The San Antonio Spurs cannot whiff on their upcoming high draft pick
For as much as we tend to applaud the San Antonio Spurs‘ ability to find quality players in the lower parts of the draft, the franchise is not without its share of missed picks. To be fair, they have done a great job of finding guys like Keldon Johnson, Derrick White, and Dejounte Murray with the 29th pick but as a fanbase, we all seem inclined to gloss over their bungled picks.
You could make the counterpoint that the three aforementioned young talents are balanced out by San Antonio’s whiffed picks on guys like Livio Jean-Charles, James Anderson, and Nikola Milutinov.
If you don’t recognize those names you’re not alone. Here’s a quick refresher: Jean-Charles was the 28th pick in 2013, Anderson was taken 20th in 2010, and Milutinov was selected with the 26th pick in the 2015 draft. Between the three of them, they have a combined 87 games for the Spurs. Anderson owns all of them.
Things are different this year. The Spurs won’t be picking near the end of the first round. No, they’ll have their highest draft pick since they took Tim Duncan first overall way back in 1997. They’re slated to have the 11th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft and they cannot afford to mess this up.
Overall, the players taken 11th over the past twenty-some years have been largely successful. But there have been some mistakes sprinkled in. San Antonio has to avoid making a mistake like others did when they used a lottery pick on these busts.
San Antonio Spurs need to avoid someone like Acie Law
With the 11th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks selected Acie Law, a shooting guard from Texas A&M University. This wasn’t a horrible pick at the time, but when you’re 13 years removed from the pick and almost a decade from Law’s last appearance in the league you can judge more holistically.
Following a 2007 season in which they went 3-52, the Atlanta Hawks were looking for more young talent to put around their young stars, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. Law, an 18 point per game scorer during his senior season, looked like he could fit that description.
While the Hawks did return to the postseason the next year, that had less to do with Law and more with his draft mate, Al Horford. Law would stay in Atlanta for two seasons before bouncing around the league for the rest of his career.
Law’s position is due to his low career averages and the amount of solid talent that was selected after him. His high draft spot wouldn’t look quite as bad if players such as Thaddeus Young, Jared Dudley, and Wilson Chandler weren’t still on the board at the time.
San Antonio Spurs have to do better than in 2020
Like Law, Terrence Williams’s high draft slot is even harder for the Brooklyn Nets to look back on given the guys below him on the draft board. Jrue Holiday and Jeff Teague both made All-Star teams and while Taj Gibson and Wayne Ellington have carved out solid careers on role players for a variety of competitive teams.
Meanwhile, Williams averaged 8.6 points per game during his rookie year and then gradually slid out of the league. You could make the argument that he played the best basketball of his NBA career during his rookie season – he even had a triple-double where he popped off for 27 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists in a double-overtime win, – but that’s just not the trajectory a player hopes their time in the league follows.
He even made a recent “All-Time What If Team” from the guys over at Nothin’ but Nets. He had all the athletic ability but just couldn’t seem to stick in the NBA.
With so much riding on this selection, the San Antonio Spurs need to find someone better with their draft pick this year. Looking at the impressive number of quality role players who should be on the board when it’s their turn to pick, that shouldn’t be too hard to do.
San Antonio Spurs can do better than Cole Aldrich with their pick this year
If he had been taken ten spots lower, we might be looking back on Cole Aldrich‘s career in a different light. He played in the NBA for eight seasons, well over the league average, but never quite lived up to the hopes the Oklahoma City Thunder had for him.
After an impressive college career with the Kansas Jayhawks, Aldrich went pro with a resume that most basketball players would go crazy for. But his NCAA Championship and other accolades didn’t win him any points at the next level.
Aldrich was a classic center. At 6’11 with a strong frame, he was able to be a force down low when he got an opportunity. He played his best basketball during a three-year stretch with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers where he was able to average 13.4 rebounds, 13 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game.
Aldrich could play, there’s no debating that. Like the two players mentioned just before him, he just simply wasn’t able to break into a starting lineup for an extended stretch of time. Still, the guy played in the best basketball league in the world for eight years. That’s more than most of us will ever achieve on a basketball court and is something to be commended.
But with their 11th overall pick this year, the San Antonio Spurs aren’t looking for a guy who will just stay in the league for nearly a decade. They’re trying to make a difficult return to the playoffs without bottoming out. They’ll need more than a player like Aldrich to make that happen.
All three of these players had bright spots during their NBA careers. But the San Antonio Spurs will be hoping for a little more than that from their 2020 selection.