The San Antonio Spurs can use the 2021 draft to accelerate their rebuild plans
On a recent episode of The Ringer NBA Show, Kevin O’Connor spent some time talking about why he found the San Antonio Spurs to be an interesting team to watch in the season restart. It came down to essentially one point – the Spurs firmly have one foot in the future and one foot in the past.
You can draw a line down the Spurs roster and divide it almost evenly between players who will keep them in the past and those will help them fly into the future. As O’Connor noted, that’s part of what makes watching players like DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge so entertaining. They remind us of what the NBA used to be, but they’re not where the NBA is going.
And on the other side of the roster, the Spurs have a fascinating group of young players in Lonnie Walker, Keldon Johnson, and Luka Samanic, with a few more experienced but still young-ish guys with Jakob Poeltl and Dejounte Murray. Between those five, Derrick White, and a lottery pick this year, you can see the framework of what could be a successful rebuild plan, if that’s the route the Spurs decide to go that way.
The ideal full rebuild would look a lot like what the Memphis Grizzlies have pulled off over the past two years. Memphis quickly closed the door on the Grit ‘n Grind era, bottomed out for two years, hit on several high draft picks with Jaren Jackson Jr., Ja Morant, and Brandon Clarke, and are now one of the youngest and most exciting teams in the league.
The San Antonio Spurs are on the edge of a rebuild and these next few years could be the perfect time to pull the trigger on going all-in on one.
The 2021 Draft is perfect for San Antonio Spurs rebuilding plans
The criticism lobbed at the 2020 draft class has been that while the class is deep in terms of quality role players, it’s lacking in top tier, All-Star level talent. Outside of LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and Killian Hayes, there’s a lot of question marks about the guys going in the top-ten. If the lottery balls don’t favor the Spurs they’ll likely end up picking a role player with their projected 11th overall pick.
Thankfully, where the 2020 draft class falls short, the group coming next year in 2021 excels. Even in the late parts of the lottery, you can find star-caliber players, and there’s an additional wrinkle to the class that could make things even more interesting.
For the first time, we’re starting to see young high school players view the G-League as a legitimate path to the NBA and some are electing to work closely with the NBA, collect a sizeable paycheck, and build their draft stock against other G-League teams rather than go play for a blue blood program.
So far there are four projected first-round picks who have elected to play in the G-League for their ‘freshman’ seasons rather than for a college team. Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga highlight the group of G-League prospects but Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix deserve their recognition as well.
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Outside of the players going to the G-League, there are still plenty of stars taking the traditional route. No one has an idea of what the college basketball season might look like yet but right now we can expect Cade Cunningham, Jalen Johnson, Terrence Clarke, and Evan Mobley to give us one of the most electric one and done groups in recent memory.
Another reason for San Antonio to use the 2021 draft class as a catalyst for their rebuild is what they could do just a few months after draft night. If you thought the draft class was loaded with star talent you should see the names that make up the group of unrestricted free agents hitting the open market in the summer of 2021.
There will be multiple All-NBA level players up for new deals and San Antonio will have the cap space to go after them. DeRozan, Aldridge, Rudy Gay, and Patty Mills will all be unrestricted free agents, opening up millions of dollars for the Spurs to use on shaping their future how they see fit. They could use this opportunity to give the team the full overhaul that it clearly needs.
A loaded draft class and star studied free agency group makes the summer of 2021 the perfect opportunity for the San Antonio Spurs to pull off the rebuild they need and kick start another twenty-plus year run of success.