San Antonio Spurs Draft: Mock Draft 3.0
By Ethan Farina
Who will the San Antonio Spurs take in our third mock draft?
A lot has changed since our last mock draft a month ago. The official news came out that the NBA would finish its season by sending 22 teams, the San Antonio Spurs among them, to Orlando to play out 8 final games of the regular season. There is also a possible play-in scenario for the 8th seed, and if that doesn’t happen the top-16 teams will head into the playoffs as they normally do.
Along with this news, we finally got definitive dates on several key events for later in the NBA calendar. Here are a few to be aware of: the NBA Draft Lottery will be on August 25th, the 2020 NBA Draft will be on October 15th, and free agency will open shortly after on the 18th.
This means that the San Antonio Spurs have about four months before they make their highest draft selection since they took Tim Duncan. At least, that’s the plan right now. If the Spurs somehow sneak into the playoffs they’d obviously forfeit their lottery pick. But barring that they’ll be ordered in the lottery according to their record on March 11th. So as long as they don’t make the playoffs their play in Orlando will not affect their lottery position.
Quite a few things have changed since our last mock draft but the Spurs needs haven’t. They should still be looking at wings and bigs as their primary draft candidates. This draft is top-heavy with guard talent but as you filter down there are plenty of quality wings to be found, let’s hope the San Antonio Spurs leave the 2020 Draft with one they can build their future around.
Now let’s get into it, here is our third mock draft of the season.
Next: Pick #1
The Minnesota Timberwolves finally acquired the franchise point guard they and Karl-Anthony Towns had been looking for in a mid-season trade for De’Angelo Russell. The childhood friends form a strong offensive punch for Minnesota. Add in Malik Beasley and you have the building blocks of a potentially dynamic offensive team.
That said, Russell’s strengths are as a scorer, not a facilitator. He’s proven that he can work as an off-ball scoring option or run the point, this makes taking LaMelo Ball a smart move for a team that could use a real floor general.
Ball is more of a floor wizard than a pure floor general, he sees passes long before they happen, loves whipping cross-court one-handed passes in transition, and can use his 6’7 frame and great vision to look off defenders and get easy looks to teammates in tight windows.
And while Russell is a sub-par defender, Ball has the size and range to make up for that. He combines that 6’7 height with a 6’10 wingspan, he can switch onto wings and maybe even smaller power forwards once he packs on the required muscle. There are some inconsistencies on the defensive end that he’s going to need to clean up but that should come with time.
Next: Pick #2
Sorry, Coby White and Zach LaVine you’re going to have some competition this fall. Those two and Kris Dunn give the Bulls a solid enough backcourt as it is but Anthony Edwards is simply too talented to pass up.
If Chicago can pull it all together, running out a lineup of Edwards, White, and LaVine could be very dangerous. Edwards is scoring machine like LaVine, but more of a bruiser. And while LaVine has made himself into a true 3-point threat Edwards prefers to get his points at the rim. Watch out when he gets a head of steam going, he’s an outside linebacker disguised as a shooting guard. When he reaches his prime he could be Kahlil Mack type big.
His solid frame should help him guard wings while White and LaVine stay focused on the opposing team’s guards. He’s got some fundamental work to clean up on the defensive end but that’s almost always the case with young players. If he dedicates himself to it he should be a plus defender.
Another option at this point would be Deni Avdija or James Wiseman, both fill positions of need for the Bulls. Honestly, if Chicago is able to jump into the 2nd spot in the draft they should just count themselves lucky. Whoever they get will be a much-needed young asset.
Next: Pick #3
For as long as John Wall and Bradley Beal have been in Washington they’ve been without a truly dominant big man. Marcin Gortat was as close as they got and calling him dominant is a stretch that would make the most proficient yoga instructor wince. James Wiseman can finally fill that role for the Wizards.
In terms of pure athleticism, Wiseman is the cream of the crop in this draft class. He’s been compared to David Robinson thanks to his muscular frame, stellar leaping ability, and the way he runs the floor. Some big men lumber from one end to the other, Wiseman glides. And when he sees a lob coming and has a launchpad to elevate from, look out.
