Four prospects the San Antonio Spurs should avoid in the 2020 NBA Draft
With their highest draft selection since Tim Duncan, the San Antonio Spurs can’t miss with the 11th pick in the NBA Draft.
After 22 years, the San Antonio Spurs’ incredible postseason run came to an end during the NBA restart in Orlando. Now the Spurs find themselves with the 11th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft and this years’ draft will be unlike any before.
With COVID-19 causing the NCAA Tournament to be canceled and the potential for a virtual NBA combine, front offices throughout the league will have their hands full attempting to thoroughly vet prospects. To make matters even more difficult, this is one of the hardest draft classes to get a pulse on. Unlike in 2019, this years’ cohort doesn’t possess a preeminent talent like a Zion Williamson, who was the clear-cut No. 1 pick after just a few games at Duke.
While there is a good idea which prospects could garner top-3 attention, namely Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, and James Wiseman, there are truly no guarantees this year. Therefore, we should expect the unexpected.
For the better part of the last two decades, the Spurs have gotten accustomed to selecting in the latter part of the first round. Over the last few seasons, San Antonio has struck gold with guys like Keldon Johnson (29th pick, 2019), Derrick White (29th pick, 2017), and Dejounte Murray (29th pick, 2016). Selecting at 11, the Spurs find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Instead of being left with whatever prospect happens to fall to them, San Antonio finally has their pick of the litter and are well-positioned to find an impact player who’s ready to contribute right away.
Like the oft-quoted saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The Spurs need to resist the temptation to select a big name prospect and identify a player that best fits San Antonio’s style and culture. We’re going to look at four prospects the Spurs should stay away from in this years’ draft.
Next: 1. Obi Toppin
San Antonio Spurs should avoid Obi Toppin in the 2020 NBA Draft
I know, I know. I’m going to get a lot of backlash for this one. The thought of not selecting Obi Toppin, the 2019-20 Wooden Award winner and consensus All-American from Dayton, surely makes no sense, right? Hear me out.
As a basketball fan, I love Toppin’s high-flying dunks and SportsCenter Top 10-worthy plays, but as a Spurs fan, the selection of the Dayton product feels like trying to stick a square peg in a round hole. The questions revolving around Toppin have nothing to do with his offensive acumen. He’s got an NBA-ready body, boasting a 6-foot-9, 220-lb frame, he can attack a defense from multiple areas and he possesses a reliable 3-point shot (39 percent on 82 attempts).
Toppin’s defensive woes will be the primary reason he slips in this years’ draft. Despite that size and athleticism, he’s not a strong rim protector, he doesn’t move his feet well to keep stride with opponents and he struggles to defend around the perimeter.
Simply put, the Spurs can’t afford to spend such a high pick on a player as old as Toppin, 22, whose upside as a strong defensive presence is significantly lower than other prospects in this class. Guys like Isaac Okoro, Devin Vassell, and Saddiq Bey lack the flashiness and flare Toppin possesses but better complement what the Spurs need.
Further, San Antonio’s defense was atrocious last season, ranking 25th in defensive rating and opponent points per game (115.2). Toppin’s offense would be a nice injection of energy and excitement, but the Spurs don’t have the supporting cast that would allow them to mask his deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball.
Next: 2. Cole Anthony
San Antonio Spurs should avoid Cole Anthony in the 2020 NBA Draft
As a UNC alum and a lifelong Tar Heel fan, having Cole Anthony on this list certainly stings. Cole, the son of NBA vet Greg Anthony, came into his freshman year at Carolina with sky-high expectations. Not only did he fail to live up to those lofty goals, but Anthony actually hurt his stock throughout the year as his many of his weaknesses were magnified throughout his rocky freshman campaign.
As an athlete, Cole shows some shades of Russell Westbrook with his fiery nature and his explosive style of play. He possesses a deep offensive arsenal that he can reach into, but due to a lackluster roster in Chapel Hill, Anthony was forced to carry the load. This led to contested shots, questionable decisions, and poor results.
