In recent years, some NBA Draft gems have been picked at the No. 11 spot. You’d have to think the San Antonio Spurs will add to that list in 2020.
So the San Antonio Spurs weren’t one of the lucky teams to jump into the top-four of the 2020 NBA Draft — No problem! With an organization as savvy as this one, finding talent at the No. 11 position will be a cakewalk. Even without individual workouts due to COVID-19, the Spurs have enough film and interview-time to make final decisions. Plus, the league is set to hold a virtual NBA Draft Combine where players can compete and prove themselves to these teams.
There’s a history of teams finding gems and long-term starters at the No. 11 selection. Every player to be picked eleventh since 2011 remains a consistent and reliable rotation player at the very least. In fact, there are a handful of current and potential future All-Stars that have been selected in this draft range in recent years.
Yes, a top-four pick would bode greatly for the silver and black, but it’s not the end-all, be-all. If the Spurs keep their pick, which one would expect them to, San Antonio is going to select a talented, young player who can make a lasting impact on their roster. Even if it’s not someone who drastically transforms the outlook of this team, you can bet the Spurs will at least find a player that fits their philosophy as many teams at 11 have in years before them.
The four players mentioned in this article are the gems of the eleventh pick spanning the previous eight NBA drafts. Others selected in this range include former ROTY Michael Carter-Williams, sharpshooter Doug McDermott, center Meyers Leonard, and the most recent selection, Cam Johnson from the University of North Carolina.
However, none of them took the league by storm as these four guys did.
Next: No. 4: A Texas favorite
4. Myles Turner, No. 11 in the 2015 NBA Draft
- The San Antonio Spurs picked Nikola Milutinov No. 26 overall.
For as many duds that came out of the 2015 NBA Draft class, this is one that’s becoming a bit underrated as time goes on. One of two players on this list to remain with the team that drafted him, shot-blocking extraordinaire Myles Turner is a compelling player. Used as a low-post scorer through the early portion of his career, Turner has become a premier pick-and-pop big man with great floor spacing ability in addition to his inside scoring.
In a class with a lot of great big men, Turner remains one of the best. His defensive instincts are transformative for the Indiana Pacers with the best defensive rating of any Pacers player with more than 500 minutes logged this season. His 2.7 blocks per game led the NBA last season and in a reduced role this year, he still managed to average 2.1 per contest.
— NBA (@NBA) August 18, 2020
Even as a rookie, Turner played a significant role for his team, logging 22.8 minutes per game in 60 games including 30 starts. Though his potential was never quite realized as a scoring threat, Turner is more than just a role player. His presence pays dividends for a Pacers team that’s amongst the best in the league in both scoring and defending.
At only 24-years-old, we’re still a ways off from seeing Turner at his best. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich must’ve seen a lot of potential in Turner during the 2019 offseason as the veteran coach selected him for the Team USA roster. He’s a player that many Spurs fans wish to get in silver and black one day despite him being locked into a long-term contract extension with Indiana right now.
If the Spurs can get a player like Turner with the eleventh pick this year, they’ll be golden.
Next: No. 3: A budding All-Star
3. Domantas Sabonis, No. 11 in the 2016 NBA Draft
- The San Antonio Spurs picked Dejounte Murray No. 29 overall.
A first-time All-Star from the Indiana Pacers, there’s a lot more than meets the eye with power forward/center Domantas Sabonis. The fourth-year big man and son of an NBA legend has seen a steady progression in his game, becoming one of the best passing bigs in recent NBA history. With each season, Sabonis’ role has increased for the Pacers. He finished this season at 18.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and five assists per game on 54 percent shooting.
Sabonis is a great example of a player who made an immediate impact before realizing his potential down the line. He was traded by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Paul George deal as a trade chip but ended up becoming the second-best player traded by this point — No disrespect to Victor Oladipo, who’s trying to get back to form.
