San Antonio Spurs Draft: Kira Lewis Jr. is a gem waiting to be picked
The San Antonio Spurs could get a gem in the draft with Kira Lewis Jr.
With the San Antonio Spurs currently making their final playoff push down at Disney in Orlando, their odds of succeeding at that daunting task are slim to none.
The playoffs seem to be a bit of an afterthought as well for the team, as Pop has looked for their star, DeMar DeRozan, to take step back off the scoring and usage load, in favor of developing the young talent on the roster.
After what has been a roller coaster ride for the ages in San Antonio, an uncharacteristic season of sorts, the Spurs will be looking to capitalize on their first lottery pick in several seasons.
While picking late in the lottery hasn’t been a custom for Popovich & Co. due to the loads of success they’ve had over the past 20-plus seasons, they seem to always win on draft night despite normally picking towards the back half of the draft.
More answers will be brought to the light as these final eight games in San Antonio’s season play out as it pertains to what this Spurs team needs going forward. The Spurs have a lot of questions after their season ends, you’ll get a better idea for what this team must address in the draft and the offseason.
But for the questions we have now, there is an answer out there to help solve some of this team’s largest needs, needs that have been evident throughout this season.
From long-distance shooting and spacing, shot creation and above all else, defensive moxie, San Antonio’s likely number eleven selection in the 2020 NBA Draft can fill all of those needs the second the pick is announced.
That answer is Alabama’s, Kira Lewis Jr. While some may argue that might be a bit of a stretch with the selection of Lewis that high in the first round, Kira’s overall skill set, the tape he’s displayed in both of his seasons at Alabama show he can provide an answer to many of the San Antonio Spurs issues on both ends of the floor.
Next: Offensive skills
San Antonio Spurs Draft: Kira Lewis Jr. is a dynamic offensive player:
Looking at Kira’s box score averages from his two years at Alabama, you see how he’s truly a do-it-all point guard. With progression from his freshman to his sophomore year evident, he still was among the top combo/point guards in college basketball in both of his collegiate seasons.
Being one of the best pick and roll passers and overall pick and roll players in this year’s draft, Kira Lewis Jr. flashes as an ideal fit in the Spurs offense. The Spurs offense feeds heavily off of pick and roll situations from guys like Derrick White and DeMar DeRozan. Adding Kira Lewis Jr. would give them another dangerous weapon in those situations.
Lewis will not wow you with many flashy passes like Trae Young or Luka Doncic will, but he dishes out strong pocket passes, ideal drive and kick looks, and overall smart, fundamental assists that work well at the next level. His vision isn’t on the level as Ja Morant or a prime John Wall, but a tier below at this stage of his career. He is a willing passer, a strong passer. Nothing flashy, just fundamental.
Averaging a combined statistical line of 15.9 points per game, 4.0 assists, 3.6 rebounds, with shooting splits of 44.7 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from three, Lewis’s game drastically shows the versatility he brings on the floor in all phases of the position. Not only that, but his efficiency levels also increased with a higher volume in his sophomore season.
With some of the most crafty footwork and finishing ability in his class, one that rivals Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in terms of creativeness, effectiveness, and efficiency at the rack, Kira is coming into the NBA a step ahead of the competition in that aspect.
Not only is he a fantastic finisher at the cup, but he’s also no slouch as a jump shooter either. Shooting a tick under 37 percent from three during his sophomore season, and over 50 percent from two that same year, Lewis is what many would consider a three-level scorer.
The dribble moves and ball-handling skills Kira displayed throughout his two seasons at Alabama put him among the best in his class. With an ability to blow by defenders with one of the quickest first steps you’ll see in this class, as well as the fancy combo moves he uses to get open off the bounce, and his effectiveness out of the triple threat, Kira flashes as a do-it-all guard on offense.
At this stage of his career, Lewis is way ahead of his age on this end of the floor. He shows flashes of brilliance in multiple aspects on offense and does seem to improve game in and game out. While there is some issue with his off-ball effectiveness, he did show smart off-ball play despite not playing in that role very often while at Alabama.
