San Antonio Spurs: Three sleepers to mull over in the 2020 NBA Draft
By Dylan Carter
After years of drafting in the back-end of the NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs can’t let up now. Their second-rounder will prove pivotal in the long run.
With a broader pool of talent than ever before, it’s becoming increasingly important to scout for later rounds in the NBA Draft. This is something that the San Antonio Spurs have emphasized without fail for many years now, but now that they’ve entered the draft lottery for the first time in over two decades, they need to make sure to continue doing their due diligence while scouting.
It’s becoming commonplace for NBA teams to find high-level talent in the back half of the NBA Draft with a multitude of players emerging through undrafted free agency as of late. For Miami, guard Kendrick Nunn is likely going to be on an All-Rookie team after going undrafted last year.
The San Antonio Spurs themselves are known for finding diamonds in the rough with starting shooting guard Bryn Forbes being undrafted from Michigan State himself. Three of their most exciting players have been picked at 29 over the last few years: Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Keldon Johnson. It’s a range that San Antonio has experience with and will continue to eye with their first-rounder set higher than they’re used to.
Still, capitalizing on that second-round pick is going to do dividends for an organization that’s not planning to stay outside of the playoff picture for long. It’s not in the San Antonio Spurs’ nature to register losing efforts and take kindly to that, so it’s likely that in the 2020 NBA Draft, they’ll have their sights set on win-now prospects projected at No. 11 and later on at No. 41.
Next: Looping back around to Mississippi State
Robert Woodard II, Mississippi State
A 6-foot-7 wing with a great deal of athleticism and the basketball intellect to match, Robert Woodard II from Mississippi State made a big leap from year one to year two. His shooting seemed to be of decent concern as a freshman, but the 20-year-old doubled-down in his sophomore campaign by establishing himself as a reliable deep shooter to pair with his fantastic instinct around the rim.
By no means was Woodard the star player for his team, but he was a superb complementary piece who made his presence felt on defense with exceptional weak-side coverage and quick mobility both on and off the ball. Averaging 1.1 steals and a block per game this season, Woodard is one of the better versatile defenders in his class for his ability to defend shots near the rim and on the perimeter.
The Spurs don’t have enough depth at the small forward spot with most of their minutes at the position being filled by players who are out of position. Filling the gap with a true defensive-minded small forward with the size and athleticism needed to keep up on that side of the floor would pay off greatly when the young core gets their chance to take their reins.
So much of Mississippi State’s success on defense this year hinged on Woodard’s emergence early In the season. He finished second on the team in Defensive Win Shares (1.3) and second of qualifying players in Defensive Box Plus/Minus (1.9).
His 56.4 true shooting percentage is a good indicator that his shot will translate on some level to the pros, now it’s a matter of putting him in a system and structure that will allow him to thrive. San Antonio might just be that team for Woodard.
Next: Working through a rigid history
Killian Tillie, Gonzaga
From a skill-based standpoint, Gonzaga big man Killian Tillie is an ideal modern player for the San Antonio Spurs to draft. This 6-foot-11 senior has an extremely high basketball IQ that allows him to make waves on both ends of the court. Though he’s not a world-breaker by any means, Tillie works hard to assert himself as a reliable shot-blocker and floor spacer ripe for the modern NBA.
Tillie logged just-under 600 minutes for the Bulldogs this season and still managed to lead his team in Box Plus/Minus (12.0) by a considerable margin. He averaged a team-best 0.261 win shares per 40 minutes, showcasing his three-level scoring threat and a strong feel for the game.
The only problem is that Tillie has an unsavory injury history that includes surgeries to his knees, feet, and ankles which cost him a chunk of his playing time this season and many games over his four-year college career. Bringing Tillie onto the Spurs gives the training staff an important project to invest in for years to come.
It’s evident that Tillie has the skill and basketball IQ to make it at the next level, but he needs his body in peak physical condition to turn that dream into a reality. It’ll take an earnest commitment from the 22-year-old to transform his body and get him into position for that future. However, if he can go through that rigorous situation and come out on the other side, he’ll be a legitimate weapon for whatever team drafts him.
Shooting 40 percent from deep on 3.8 attempts per game is impressive, but to do so while maintaining a 53.5 percent field goal percentage makes Tillie a no-brainer for a team late in the draft to take a chance on.
Next: Going all-in on an athletic core
Cassius Stanley, Duke
If the San Antonio Spurs want to commit to this core of spectacular athletes that they’ve been building since they picked Dejounte Murray back in 2016, picking up Duke prospect Cassius Stanley in the second round is the way to go. Notoriously beating last year’s No. 1 pick, Zion Williamson’s vertical leap record at Duke, Stanley is in contention as the best athlete in his class.
Few players combine the body control, leaping ability, agility and burst that Stanley does at just 20-years-old. In a tertiary role for the Blue Devils, Stanley put up 12.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game this year while shooting 52.7 percent from the floor and an admirable 36 percent from deep.
For whichever franchise that drafts him, it’s not likely that Stanley will jump into a featured role early in his NBA career. This is partly why he makes sense as a second-rounder for the Spurs, a franchise notorious for bringing along players who need to harness their raw ability into something greater for the good of their careers.
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Stanley’s position in the NBA is largely undefined as he combines size and scoring ability on the wing that put him in position to play positions 1-through-3, though he’s not nearly good enough at playmaking to be a point guard at this point.
The biggest issue when it comes to Stanley’s draft range and his potential upside is that there doesn’t seem to be a clear outline for what kind of pro he’ll be. If he works hard and commits to his craft, it’ll become clearer with time, but as a draft prospect there’s just not much to project forward about him. Similarly to a former Spurs player, the high-flying James White, banking on athletic ability and raw talent isn’t enough to formulate a tangible opinion on a player who could be a lot of things or could fizzle out in a short period.
However, the team most well-equipped to take a shot on him in the second round is the Spurs since they send all of their first-year players to the G-League anyway. Like Quinndary Weatherspoon this year, San Antonio could simply sign Winston to a two-way deal and have him spend most of the year in Austin to hone his skills while joining team practices to get a feel for the league.
The most important step for Winston to take is to learn more about the fundamental intricacies of the sport. There’s not a single organization that could do that for him as the Spurs can.