Despite his abysmal shooting percentage (38 percent from the field), Cole is a gifted scorer, averaging a team-high 18.5 points per game. However, many questions are surrounding whether or not he can be a legitimate playmaker and run an offense at the next level.
During his lone season with the Tar Heels, Anthony posted a 4.0-3.5 AST/TO ratio, which is… really, really, really bad. That alone will be enough to turn away a lot of teams and the Spurs should be one of them.
Between Murray, White, Lonnie Walker, and Patty Mills, the Spurs are already loaded at the guard position. Further, with the recent flashes Walker and White displayed during the NBA restart, Anthony would have to fight for a chance to crack that rotation.
Overall, with Cole’s poor shot selection, ball-dominant style of play, and concerns about his defensive motor, there are more questions than answers surrounding Anthony’s game. As such, the Spurs should look elsewhere with their 11th pick.
Next: 3. RJ Hampton
San Antonio Spurs should avoid RJ Hampton in the 2020 NBA Draft
Like LaMelo Ball, RJ Hampton elected to forgo the college route and instead spent the last year playing in the NBL for the New Zealand Breakers. The 6-foot-5 combo guard posted pedestrian numbers, averaging just 8.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.4 assists through 15 games with the Breakers.
After Hampton’s season was cut short due to a hip injury, he opted to return to the States to train and prepare for the draft. Hampton reportedly spent the summer working out with Memphis Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway and assistant coach Mike Miller.
The virtual combine will be an opportunity for many to see the progress RJ has made since playing in the NBL. His small sample size left scouts with plenty of questions about how Hampton’s skill set will translate to the next level.
Hampton’s biggest selling point is his athleticism. He loves to grab a rebound, hit the gas pedal, and initiate the fast-break. Adding this type of run-and-gun player could be enticing for the Spurs, who were middle of the pack (14th) in terms of pace of play.
While RJ showed some promise as a solid operator in the pick-and-roll, Hampton’s most glaring knock is his poor shooting stroke. Defenders don’t respect his jumper and until he proves he can hit shots consistently, he’s going to have trouble seeing the court since he’s not an elite defender either.
Only 19, Hampton’s game is understandably raw at this stage, but with the 11th pick, the Spurs should have a bevy of NBA-ready players to choose from that can contribute more to this roster than he can.
Next: 4. Aleksej Pokusevski
San Antonio Spurs should avoid Aleksej Pokuševski in the 2020 NBA Draft
Aleksej Pokuševski is easily one of the most intriguing prospects in this entire draft class. Checking in at 7 feet tall and just a hair over 200 lbs, Pokuševski glides across the court with a surprising agileness for someone of his size. Furthermore, his vision and passing are better than some of the guards available in this talent pool.
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Additionally, the Serbian big has a solid shooting touch, connecting on roughly 32 percent of his three-point attempts while playing in Greece with Olympiacos. Pokuševski also possesses a solid handle, sporting the ability to hit defenders with a variety of fakes and hesitations to get to his spots.
While Pokuševski has all of the ingredients of a unicorn, he still has many of the question marks surrounding him that marred Kristaps Porzingis when he was first drafted by the New York Knicks. With such a skinny frame, can he withstand the rigors of an NBA season?
Do I believe Pokuševski can develop into an exciting, position-bending player? Yes, but maybe in 4-5 years. He’s a project in the truest sense of the word. The seeding games in Orlando showed that the Spurs could be tip-toeing closer and closer to fully embracing the youth movement and a complete rebuild. However, so as long as LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan are still on the roster, San Antonio will look to compete now.
Unfortunately, a player like Pokuševski doesn’t look to help the Spurs soon. And after San Antonio decided to roll the dice on Luka Samanic in last year’s draft, the last thing they need to do is select another raw prospect who’s still years away from being ready to help this team contend for championships.