Next: What does Lewis bring on defense?
San Antonio Spurs Draft: Kira Lewis Jr. flashes potential as an on-ball defender
Defensively despite having a very thin frame at 6’3 and a staggering 165 pounds, Kira Lewis Jr. is one of the best perimeter defenders in this year’s draft class.
His on-ball defensive instincts, anticipation, and overall skill set puts him among the best in the class as perimeter defenders go. On-ball defense is his specialty on this end of the floor, as he can defend most point and shooting guards at an above-average rate.
Kira’s defensive footwork, ability to switch his hips and stay in front of his man laterally is phenomenal. Despite not having much strength and weight to back him up, he’s very effective as a perimeter defender.
His steal numbers went up dramatically from year one to year two, as he progressed at playing passing lanes and anticipating the offense much better. He doubled his steal total from his freshman year, which is a credit to his improvement from year one to year two.
He is amongst the best defensive playmakers, and he has a motor that does not stop. After playing nearly every minute on the floor for the Crimson Tide last season (37.6 minutes per night) he still managed to double his steal total and give you quality defensive efforts throughout a game.
But, there is some room to worry about due to his frame. While he does possess adequate length from a 6’3 point guard, having a 6’6 wingspan does benefit him mightily, anything defensively that requires strength, weight and some versatility does put Lewis at a disadvantage.
The issue here is that due to him carrying such a thin frame, his effectiveness and impact defensively as it pertains to being a versatile defender, guarding multiple positions like positions 3-4 and even some bigger two-guards might be able to push him around a bunch.
You couple that with the fact that he had trouble fighting through screens, he is far behind the 8-ball weight and strength-wise, he must gain weight and muscle during his first couple of seasons in the NBA.
He can still be an effective on-ball defender, he was a very good one in college. But as it pertains to defending the pick and roll, fighting through screens and playing at the next level where athletes have their grown man bodies, Lewis will need to kick in his weight training into hyperdrive just to get to that NBA level.
Despite not having the ideal strength and weight you’d want from your 6’3 point guard, he rebounds the ball well. Averaging a tad under five a game his sophomore season, he still plays to his strengths and gets the most out of his frame despite being at a disadvantage in that aspect.
Overall, Kira Lewis Jr. must make strength and weight training a priority once he makes it into the NBA to become a solid defensive player. He still provides a big boost to any team that needs impact on-ball defensive players and defensive playmaking (ex: the Spurs) but for him to become a true threat defensively throughout many minutes of a contest, he must expand his frame.
Next: His fit with the Spurs
How would Kira Lewis Jr. fit on the San Antonio Spurs
As mentioned before, the San Antonio Spurs have so many question marks with the roster going forward. But we are seeing that there is an attention to the development of young players on this roster. The NBA’s restart is showing that the Spurs are putting their best foot forward, the youth movement, as priority number one going forward.
With San Antonio likely to be at a huge deficit of shot creation, scoring, and passing with the departure of DeMar DeRozan likely after the 2020 season, San Antonio will need to fill the void left.
Dejounte Murray signing a 4 year-64 million dollar extension marks him as the franchise point guard at least for the next couple of seasons. Still, San Antonio will need a crafty, spacing, creative, two-way combo/two-guard to go alongside with him. Kira Lewis Jr. can slide into that role with ease.
Derrick White’s future with the club is cloudy as well, with the 26-year-old due for a contract extension soon, San Antonio could possibly be left without a high-level pick and roll ball handler. Lewis can provide you an adequate output in that aspect in year one.
The shooting, coupled with the effectiveness and craftiness as a finisher, the NBA-ready pick and roll play, and lastly the effectiveness as an on-ball defender has to put Kira Lewis Jr. in the conversation for who the pick should be at #11 overall. With San Antonio’s question marks and what could be left once this team hits the 2021 season, Kira Lewis Jr. is a smart pick for this team’s current needs and potential needs.
You could argue that San Antonio has more pressing needs that they could fill with their draft pick but if Lewis is on the board when it’s their turn to pick it will be hard to pass up the chance to select him.