San Antonio Spurs: 5 best picks at No. 18 in NBA Draft history
By Rob Wolkenbrod
The San Antonio Spurs will select No. 18 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. However, who were the best picks at this spot in draft history?
In June’s 2018 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs will select No. 18 overall. It’s one of their highest spots in the order of the past 20 years, so it’s possible for them to get an impact player that helps get the team back to the playoffs.
The No. 18 pick has delivered some successful players over the years. Most recently, it was T.J. Leaf to the Indiana Pacers and Henry Ellenson to the Detroit Pistons. Even Eric Bledsoe went at this spot in 2010, arguably the best No. 18 player of the decade.
Who are the best No. 18 picks in NBA Draft history, though? From the archives, let’s look into some of the best players at this spot.
5. 2003: David West, New Orleans Hornets
The top No. 18 picks start with a familiar face, one who played on recent NBA championship teams. It’s David West, a 15-year veteran who established a solid career with a handful of teams since the 2003 NBA Draft.
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2003 is mostly known as the LeBron James–Dwyane Wade–Chris Bosh-Dark Milicic-went-second-overall draft. However, after this group, West might have been the best of the rest.
For eight years, West played with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, most of which were spent as the No. 2 player to Chris Paul. He put up a steady 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game at power forward while making two All-Star Game appearances in 2008 and 2009.
After career years in New Orleans, West went to a better situation with the Indiana Pacers, who sported a rising Paul George, George Hill, Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson. The Xavier product rose from No. 3 or 4 scoring option in his first year to the No. 3 guy one year later, jumping from 12.8 points and 6.6 rebounds to 17.1 points and 7.7 rebounds.
West still had quality years to offer as a starter but chose to leave for championship aspirations in 2015, for a spot on the San Antonio Spurs. That did not come to fruition, but one year later, he won a title with the Golden State Warriors on a team of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
Next: Mark Jackson
4. 1987: Mark Jackson, New York Knicks
Another familiar name for NBA fans since he coached the Golden State Warriors in the pre-takeover-the-league era and continues to do commentary for ESPN. It’s Mark Jackson, the No. 18 pick of the 1987 NBA Draft.
Jackson fell behind a group of veterans in a quality 1987 class, including Reggie Miller, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Kevin Johnson and Muggsy Bogues. Although, after them, Jackson might have been the best of the rest.
Aside from a few seasons in his 20’s, Jackson never lit up the scoring sheet. It was his passing game more than anything that propelled him to notoriety, with at least nine seasons of eight assists per game and two in double digits (10.6 in 1987-88 and 11.4 in 1996-97).
Jackson spent the majority of his career with the New York Knicks (1987-92, 2001-02) and the Indiana Pacers (1993-00). These were some of his best seasons, playing with Patrick Ewing and Reggie Miller, on playoff teams that made some noise deep in the postseason.
However, Jackson was a well-traveled player, as he also spent time with the Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz, Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets.
Jackson delivered some quality seasons, found his way into an All-Star Game and was part of some of the Eastern Conference’s top teams of the late 1990’s. He also owns the No. 4 spot on the all-time assists list (10,334) in NBA history, so it’s a name for fans to remember for a long time.
The San Antonio Spurs never had Jackson but showcased their own assist man of the 1990’s, Avery Johnson.
Next: Ricky Pierce
3. 1982: Ricky Pierce, Detroit Pistons
Ricky Pierce goes back to the 1982 NBA Draft, when the league was in the midst of the Magic Johnson/Larry Bird era. The Detroit Pistons selected Pierce at No. 18 overall, but it was hardly his final stop.
The 1982 Draft saw a handful of veterans go ahead of Pierce, but also had Dominique Wilkins go at No. 3 to the Atlanta Hawks. This was in the era of 10 rounds, so when Pierce went to the Pistons at No. 18, it was hardly the end of the process, but it also put forth one of that year’s top players.
Pierce was a late-bloomer who did not break out until 1986-87 at 27 years old, and did so with 19,5 points on 53.4 percent shooting. It was partially as a starter (31 games) and the rest off the bench (48). This happened on the same Milwaukee Bucks team as Terry Cummings, Paul Pressey and Jack Sikma, however, and an injury-riddled season from Sidney Moncrief.
Otherwise, Pierce was a top player off the bench, becoming one of the NBA’s best sixth men. He notably had 23 points in 29 minutes in the 1989-90 season.
It was not until age 32 that Pierce received his first full-time opportunity as a starter, and even developed a 3-point shot with the Seattle SuperSonics. He had three good years with them, before trailing into a shooter off the bench into his late 30’s.
Pierce was a consistent player who made his way onto an All-Star team, a top bench player for much of the late 1980’s, and someone that went head-to-head with the rebuilding San Antonio Spurs teams in this era. It’s enough to get him as the No. 3 player.
Next: Calvin Murphy
2. 1970: Calvin Murphy, San Diego Rockets
This one digs deeper into the draft archives, with Calvin Murphy as the No. 18 overall pick in the 1970 NBA Draft. He went to the old San Diego Rockets.
1970 was historic for the NBA, with Pete Maravich, Dave Cowens, Rudy Tomjanovich and Tiny Archibald all part of this class. Each player had varying degrees of success, but they built a terrific foundation for rookies to start this decade and Murphy was with them for the ride.
Murphy spent 12 years in the NBA, all of which came with the Rockets franchise (they became the Houston Rockets in 1971). He acted as a solid combo guard through the 1970’s, even at 5′ 9”, with two seasons of at least 20 points and 7 assists per game (1973-74, 1975-76) and five totals years of 20-plus point averages.
The Niagara University product’s best season came in 1977-78, with 25.6 points per game in a career-high 38.2 minutes.
Murphy played on a lot of bad Houston teams, however, and his last season preceded Hakeem Olajuwon‘s arrival, which reshaped this franchise in Texas. Even though he played with decent pros along the way (Tomjanovich, Elvin Hayes, Moses Malone), there was never a sustained level of success that cost him a few years.
Next: Joe Dumars
1. 1985: Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons
While the previous four players had solid careers, no one approaches what Joe Dumars did for 14 years as a member of the Detroit Pistons, who selected him No. 18 overall in the 1985 NBA Draft.
In the mid-to-late 80’s, the Pistons were behind the Boston Celtics but finally broke through in the 1987-88 season, barely missing a championship. Dumars, among others, took another step forward in 1988-89 and won the first of two consecutive titles.
Dumars aligned with Isiah Thomas to form one of the NBA’s best backcourts of the late 80’s and early 90’s, acting as one a top shooting guard. The McNeese State product peaked in his 26-30 age range, with a career-high 23.5 points per game in the 1992-93 season, but also in a year he became a prolific 3-point shooter (37.5 percent on 3.9 attempts).
Once Thomas retired, Dumars took over as Detroit’s main player, with 20.4 points per game in the 1993-94 season. That did not last long, though, as his scoring averages faded from there.
By the end of Dumars’ career, he almost became an exclusive 3-point shooter (5.8 of his 9.2 attempts per game in 1998-99), but unlike players who fill these roles in the modern-day NBA, it was as a full-time starter and next to a rising Grant Hill and Jerry Stackhouse.
Dumars delivered strong seasons with the Pistons and found championship success along the way. He even performed well against the San Antonio Spurs (45.4 percent shooting and 39.2 percent from 3-point range).
Next: 2018 NBA Mock Draft: After the lottery
Who are the best players to go No. 18 in the NBA Draft? Will whoever the San Antonio Spurs pick join the mix? Let us know below.