San Antonio Spurs: History of the ‘player after’ in SAS draft history
By Rob Wolkenbrod
Looking at the “player after” for some of the San Antonio Spurs past picks in the NBA Draft.
The San Antonio Spurs have a long line of success in the NBA Draft, with picks that reshaped the franchise and helped them win championships in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014. These players receive the headlines and the accolades but what about the other players?
Drafts have 60 players, so there are 58 or 59 players that go beyond who San Antonio selects, and that includes the second-round picks. So history goes beyond the Manu Ginobilis and Sean Elliotts of the selection process. What about the players who teams selected one spot after the Spurs, though? Did they even compare to the potential Pro Basketball Hall of Famers that donned the Silver and Black? Let’s take a look.
5. Who was picked after Alvin Robertson?
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Before the top players in San Antonio Spurs history, let’s look at someone on the outside of it: Alvin Robertson. He went No. 7 overall in the 1984 NBA Draft, one of the most historic selection shows in its history due to the players that filled up the top 10.
Robertson had a productive NBA career, with 14.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5 assists per game. A solid performance, for sure, but he went after Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley. Sam Perkins even had a fine 17-year career.
One pick after Robertson though? Lancaster Gordon, the No. 8 pick of the draft. He played four seasons for the Los Angeles Clippers but never averaged above 7.5 points per game and fell out of the league when that stint ended.
Multiple picks aafterward however, were Otis Thorpe, Kevin Willis, John Stockton and Jerome Kersey, all of whom either definitively had better careers or sustained a longer ride in the Association. Robertson was no slouch in college and certainly had a fine pro career, but these players just found more longevity.
Next: Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard
4. Who was picked after Tony Parker?
In the 2001 NBA Draft, Tony Parker became the final pick of the first round due to a forfeited selection from the Minnesota Timberwolves. So the next player chosen started the second round.
With the No. 30 pick, the Chicago Bulls selected Trenton Hassell, who, for a second round pick, had a successful NBA career. That’s with nine seasons on the Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks and New Jersey Nets, averaging 5.8 points in 644 career games. He even played on those mid-2000’s, Kevin Garnett Timberwolves teams, which found some regular season success and made the postseason.
There’s no looking back from the Parker pick at No. 28, however. He became an all-time great in Spurs franchise history, so there’s not much else to it.
3. Who was picked after Kawhi Leonard?
The Kawhi Leonard one is a bit of an exception. The San Antonio Spurs did not technically “draft” him, but acquired his rights from the Indiana Pacers via trade. For the sake of this post, let’s count Leonard as a pick because there were 45 players selected after him in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Nikola Vucevic became the No. 16 overall pick for the Philadelphia 76ers, long before “The Process” began. However, after just one year they went him to the Orlando Magic.
Vucevic has become a full-time starting center, with four double-double averages in the six seasons since the trade. There are no all-star games on his resume yet, but it’s possible one day, especially if this Magic team ever improve from the cellar of the Eastern Conference.
Of course, Leonard went on to become one of the NBA’s top players, so even with Vucevic’s play there’s no debate here. The Spurs arguably got the best player from this draft, as well.
Next: David Robinson and Tim Duncan
2. Who was picked after David Robinson?
David Robinson became the San Antonio Spurs’ first top pick of the NBA Draft, after winning the lottery in 1987. Before 1997, he became the best player in franchise history, becoming a double-double and shot-blocking machine on a laundry list of playoff teams. Two championships also contributed to a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
However, after Robinson, in that 1987 NBA Draft, came Armen Gilliam, a forward who spent 13 years in the league. Hardly a disappointing pick. Not to the caliber of the Admiral, but the UNLV product still had seven seasons of at least 14 points and seven rebounds.
This was also a loaded draft after Gilliam, with Scottie Pippen and Reggie Miller among the picks that went in the first round. But there’s still no reason to doubt the Robinson selection at No. 1.
1. Who was picked after Tim Duncan?
After who some will call the greatest power forward of all time, Tim Duncan, does it matter who went at No. 2 in the 1997 NBA Draft? For a time, this player seemed on to be on the rise but fell out of the NBA after 2005-06: Keith Van Horn.
Van Horn’s first four years saw him average 19.3 points per game for the New Jersey Nets, becoming a quality scoring forward on one Jason Kidd team and a handful of poor-record rosters. That was until a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers that turned the Utah product into a journeyman, playing for four teams in four years.
Next: 2018 NBA Mock Draft: After the lottery
There’s no doubt about Duncan as the guy at No. 1 overall who changed the Spurs franchise forever. Five championships, numerous all-star teams and accolades galore fill his resume, so there’s nothing anyone else in the 1997 NBA Draft could have done to top it.