If the Spurs can snag a player who can fill a role instantly at No. 11, they’ll be set up for success in the future. Drafting in the lottery is about the long-game and even if the situation isn’t right for that player right now, it may be down the line. Sabonis didn’t become a full-time starter this year and when he took over, the Pacers became better for it. He’s one of the best pick-and-roll partners in the league because of his crafty finishing and methodical decision-making.
Value can be had at the No. 11 spot for smart organizations that draft well. San Antonio fits the bill with its most valuable selection since entering the league.
Next: No. 2: A guard years ahead of his peers
2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, No. 11 in the 2018 NBA Draft
- The San Antonio Spurs picked Lonnie Walker IV No. 18 overall.
From the moment he took the court as a pro, it was clear there was something different about Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Selected No. 11 in 2018, SGA made an All-Rookie team for his efforts, made an impact in the playoffs and was used as a major trade chip as the Clippers traded for Paul George. His sophomore season in Oklahoma City has been just as impressive as his rookie year was.
(Sidebar: I just had the revelation that two of these players were used to trade for PG-13. If things go sideways with the LA Clippers, maybe the Spurs will continue the trend?)
While Sabonis has the All-Star tag, Gilgeous-Alexander is the more compelling player at this point in his career. With a 70-game sample size, SGA got up to 19 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists and a steal per game with roughly the same effective field goal percentage as he had in his rookie year. That’s impressive considering he took almost six more field goal attempts per game and increased his usage rate by 5.4 percent.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) August 20, 2020
Gilgeous-Alexander is a perfect example of the type of player the Spurs need to look for in this draft class. SGA had a great freshman campaign that was overshadowed by a team that featured six active NBA players at the University of Kentucky. He was considered the second-fiddle to Kevin Knox, who was a far inferior player, because of his unselfishness on the court.
The situation is everything for these young players and finding one who could blossom with this Spurs lineup is essential to building for the future. SGA just needed an organization that believed in him and a golden opportunity, which worked out perfectly in both of his two teams early in his career. Now it’s time for the San Antonio Spurs to replicate this sort of outcome.
Next: No. 1: A future Hall of Famer
1. Klay Thompson, No. 11 in the 2011 NBA Draft
- The San Antonio Spurs picked Cory Joseph No. 29 overall, traded up to pick Kawhi Leonard No. 15 overall.
Few players have the range, consistency, or selflessness that Golden State Warriors legend Klay Thompson does. Even though he’s rehabbing from a Torn ACL that he suffered during the 2019 NBA Finals, Klay is still respected and revered as one of the greatest shooters and No. 2 options in basketball. His draft stock steadily rose during his four years at Washington State, leading to his selection by the upstart Warriors in 2011.
This is arguably the best-case scenario for the Spurs — A player who can make an immediate impact and steadily improve with every year. It wasn’t until Klay’s fourth year that he reached his first All-Star team but made it every year since as arguably the best 3-and-D player in NBA history. That sets the bar high for whoever the Spurs draft at No. 11, but it’s completely plausible.
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San Antonio knows how to scout talent and pick players that fit their culture. It’s one that harbors excellence, putting players in a position to play to the best of their ability from early in their careers. Finding a Klay Thompson at No. 11 isn’t a sure thing, but the silver and black need someone who can emulate his work ethic.
Golden State needed to rely on Klay to carry his workload early in his career. Luckily for whoever is next up, the Spurs have enough depth and talent so that this rookie isn’t asked to be a go-to guy. This will allow them to develop within the team’s system, work on their skills and bloom into the type of player they’re drafted to be. Thompson did that to perfection, learning to increase his workload each year to become a reliable scorer from almost anywhere on the court.
The Spurs would hugely benefit from someone like Thompson that can play and guard both the shooting guard and small forward positions. If they can take FSU’s Devin Vassell at No. 11, they might have a chance to groom him into a Klay Thompson-Esque player.
Regardless, the No. 11 pick has some gravity to it and the Spurs are equipped to make a smart decision.