The San Antonio Spurs have the rare privilege of making a lottery selection this season, but history has shown they can find gems anywhere in the NBA draft.
After narrowly missing the NBA playoffs for the first time since 1996-97, the San Antonio Spurs have the 11th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. While having a lottery pick is a welcome new feeling for the organization, it hasn’t been the deciding factor on whether they can find someone special.
Since the Spurs last won it all in 2014, they’ve had 13 total draft selections ranging from guys that have never seen the NBA court to potential NBA All-Stars. The latest pick San Antonio has made in that span has been 60th, while their earliest pick was 18th.
While the Spurs have selected 13 total prospects in the last six years, four of them were either immediately traded away or have not yet seen the court. Because of this, they will not be included in these rankings. Those players are Jordan McRae (2014), Cory Jefferson (2014), Cady Lalanne (2015), and Nikola Milutinov (2015).
With this year’s NBA draft expected to now take place in November, let’s take a look back at some of the recent success stories (and flops) that have come from the Spurs’ draft picks.
9. Jaron Blossomgame – 2nd Rd, 59th Pick (2017)
When the 2017 NBA Draft rolled around, the San Antonio Spurs had the 29th and 59th overall picks. With the exception of guys like Manu Ginobili, who was picked 57th overall, it’s rare to find guys that will make much of an impact in the high 50s of drafts. Jaron Blossomgame proved to be another case of that being true.
Blossomgame had a successful college career at Clemson, being named to First Team All-ACC and Most Improved Player in the conference in 2016. Selecting him with nearly the last pick in the draft was worth a shot, but Jaron’s game never really blossomed enough to get much NBA time.
Blossomgame helped the Austin Spurs win a G League title in 2018, but the only NBA action he ever saw happened with the Cleveland Cavaliers, lasting for four games. Jaron currently plays professionally in Isreal.
Next: No. 8 & 7
8. Luka Samanic – 1st Rd, 19th Pick (2019)
The 2019 NBA Draft has the potential to be one Spurs fans look back on as a resounding success. While it’s still too early to tell if Luka Samanic will be included in that conversation, he’s shown some potential.
The 20-year-old Croatian is the definition of raw, as he’s only gotten garbage time minutes so far and has looked lost on the court frequently. In San Antonio’s finale against the Utah Jazz, however, he showed his range, going 3-for-5 from downtown on the way to 16 points and six boards.
Knowing how slowly Gregg Popovich likes to work in his new guys, Samanic will have to show patience if he wants to start seeing minutes on a youthful and talented roster. Luka does have the advantage of being a 6-foot-10 guy that can stroke it from the perimeter, which is becoming the norm in today’s NBA.
Don’t be surprised if we’re looking back at Samanic as a smart pick down the road.
7. Quinndary Weatherspoon – 2nd Rd, 49th Pick (2019)
Another fresh prospect, Quinndary Weatherspoon saw most of his NBA action on the Orlando campus as part of the league’s restart games. He never quite lit up the scoreboard, with his highest point total being just four. Still, Weatherspoon showed enough overall hustle and effort on the defensive end to warrant him being a spot above Samanic for now.
Like others on this list, Weatherspoon had big games for the Austin Spurs, putting up a career-high 30 points last January. He’ll likely be toward the end of the bench this season, but Quinndary could be a defensive project that will be learning daily from versatile defensive players and defensive-minded coaches in Popovich and Tim Duncan.
Next: No. 6 & 5
6. Chimezie Metu – 2nd Rd, 49th Pick (2018)
The San Antonio Spurs picked Chimezie Metu as their last selection in 2018, and he’s yet to crack the rotation. This season, he showed up in just 18 total games, with 26 of his 105 total minutes coming in the final game of the year.
With LaMarcus Aldridge not joining the team in Orlando, the prime time for Metu to have gotten minutes would’ve been during the NBA restart. The fact that he still got garbage time minutes behind Drew Eubanks doesn’t bode well for his future.
