depth. Luka Doncic, Michael Porter, Mikal Bridges, Miles Bridges and Kevin Knox all partially fit the profile, but there’s a decent chance none of them remain on the board at No. 18.
Does this make the Spurs a trade candidate to move up? Unless it’s part of a Leonard package, putting together an offer would be tricky. Anything may need to include Dejounte Murray or Derrick White, the last two first-round picks from San Antonio, or future first-round picks which this organization never gives away.
If the Spurs remain at 18 and the aforementioned players all go off the board, Dzanan Musa might be the next best option. With any international prospect comes the risk of them not coming to the NBA for multiple years, so unless the front office is comfortable with a draft-and-stash player (which it has been in the past), Musa would not be the pick. Caleb Martin, Keita Bates-Diop and Chandler Hutchison could fit, but all arguably qualify as reaches in the middle of Round 1.
So unless San Antonio chooses to move up, finding wing depth will be difficult in the 2018 NBA Draft. It remains a need but something the team tries to address in free agency.