He has tremendous upside but will likely struggle early on as most young big men do. Playing with two well-established veterans in Bradley Beal and John Wall who can get him the ball for easy looks would be great for development. As long as he understands exactly what the team needs him to do on the court he should be able to start right away.
Wizards head coach Scott Brooks was able to coach Steven Adams up from a raw bruiser to a key part of those Thunder teams in part because he got him to embrace his role and thrive in it. Wiseman can be substantially better than Adams but following a similar development path, at least early on, should help him progress gradually without feeling overwhelmed.
Next: Pick #4
You won’t see any NBA fans outside of the Bay area shedding tears over the Warriors missing out on the top pick. Still, landing a complete and NBA ready player like Tyrese Haliburton isn’t a bad price for the Golden State Warriors. In fact, he seems almost perfectly suited for the style of play we’ve seen from Steve Kerr’s teams over the past couple of years.
Haliburton is a coach’s dream. He could thrive in the Warriors pass-happy offense. He’s a skilled passer with either hand, uses shifty change of pace moves to move around people, is a decent man defender who makes the right rotations, and is consistent from NBA range 3-pointers.
His shot is unconventional but he shot 42.6 percent from deep over his two years at Iowa State so you can’t argue too much with the results. Working with two of the best shooters of all time will surely help him smooth it out if that’s something he wants to do but even if he doesn’t it’ll still be one of his greatest strengths.
Athletically he’s slightly underwhelming, but then again that’s the same criticism that Curry got coming out of Davidson. Haliburton might struggle as a lead ball-handler but with the opposing defense having to pay most of their attention to Curry and Klay Thompson that shouldn’t stop the Warriors from selecting him. He’ll be NBA ready from day one and should mesh smoothly with what Golden State wants to do.
Next: Pick #5
After using their last two lottery picks on Collin Sexton and Darius Garland it’s time for the Cleveland Cavalier to address the issues on the wing. Deni Avdija is a high risk, high reward player with a ton of his potential hinging on his shaky jumper.
What he does do well he does excellently, he’s a strong rebounder on the defensive end and has the handle and passing ability to push the ball in transition and find his teammates for open looks. With things slow down he can function as a playmaker from the high post or create for himself off the dribble and finish with either hand.
On defense he’s quick and often in the right position, he loves jumping passing lanes and should be a plus team defender when all is said and done.
The biggest concern for Avdija is going to be his shooting ability. He’s struggled from deep in his young career and needs to seriously improve if he’s going to play starting minutes in the NBA. He’s a poor free-throw shooter too, and that’s always been a solid indication of if a player can eventually develop a consistent jumper.
If he’s jumper never comes along it will really hamper his overall offensive ability. Without the threat of a jump shot, defenders will just sag off him. His pump fake will become less of a threat and he’s going to have an even harder time getting to the rim when his man knows that’s what’s coming. He’s got tremendous upside but building out a consistent jump shot is crucial.
Next: Pick #6
As long as Trae Young is the centerpiece of the Atlanta Hawks they’re going to have to surround him with a group of strong defenders to make up for his shortcomings on that end of the floor. He’s like Steve Nash on offense but Young is one of the worst defenders in the league. Auburn wing Isaac Okoro can help with that.
The Hawks have a strong group of wings with De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, and Kevin Huerter but adding the defensive-minded Okoro to that group can’t hurt. He’s the best defender in this draft class, with the size and speed to stay with guards or larger forwards and the basketball IQ to rotate correctly and shut down the offenses next option before it’s there.
He doesn’t bring much to the table from an offensive standpoint. He will occasionally create a shot for himself but it’s almost always at the rim. But with Young feeding him looks that defenses rarely see coming, Okoro’s offensive limitations are negligible. The Hawks aren’t drafting him to create offense, they’ve got that covered.
His shooting is another matter. He doesn’t have to create shots for himself but ideally, he’d be able to knock down an open jumper when it’s given to him. He only hit on 28.6 percent of his 3-point attempts in his lone season at Auburn, that will have to improve if he wants to be a key piece of an NBA rotation.
Next: Pick #7
Detroit could go one of two ways here. They do need another big man to play with Blake Griffin and if that’s what they decide is more important then they should choose Onyeka Okongwu from USC. However, they’re also dealing with a lack of depth at the point guard position. Derrick Rose is heading into the final year of his contract and got a lot of interest at this year’s trade deadline, which should press the Pistons to shore up their backcourt in case they want to use him as a trade piece.
Killian Hayes is one of the most skilled point guards in this draft. He doesn’t have the name recognition or flash that accompanies LaMelo Ball but the crafty left-handed guard has all the makings of a future star. He’s great in pick and roll situations and when he’s not finding his partner or a shooter on the wing he’s got one of the softest touches you’ve ever seen.
He’s only a career 27.4 percent shooter from deep right now but shot 39 percent from behind the arc this last season. That, along with his soft touch and 84 percent career conversion rate from the charity stripe, would lead you to believe that he will eventually be able to comfortably stretch his range out past the 3-point line without too much trouble.
If the Detroit Pistons are lucky enough to have Killian Hayes still on the board when they’re up they’d be wise to take him.
Next: Pick #8
Obi Toppin is one of the most dominant offensive talents in this draft. He propelled the Dayton Flyers to one of the most surprising seasons in college basketball thanks to his ability to score from all over the floor. If selected by the New York Knicks he would electrify MSG with his high flying, powerful dunks.
He’s a skilled ball handler for his size, can function as a playmaker from the high post, and can even stretch defenses out past the 3-point line. The Amar’e Stoudemire comparisons make a ton of sense when you watch him play.
The problem is the Knicks already have a few power forwards on their roster and the Knicks fans want more than just high flying dunks, they want meaningful wins. And with Toppin’s defensive shortcomings it’s unclear if he can bring them that. He doesn’t cover pick and roll situations well, gets pushed around down low, and is too small to play center. He’s going to need consistent help on defense.
The Knicks saving grace could be Mitchell Robinson. He’s got the makings of an elite rim protector and could help cover Toppin’s weaknesses on the defensive end. If the Knicks believe they can play the two together then this pick might just work.
Next: Pick #9
Onyeka Okongwu is one of the safest picks in this draft class. He’s a skilled finisher with a mean jump hook and soft touch around the rim, strong rim protector who contests shots without fouling too often, and he plays hard every minute he’s on the floor. It’s hard to see him becoming anything other than a solid player for a long time.
Positionless basketball continues to be emphasized more and more and that’s exactly where Okongwu could thrive. He’s quite like Bam Adebayo in that he’s very comfortable rebounding the ball and firing off an outlet pass or bringing the ball up the floor on his own.
He’s not quite to the Giannis level where he can be a teams led ball handler but he’s well ahead of most big men his age in that area and could be a teams secondary playmaker when he reaches his peak.
With solid guards like Devonte Graham and Terry Rozier and versatile forwards in PJ Washington and Miles Bridges, the Hornets are just one big man away from building out a solid young team. Getting Okongwu this late is an absolute steal for them.
Next: Pick #10
It’ll pain San Antonio Spurs fans to see Devin Vassell go this late in the draft and so close to the Spurs reach but he’s a perfect fit for the Phoenix Suns. Vassell has risen from a lower end lottery pick to one of the drafts darlings thanks to his stellar defense and smooth shooting stroke.
Vassell is just behind Isaac Okoro as one of the most complete defenders in this class. He’s got rock-solid fundamentals, a great basketball IQ, and combines it with 6’7 height and a 6’10 wingspan that will help him lock down guards and forwards at the next level.
In order to reach his ceiling, Vassell is going to have to pack on some muscle, his frame is impressive but a little light. He will get pushed around by stronger forwards early on but when he fills out his frame he could be able to guard almost every position on the floor.
He’s one of the drafts best shooters too, he hit on 41.7 percent of his three’s during his two years in college and looks more than comfortable from NBA range. He projects as more of a spot-up shooting threat rather than a shot creator but with Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio handling the ball that shouldn’t be a problem.
