The San Antonio Spurs are currently projected to have a lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and they could consider using that pick to select Texas Tech guard Jarrett Culver.
Although the NBA season is still in its adolescent stages, it’s never too early to start thinking about the future — and more specifically the 2019 NBA Draft. This season has been far from what the San Antonio Spurs had expected.
Injuries ravaged the Spurs in the preseason as the team lost Dejounte Murray for the year to an ACL injury while San Antonio’s first round selection in this past year’s draft Lonnie Walker IV has yet to make his NBA debut after suffering a torn meniscus.
This confluence of maladies has left the Spurs in uncharted waters as San Antonio currently sits in 11th place in the Western Conference with a 16-15 record. If this trend continues, the Spurs are on pace to finish outside of the playoffs for the first time in over two decades.
Currently, lottery projections have tabulated the Spurs have an 86.1 percent chance of receiving the 12th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The 12th pick in the draft would be the lowest Spurs selection since 1997 when the team used the first overall pick to select Tim Duncan.
With such a high selection the Spurs will have the opportunity to choose from a deep talent pool, a luxury that has rarely been afforded to a franchise that is accustomed to picking in the mid-to-late twenties over the last two decades. One player the Spurs front office should have their eyes on is Jarrett Culver, a shooting guard from Lubbock, TX.
Culver, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, decided to stay in his hometown to play college ball for Chris Beard and the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Despite losing several pieces after making it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, Culver was one of the key returners for Texas Tech and he’s put himself on the radar of plenty of teams and scouts with the huge jump he’s made from his freshman to sophomore year.
Just 10 games into his sophomore campaign Culver is averaging 19.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game while shooting 58.1 percent from the field. Culver has increased his scoring production by just over six points (12.9 to 19.1) from his first to second year.
What’s more impressive is his shooting stroke – Culver is currently connecting on 45.2 percent of his three-point attempts after shooting 38.2 percent as a freshman. While I don’t expect Culver to continue at such a proficient rate, he’s shown that he’s a capable shooter and a three-point percentage hovering in the upper 30s or lower 40s by the end of the season will be very enticing to a lot of scouts.
One attribute that stands out about Culver is his court awareness. Despite his youth, Culver is skilled at reading the field of play and placing himself in the proper area to intercept a pass or force a deflection. Further, Culver is a skilled operator in the pick-and-roll. He’s a crafty ball-handler who’s able to split defenders to get to the rim but is also poised enough to find open teammates when confronted with a double-team.
Although he does not possess explosive speed, Culver has a quick first step which makes him a tough guard off the dribble-drive and he’s very good at getting in the lane and drawing contact. Culver has increased his amount of trips to the charity stripe this season, averaging 5.9 free throws per game, and that appears to be one of Culver’s few glaring blemishes as he’s currently shooting just 69.5 percent from the line.
In addition, while Culver is averaging 4.4 assists on the season, he’s still not a natural distributor. Culver has shown glimpses of solid vision and playmaking but they are also coupled with bouts of careless passes and youthful mistakes. Despite connecting on 58.1 percent of his field goal attempts, better shot selection is also an area of his game where Culver can stand to improve.
While Culver’s elite play has caused his draft stock to rise significantly since the start of the season, scouts and front offices will not be the only ones taking notice of the Red Raider’s elevated play. Texas Tech has not yet begun the meat of their schedule, namely Big 12 Conference play. It will be interesting to see how Culver fares as being the number one option on the team and having teams game-planning specifically to minimize his impact on the court.
Perhaps Culver’s numbers may drop back to earth or maybe he’ll be in contention as one of the best players in an elite conference but, nonetheless, interest has been piqued and many will have their eyes on the efforts of the young Texas Tech swingman for months to come.
Here are some other prospects the Spurs may take a hard look at this year: