The San Antonio Spurs probably wish they could re-do these draft picks
For the first time since they drafted Tim Duncan back in 1997, the San Antonio Spurs are headed to the lottery this year. There is a chance they could change that with an outstanding performance in Orlando but in all likelihood, the Spurs will have their highest draft pick in over two decades.
Despite consistently picking in the late 20s, the Spurs have done an excellent job of finding quality players with their picks. A combination of a strong development program, and a little bit of luck, has helped San Antonio build out an impressive group of young players who should give all Spurs fans hope for the future.
But for every Derrick White and Dejounte Murray, there is a Felipe Lopez that doesn’t quite pan out. No team in the NBA hits on every one of their draft picks and every general manager has to have a few selections that they wish they could have back.
We’ve published plenty of mock drafts and draft profiles but as we look forward to the 2020 NBA Draft in October let’s take a look back on some old San Antonio Spurs draft picks that the front office probably wishes they could have back.
The San Antonio Spurs wasted a draft pick on Nikola Milutinov in 2015
With the 26th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs selected Serbian big man, Nikola Milutinov. It wasn’t the worst pick in this draft class, that award might go to the Orlando Magic or Charlotte Hornets who took Mario Hezonja and Frank Kaminsky, respectively.
When the Spurs selected Milutinov many correctly predicted that the Spurs were taking a ‘draft and stash’ approach that had worked for them in the past. The problem is, it doesn’t seem like Milutinov will ever end up actually playing for the Spurs.
Milutinov just signed a three-year deal with CSKA Moscow that will keep him in Europe for the foreseeable future. His deal will keep him in the Euroleague until he’s 28 and while he could join the Spurs after his time with Moscow is up we’re not going to hold our breath waiting for that to happen.
The problem has never been about Milutinov’s talent, he’s regarded as one of the best big men in Europe and would unquestionably be able to provide some much-needed depth to the Spurs shallow frontcourt but it just never worked out between Milutinov and San Antonio.
There were plenty of other valuable players on the board when San Antonio picked Milutinov and if they could have this pick back you can bet they’d select someone who would, you know, play for them at some point. Montrezl Harrell, Kevon Looney, Josh Richardson, and Richaun Holmes were all selected after Milutinov and any one of them would have been a better selection for San Antonio.
San Antonio Spurs could have done better than James Anderson in 2010
Before writing this article I had completely forgotten that James Anderson ever played for the San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio used the 20th pick in the 2010 draft on the shooting guard from Oklahoma State and his time with the team was incredibly unremarkable.
Anderson appeared in 87 games across three seasons in San Antonio and averaged 3.7 points per game across that period. He would eventually find a starting role on the 2013-14 76ers team that was part of Sam Hinkie’s ‘Process’ experiments and most recently played for the Sacramento Kings back in 2016.
The 2010 draft class was top-heavy, with a few All-NBA level players, but the talent pool dropped off quickly after players like John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins were selected. Given the available players, it’s hard to fault the Spurs for using their pick on Anderson but in hindsight, there were a few better options on the table.
There weren’t many noteworthy players taken after Anderson but there were a few that could have helped the Spurs. Hassan Whiteside, Quincy Pondexter, and Landry Fields have all had above average NBA careers and the Spurs would have been unquestionably better off if they had used the 20th pick on one of them.
The 2013 Draft was one of the weakest draft classes in recent memory
The 2013 draft class will be remembered for a few very different things. It had possibly the worst number one overall pick of all time in Anthony Bennet, and it also had one of the best rags to riches stories in NBA history with the Milwaukee Bucks selecting Giannis Antetounkmpo with the 15th pick.
This year also saw the San Antonio Spurs go for another ‘draft and stash’ play that didn’t pan out as we had hoped. Like 2015, the Spurs used their pick on an overseas player who they hoped would eventually come to the NBA and just like Nikola Milutinov, Livio Jean Charles has never suited up for the Spurs. At least, not yet.
To be fair, there weren’t many great players available on the board when it was San Antonio’s turn to pick. Unfortunately, the Utah Jazz swooped up Rudy Gobert with the pick before the Spurs and after that, there weren’t many good players left.
The Spurs could have selected someone like Allen Crabbe or Ray McCallum Jr. but instead whiffed on another draft and stash play that blew up in their faces. If it’s any consolation, at least they didn’t bungle the number one overall pick as the Cavaliers did.
No team hits on 100 percent of their draft picks, it’s just not possible. And even though the San Antonio Spurs have done a great job with most of their picks their record isn’t spotless either. Let’s just hope that their 2020 pick doesn’t end up on a list like this in a few years.