In a normal year we would be just starting the NCAA Tournament, here are three San Antonio Spurs draft prospects we were hoping to see this year.
It’s been just over a week since the San Antonio Spurs and the rest of the NBA was put on pause due to the spread of the coronavirus. Just over a week since sports as we know them have been effectively removed from our lives.
Normally, this would be one of the best times of the year. As more of an NBA fan than college basketball, I typically don’t pay too much attention to college hoops until March. But that first week of March Madness is something truly special.
It’s all college basketball all the time for a week straight. You’re seeing teams play for the first time and getting far too invested in a mid-major that you read one article about. KENPOM is your guiding light and nothing else seems to matter.
For many, March Madness might be the first time they’ve seen a draft prospect they’re excited about outside of highlight tapes. Check-in on Spurs Twitter and you’ll see many fans putting their draft hopes on Deni Avdija. Maccabi Tel Aviv wouldn’t be in the field of 64 but there still would have been plenty of exciting draft prospects for Spurs fans to take in during the NCAA tournament.
Here are a few of the draft prospects we were most excited to see take the floor during March Madness.
Next: The Player of the Year candidate
We’ve covered Obi Toppin before but that doesn’t mean we were any less excited to see him play in March. As one of college basketball’s best and most exciting players, Toppin is the kind of prospect you expect to step up when the lights are brightest.
A skilled player with a versatile all-around game, Toppin was the main reason the Dayton Flyers had exploded to become one of the best teams in the country. They weren’t riding the same kind of momentum that the Kemba Walker led UCONN Huskies had in 2011 but Toppin could carry his team in a similar way.
A likely top seed and title favorite, Toppin and the Flyers would have been must-see TV throughout the tournament. It’s not often that we see a team from a mid-major like Dayton make a title run. Toppin leading the Flyers to a Final Four or better would have done wonders to improve his already strong draft status.
An athletic and versatile power forward, Toppin would be an excellent complement to the Spurs young core of guards and wings. He’s likely to be a top-10 pick, so outside of the Spurs’ current projected draft range, but it is a weaker than usual draft class, at least in terms of top tier talent. If there is a team in the four to six range that isn’t crazy about who they would be getting it could be in San Antonio’s favor to make a move to jump up and grab an Amar’e Stoudemire like player.
Next: A defensive stopper
Isaac Okoro is the defensive heart and soul of the Auburn Tigers. A 6’6 rangy wing defender, he’s capable of shutting down the best players in the country on any given night. He doesn’t have the offensive ability to carry the Tigers to a title but his incredible defense would have been enough to keep them in most games.
Okoro’s offensive limitations could cause him to slide in the draft. Right now he’s projected to go in the nine to eleven range, right where the Spurs will be picking.
It’s no secret that San Antonio struggled on defense. This was one of their worst defensive seasons in over two decades, that needs to be addressed in the draft.
Before the season was suspended we finally got to see Keldon Johnson start to see the floor. In his limited time, he showed real promise as a defender. He briefly guarded Luka Doncic and while it was just for a moment, it showed why Spurs fans are so excited about his potential on that end of the floor.
Okoro can be just as good, if not better, than Johnson on defense. Those two, combined with Lonnie Walker, Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, and Jakob Poeltl would get the Spurs much closer to the successful, defensive-minded team they have been in the past.
Next: A pure scorer
Dejounte Murray and Derrick White give the Spurs one of the more promising defensive backcourts in the league. They’ve both made improvements to their offensive games but neither looks like they’re fully capable of carrying the offensive load on their own. Tyrese Maxey could fill that hole for the San Antonio Spurs.
It looks like DeMar DeRozan will be leaving the Spurs this summer, one way or another. If that is the case, San Antonio will need to find another scorer to help fill the void he will be leaving behind. Murray and White will surely help, but Maxey would be able to come in from day one to give the Spurs an additional scoring punch.
Spurs fans might be hesitant about drafting another undersized, offensive-minded guard. But Bryn Forbes is an unrestricted free agent and there is no assurance that he will be back with the Silver and Black next year. We could easily see both DeRozan and Forbes leave this summer.
As one of the top-scoring options for a Kentucky team that is always a threat to make a title run, Maxey would’ve gotten plenty of exposure during the tournament. Together with Immanuel Quickely he would’ve given Kentucky a two-pronged ball handling threat that would’ve given most teams trouble.
Maxey isn’t just a scorer, he’s a great pick and roll facilitator as well. As the Spurs continue to build around White, Walker, and Murray, Maxey would give them another scoring playmaker to keep the defense on their heels.
We could still see the NBA season wrap up but we could have seen all we will get to see from these three players before they declare for the NBA draft. Any one of these three prospects would make an excellent addition to the young future of the San Antonio Spurs.