Next: Pick #11
The rationale behind this pick is simple and straightforward. Aaron Nesmith is one of the best drafts best shooters and the San Antonio Spurs desperately need help from 3-point range.
Nesmith might not ever become an All-Star level player but he is going to be an elite shooter that stretches the defense out from the moment he steps on the court. He was hitting on 52 percent of his 3-point attempts this year. Yes, 52 percent. More than half of his 3-point attempts found the bottom of the net. That is absolutely absurd.
Credit to Derrick White and Dejounte Murray for improving their performance from behind the arc but neither is likely to become the caliber of shooter that Nesmith can reach. They’re going to continue to thrive on driving to the hole and in the mid-range, having a sharpshooter like Nesmith around to stretch out defenses will give those two more room to operate for years to come.
On defense, he’s solid but not spectacular. He’s got a high basketball IQ and uses his 6’10 wingspan to disrupt offenses within the confines of the overall team defense. That sounds like something Gregg Popovich and the coaching staff can work with to me.
Next: Pick #12
We’re sticking with this pick because it just makes too much sense. Adding Tyrese Maxey to a backcourt already featuring an explosive Kentucky alum in De’Aaron Fox is the right play for the Sacramento Kings.
Bogdan Bogdanovic could leave the Kings this summer and Sacramento has experimented with running Buddy Hield off the bench. A bench pairing of Hield and Maxey could be a lethal one-two punch in a couple of years.
Maxey is an insurance policy against Bogdanovic leaving and would fit well in the Kings locker room if he does stick around.
He’s shifty and explosive, a solid shooter, and a pitbull of a defender. He’s a bit undersized to take on some larger shooting guards but he makes up for it with his strength and aggressiveness. We’ve seen Kyle Lowry use his low center of gravity and strength to bully players significantly larger than him, there’s no reason Maxey can’t do the same.
Next: Pick #13
The New Orleans Pelicans already have one of the most impressive young cores in the league. With Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and Lonzo Ball they’ll be well set for the next few years. All that they need to do now is round out a few areas and wait for things to come together.
Tyrell Terry is one of the best shooters in the draft and could step into a sparkplug scoring role with the Pelicans. He’s a lights out shooter with considerable range who could help stretch the floor for Pelicans team that could run an interesting system centered around Zion over the next few years.
He moves around the court well and follows the Curry family’s strategy of constantly moving until the ball finds his hands and then immediately knocking down a three. He’s also slick inside, he’s got a nice bag of moves that he uses to negate the significant height disadvantage that he faces whenever he steps on the floor.
His slight size is going to be an issue at the next level. He’s just 6’1 and 160 lbs, he’s going to be targeted by opposing offenses every time they can. Thankfully the Pelicans have a variety of solid defensive guards like Ball and Jrue Holiday, as well as wings like Ingram, who should be able to help him out to some degree. Shooters like Terry don’t come around often, it’s worth the risk for the Pelicans to use a late lottery pick on him.
Next: Pick #14
The Portland Trail Blazers have one of the best backcourts in the league but Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum can’t do it alone. Cole Anthony can come in as an insurance policy should one of them go down with injury or at least give Portland a serviceable backup outside of Anfernee Simons so the two can get some rest every now and again.
The talent is there but Anthony’s up and down freshman year at UNC might scare away some teams and allow him to drop to the Blazers. He struggled with turnovers and sometimes looked like he was forcing things but if he takes a step back and has a reduced role he should be able to grow into a solid sixth man.
He’s got a wicked handle and is happy to pull up from deep and knock down a three in your face. His step backs and steps to the side are great for helping him create space against larger defenders and he’s also incredibly crafty inside.
His strength as a scorer could also hurt him. He’s got to be better about looking to set up his teammates in the pros. And for as aggressive of a defender as he is he’s still a bit on the smaller side for an NBA point guard. It could be a concern but he’s made up for being on the smaller end in the past, he could be able to do it again.