San Antonio Spurs Draft

San Antonio Spurs: 2018 NBA draft prospects who fit but won’t be available

By Rob Wolkenbrod
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 25: Villanova Wildcats guard Mikal Bridges (25) during an Elite Eight matchup between the Villanova Wildcats and the Texas Tech Red Raiders on March 25, 2018, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Wildcats defeated the Red Raiders 71-59. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 25: Villanova Wildcats guard Mikal Bridges (25) during an Elite Eight matchup between the Villanova Wildcats and the Texas Tech Red Raiders on March 25, 2018, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Wildcats defeated the Red Raiders 71-59. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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CLEVELAND, OH – FEBRUARY 25: Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs watches his players during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on February 25, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH – FEBRUARY 25: Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs watches his players during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on February 25, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The San Antonio Spurs will be out of range from some of the top NBA Draft prospects, but who would make sense as a dream fit?

The San Antonio Spurs will not be part of the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery, which will be unveiled Tuesday night. Their last inclusion in one of the draft’s first steps came in 1997, with the victory of the No. 1 overall pick and selection of Tim Duncan.

Due to success for the next 21 seasons, the Spurs have not had a chance at the projected, elite talents of the draft. Unless there’s a trade before June’s selection show, that will be the case again.

Even though 2018’s top prospects are out of range, some of them would still make sense as a fit on San Antonio’s roster. Which four players does this include?

4. Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova

One need we profiled for the Spurs was a shooting guard with size. With Danny Green’s underwhelming offensive stats and potential free agency, along with Manu Ginobili’s future in doubt and Bryn Forbes’ restricted free agency, San Antonio might be nearly empty at the two position.

More from Spurs Draft

In most mock drafts, Mikal Bridges has been projected as a lottery pick, if not a top 10 selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. That’s far away from the Spurs’ pick at No. 18 and it seems unlikely they have a chance to select him, barring a trade.

Bridges makes plenty of sense for the Spurs, however. As NBADraft.net noted, he’s the standard “3-and-D” player or someone who can hit his shots from behind the arc and play good perimeter defense.

Green always fit this role for the Silver and Black, but if he leaves this summer, it opens a defensive gap on a team known for limiting their opponents.

A knock against Bridges is his lack of driving to the basket, something Green did not start doing until the 2017-18 season, but on an inconsistent basis. So they’re similar players, but the Spurs need an upside talent, and Bridges fits this after his scoring improvement from 2016-17 to 2017-18. Just don’t expect him to be there at No. 18 to make this scenario happen.

Next: Mohamed Bamba

KANSAS CITY, MO – MARCH 08: Texas Longhorns forward Mohamed Bamba (4) after hitting a three at the buzzer in the first half of a quarterfinal game in the Big 12 Basketball Championship between the Texas Longhorns and Texas Tech Red Raiders on March 8, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO – MARCH 08: Texas Longhorns forward Mohamed Bamba (4) after hitting a three at the buzzer in the first half of a quarterfinal game in the Big 12 Basketball Championship between the Texas Longhorns and Texas Tech Red Raiders on March 8, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

3. Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

The San Antonio Spurs entered the 2017-18 season thin at center, with an aging Pau Gasol as the lead player at this position. Joffrey Lauvergne backed him up but dealt with injuries and was kept on the bench for part of the year. LaMarcus Aldridge was moved to the five at times, but his ideal position is at power forward.

A youthful injection is needed at center. It probably will not come from Mohamed Bamba, but on paper, he appears as an intriguing fit.

In an era of elite rim protectors, Bamba has the chance to join them. He owns a ridiculous 7’9” wingspan that will engulf players that try to shoot on him, leading to a handful of blocks each game (he averaged 3.7 with Texas).

Bamba flashed some shooting ability in college. Although it has some ways to go, especially as more NBA big men continue to stretch their respective repertoires to the 3-point line. The same goes for his offensive game in general, which will be a work in progress.

The defensive work under the basket, to team with the offensive-minded Aldridge would be an intriguing combination. It would work the Spurs to the days of potentially having an elite rim protector to anchor the defense. But it’s only a thought and not likely to become reality.

Next: Deandre Ayton

LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 10: Deandre Ayton #13 of the Arizona Wildcats reacts after dunking against the USC Trojans during the championship game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 10, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Wildcats won 75-61. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 10: Deandre Ayton #13 of the Arizona Wildcats reacts after dunking against the USC Trojans during the championship game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 10, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Wildcats won 75-61. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

2. Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona

There’s Mohamed Bamba’s defensive upside and then there’s Deandre Ayton, the potential No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft. Unless the San Antonio Spurs trade Kawhi Leonard for a package that includes one of the top two or three picks, there’s no chance they get Arizona’s star. And, of course, any team would be a natural “fit” for him this high.

Ayton showed off his offensive prowess in college, averaging 20.1 points per game on 61.2 percent shooting and even making some 3-pointers. He has the NBA body to accompany this, too, at 7’0” and 250 pounds.

As Sports Illustrated noted, Ayton may be the most athletic center prospect of this decade. It’s part of what makes him an attention-grabbing prospect and maybe what gives hope for a defensive game to develop.

Ayton, despite his immense upside, is not known for his defense, averaging just 1.9 blocks per game and struggling to be an imposing presence down low. With Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s focus on this side of the game, it may not make this prospect a 100 percent perfect fit in San Antonio, but it’s hard to ignore the freakish offensive potential that’s brought to the table.

Ayton is still just 19 years old and far from a finished product, so the defensive ability can arrive in years to come. With how much he can potentially impact a game already, it’s worth waiting for.

Next: Luka Doncic

WIZINK CENTER, MADRID, SPAIN – 2018/04/25: Luka Doncic, #7 of Real Madrid gestures during the 2017/2018 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Play Offs Game 3 between Real Madrid and Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens at WiZink center in Madrid. (Photo by Jorge Sanz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WIZINK CENTER, MADRID, SPAIN – 2018/04/25: Luka Doncic, #7 of Real Madrid gestures during the 2017/2018 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Play Offs Game 3 between Real Madrid and Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens at WiZink center in Madrid. (Photo by Jorge Sanz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

1. Luka Doncic, SG/SF, Slovenia

Joining Deandre Ayton in that upper-level range, Luka Doncic is this year’s international man of mystery. Although his performances have gained some headlines, overseas prospects have proven to be hit or miss. With this player, however, there’s reason to believe he falls on the “hit” side of the scale.

Doncic profiles as the NBA’s next wing, standing at 6’8” and 225 pounds. He’s not an imposing physical presence, but his quick development at a young age has been praised, with the ability to create his own shot and do a little bit of everything. From playing the distributor role to showing no issue driving to the basket and taking contact, it’s just some of the attributes to like from his game.

Athleticism is one of the only concerns with Doncic’s game. It could hamper him on defense and take some of his ability to drive away, but it should not hurt his stock as the No. 1 or 2 overall pick.

There’s no chance the San Antonio Spurs get Doncic, even though he makes sense for their squad. With Kawhi Leonard’s status in the air and Rudy Gay’s potential free-agent departure, the Silver and Black can use quality insurance at the wing.

It would take a trade of Leonard to acquire one of the draft’s top picks to make this happen, with Doncic sliding in as the replacement at the three. His offensive game would be welcomed on a team that can get its next young star to build around, especially one with international appeal; that’s hardly unknown to this franchise over the past 20 years.

Next: 2018 NBA Mock Draft: SAS edition

The Spurs will not get a chance at any of these players, barring an unforeseen circumstance, but all could fit into their 2018-19 plans. Let’s see where Ayton, Bamba, Bridges and Doncic land.

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