Spurs: Two college prospects to watch as the season starts
By Ethan Farina
The college basketball season recently got underway, here are a few NBA draft prospects that could fit in well with the San Antonio Spurs.
With an interesting combination of youth and veteran experience, the San Antonio Spurs find themselves in an interesting position. With established young players like Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker they’re well-positioned for the future. Add in some promising rookies such as Luka Samanic and Keldon Johnson and the Spurs have one of the more promising young cores in the league.
San Antonio has filled out their roster with young talent who can help them win down the road but their off-season moves from this past summer make it clear that this team has no intention of tanking. LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, and others will keep this team in playoff contention. Unless the Spurs ship off their veteran players they have little chance of landing a top-five pick.
San Antonio has a reputation for finding late-round gems. While their recent draft selections look to be panning out, a deeper look at the Spurs’ recent selections shows that they’ve missed on more than few picks. For every Dejounte and Lonnie, there are also players like Nikola Milutinov and Livio Jean-Charles who never made an impact with the Spurs.
Nailing this year’s draft pick is a necessity. The Spurs have quite a few talented young guards but other than Samanic and Jakob Poeltl they don’t have the necessary forwards to fill out the roster down the road. Luckily for them, there are more than a few talents in the 2020 NBA Draft who would be excellent fits alongside Dejounte and company.
Next: Another Washington product
Jaden McDaniels, Freshman, University of Washington
NBA Comparison: Brandon Ingram
The last time the Spurs selected a player from the University of Washington they ended up with their point guard of the future. Jaden McDaniels is a hyper-talented freshman wing for the Huskies who could have a similar impact.
Standing 6’10 with a 6’11 wingspan, McDaniels has the length that NBA GM’s crave in a modern wing player. Right now he’s all limbs and unrealized upside. Similar to Luka Samanic, McDaniels will need to spend a majority of his rookie season focusing on adding muscle to his frame.
McDaniels says that he models his game after Kevin Durant and you can see the influence in how he plays. He combines his impressive frame with a nice handle and a nice jumper. He has no issue pulling up for three either off the dribble or in catch and shoot situations.
He looks like he can be a terror in transition. There aren’t many players at any level of the game who can stop a 6’10 fluid athlete when they’re coming down the floor with a full head of steam. When he is challenged in transition situations McDaniels has shown an ability to maneuver around or through defenders with a nice behind the back dribble or euro step.
The biggest knock on McDaniels’s game right now is his thin frame and inconsistent defense. There’s not much he can do about his frame right now. A full year in a weight training program with an established program like the Huskies should help but it will likely be a few years before he has the strength to bang with NBA players.
More worrisome are the criticisms around his lack of intensity on the defensive end of the floor. On the Spurs, if you don’t play defense you almost certainly won’t play. With his frame and athleticism, McDaniels could be a special defender if he devotes himself to it. He’s a player that you need to keep your eye on as the season goes along.
Next: Another powerful wing
Precious Achiuwa, Freshman, University of Memphis
NBA Comparison: Pascal Siakam
Like McDaniels, Precious Achiuwa is a versatile wing who could play either forward position. The distinction between Achiuwa and McDaniels is in their skill sets and body types. McDaniels needs time to add muscle to his frame, Achiuwa already has a grown man’s body and uses it to his advantage.
He’s a tenacious rebounder, an absolute terror on the boards. His strength is a major asset in that area and is only complimented by his insane athleticism. Where most humans have legs, Achiuwa has a pair of rockets masquerading as limbs. He’s a regular threat to fly in to collect loose boards or hammer put-back dunks. He had several dunks in his first game against South Carolina State that made you pause and reconsider what was possible.
His athleticism helps him be a great defender. He can guard all but the quickest guards and the largest big men, he should have no problem defending most NBA wings. And with his vertical and a nearly 7’3 wingspan, you can already see his potential as a shot blocker.
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The area of his game that needs the most work is his handle. And that’s fine, he can develop that under the tutelage of Penny Hardaway at Memphis and in the NBA. I’d rather have a prospect who needs to tighten their handle than one who has a harder to fix areas like a low motor or unwillingness to screen and do the little things.
While he was one of the best players in his class, Achiuwas wasn’t projected to be the best player on what is a loaded Memphis Tigers team. But with the uncertainty around James Wiseman’s playing status, he could be on his way to being the main attraction in Memphis.
If he does end up taking over a bigger role on the Tigers he could play himself into the top 10 and out of the Spurs reach. But imagine the lob connection we could see down the line between Achiuwa and Murray…that would be terrifying for opposing defenses.
The college basketball season is just starting so these observations are very early and are subject to change as the season goes along. We still have a very long way to go before the 2020 NBA Draft. Stay tuned for more draft prospect coverage as the season goes.