Like Samanac, Metu’s best game for the Silver and Black was the finale, in which he scored 10 points and pulled down six boards. His experience and time in the G League put him at sixth for now, but he’ll slide down further if he doesn’t get more of a shot this season.
5. Keldon Johnson – 1st Rd, 29th Pick (2019)
When the Spurs had no choice but to trade Kawhi Leonard away for DeMar DeRozan, they also received the 29th pick of the 2019 draft. They used that pick to select Kentucky standout Keldon Johnson, who turned quite a few heads in the Orlando bubble.
Johnson scored in double figures in four of the seeding games, including back-to-back 24-point outings to close out the season. It’s easy to see Johnson is going to be a bulldog on both ends of the court. He hustles to make big plays, has a ton of energy, and already has a superb finishing ability as a 20-year-old.
Keldon is the player I’m most excited to see next season. From the little I’ve seen so far, he has the potential to become number one on this list in no time.
Next: No. 4 & 3
4. Lonnie Walker – 1st Rd, 18th Pick (2018)
An instant cult favorite due to his incredible athleticism, 21-year-old Lonnie Walker improved by leaps and bounds this year. In his rookie season, we saw several flashes of what he’s capable offensively, particularly on the fast break. He still showed timidness too often, though, and was frequently pulled for making silly mistakes.
This season, Walker formally announced his breakout on December 3, 2019, when he went berserk in a game against the Houston Rockets. Burying 4-of-6 from deep and carrying the Spurs to an overtime victory, his confidence only continued to grow as the season went on.
Lonnie had the opportunity to start in all eight seeding games of the Orlando games, averaging 11.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in that stretch. While there are still some things he needs to work on, watching Walker continue to grow as a player will be fun to watch.
3. Kyle Anderson – 1st Rd, 30th Pick (2014)
Coming off their fifth NBA championship, the San Antonio Spurs looked to bolster their forward position by selecting Kyle Anderson out of UCLA. Before long, Anderson found himself starting in a handful of games, earning increasing minutes each season until eventually becoming a starter for the 2017-18 season.
After averaging 2.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game in 10.8 minutes in his rookie year, Anderson improved those numbers to 7.9 points and 5.4 rebounds in his fourth and final season in San Antonio.
Anderson’s improved play earned him a four-year, $37.2 million offer sheet from the Memphis Grizzlies that the Spurs decided not to match. Kyle’s basketball IQ and craftiness on the court make him a decent find for such a late pick and earn him the third spot in the rankings.
Next: No. 2 & 1
2. Dejounte Murray – 1st Rd, 29th Pick (2016)
The Spurs only had one pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, and they made the most of it when they selected Dejounte Murray. Like most rookies, Murray spent much of his first season developing his game with the Austin Spurs.
In his first full season in the Alamo City, Murray became the youngest player ever to be voted to an NBA All-Defensive Team, making the Second Team at 21 years old. Dejounte was looking to carry that momentum into his third year; however, a preseason injury kept him out of the entire 2018-19 campaign.
Now San Antonio’s full-time starting point guard, Murray has improved his output in virtually every statistical category since his second year. Defense remains Murray’s calling card, as he was the only member of the San Antonio Spurs to receive any votes for this year’s NBA All-Defensive Teams.
1. Derrick White – 1st Rd, 29th Pick (2017)
The 29th pick seems to be a lucky spot for the Spurs. Much like Dejounte, Derrick White‘s growth can’t be denied. Making his debut in October 2017, the Colorado native had a breakout year in his sophomore season from 2018-19, averaging 9.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.9 rebounds per game.
White came off the bench for most of this season, eventually getting the starting nod for all eight of the seeding games. Derrick’s defense in the final games was elite level, highlighted by a win over Sacramento in which he drew five charges in a single game.
On a team with DeMar DeRozan, White had a legitimate case for being the Spurs’ best player in the restart. There’s a reason we recently talked about Derrick’s potential to make an All-Star team this season — he’s just been that special.