When the San Antonio Spurs select at No. 11 in the 2020 NBA Draft, they’ll dramatically change the trajectory of whoever they deem to be the right fit.
Being selected in the NBA Draft is an honor for every young player in and of itself, but there’s more to it than the draft itself. Once the draft is over, the next two-to-four years of your professional career are solidified with one franchise and one city. Of course, trades and cuts are a part of the game, but the expectation is that you’ll play out your deal with the team that picks you — At least that’s how it works with the San Antonio Spurs.
Still, not every player is a great fit for the team that drafts them. In recent years, players like the 2020 Most Improved Player, Brandon Ingram left the team that picked him and elevated his play. The same can be said for players like Domantas Sabonis, D’Angelo Russell and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Situations won’t make or break a player, but they do shape the earliest perceptions that one has. If you’re drafted to a dysfunctional organization like the New York Knicks, chances are there won’t be as many opportunities for you to fulfill your potential. On the flip side, getting drafted by the San Antonio Spurs is usually a great sign for a player’s personal and professional development. That’s why Kentucky head coach John Calipari was so excited for Keldon Johnson to land with this team.
This 2020 NBA Draft class has been discredited by many when contrasted with the surefire star power at the top of last year’s group. However, the situation is everything and a player you may not have seen blossoming could be the league’s next big star if picked into the right landing spot. The players on this list are projected lottery picks who are better off if they land with the San Antonio Spurs, who are set to pick at No. 11 in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Next: 4. Killian Hayes
4. The San Antonio Spurs are the model for Killian Hayes’ best-case scenario.
It’s too easy to get up on a pedestal and say that the San Antonio Spurs have a history with international prospects. If breakout candidate Killian Hayes of ratiopharm Ulm is picked by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2020 NBA Draft, everyone and their mother will compare him with Tony Parker. In reality, Hayes’ playstyle resembles another Spurs legend, Manu Ginobili quite a bit more despite his French roots.
Although I will say, there is something behind the Parker comparison, but not in terms of playstyle. Though the applicable skills would be different, Hayes and Parker would both be pushed to the brink by San Antonio’s development staff. Each of these players, flashed the talent and raw potential to be future Hall of Famers ahead of the draft, but it’d never be possible without applying an impeccable work ethic.
The issue with Hayes’ fit in San Antonio is that there are too many mouths to feed in that backcourt. Starting point guard Dejounte Murray was extended last offseason, combo guard Derrick White may be their best players and Lonnie Walker IV has more potential than either of them does at this point. Adding another guard to the mix creates more confusion than clarity.
Therefore, Hayes may not be the best fit for the San Antonio Spurs, but that doesn’t mean the San Antonio Spurs aren’t the best fit for him. Should he slip all the way to No. 11, this team probably won’t let him drop any farther.
Next: 3. Patrick Williams
3. Patrick Williams can be unleashed by the San Antonio Spurs.
What’s most intriguing about the 19-year-old NBA Draft darling Patrick Williams is that his ability doesn’t fit one single mold. He’s got skills beyond his years on both sides of the floor with the size and athleticism to combat the traditional norms of NBA positions. If given a chance to grow within the San Antonio Spurs’ system, Williams would be astronomically more likely to reach his ceiling.
In only 22.5 minutes per game in his freshman campaign, Williams averaged 9.2 points, four rebounds, a block and a steal per game at Florida State. For such a young NBA Draft prospect, Williams has an incredible defensive IQ. His knack for chasing the ball and predicting shots near the basket made him a prolific weakside shot-blocker who could rise up and contest any shot.
Williams’ physical profile makes him a solid candidate to switch at positions 3-through-5 on one end and make plays without commanding the ball on the other. If drafted by the San Antonio Spurs, Williams would have a chance to hone his skills in Austin under the expert guidance of the Spurs’ training staff. He’d be groomed to wreak havoc as a defender while honing his raw scoring potential.
If given the proper attention from Spurs shooting guru Chip Engelland, Williams could become a floor-spacing threat at the next level. While his 32 percent 3-point shooting wasn’t necessarily amazing in college, his 83.8 percent free-throw percentage is indicative of a higher shooting threshold. All he needs is an organization that can guide him to a better application of his skills.
Next: 2. James Wiseman
2. With the San Antonio Spurs, James Wiseman’s potential is limitless.
The most likely of the players listed in this group, Memphis center James Wiseman has the physical tools to be a dominant player in the NBA. The physical comparisons to a young David Robinson cast great shoes for Wiseman to fill as players who have some small similarities, but ultimately don’t compare all too well.
In bringing up the San Antonio Spurs legend, I’m simply noting that San Antonio knows how to run its team through a physically dominant center. Robinson’s athletic ability and wealth of skills made him a constant mismatch every time down the floor and Wiseman can be the same. However, it’s going to take proper guidance and a ton of hard work for the potential No. 1 pick to achieve the same level of dominance in the NBA that he has everywhere else in his young career.
Besides the fact that San Antonio’s coaching and development staff can help Wiseman refine his jumper, they can maximize his potential as a post scorer. Maybe the modern NBA says that post-centric big men can’t lead teams, but the San Antonio Spurs don’t adhere to the norms set by other organizations. They extract the most they can from their players and put them in positions to succeed.
This is the type of strategic management and development that’s going to help Wiseman become one of the best players in the NBA.
Next: 1. Isaac Okoro
1. The San Antonio Spurs have a chance to transform Auburn’s Isaac Okoro
One of the most dominant defensive players in college basketball, forward Isaac Okoro has a chance to be very special at the next level. The only problem is that he’s not a major threat to score at this stage of his career, affirming himself as more of a project than a sure thing for teams looking at him in the NBA Draft.
At this point, players who can immediately impact the young core should take precedent for the San Antonio Spurs, but others are too good to pass up. That’s the case with Okoro, who has been one of the more highly touted NBA Draft prospects since high school. Even though his jump shot needs to be reconstructed, or tweaked at the very least, Okoro has a competitive drive and defensive aggression unlike other prospects.
Physically, Okoro is ready to make the jump into the NBA. His frame is built like a grown man and his leaping ability will immediately rank amongst the best in the game. When playing near and around the rim, Okoro is a threat with a variety of scoring options. One of the better rebounders in his class, Okoro will certainly be throwing in tip-slams at the next level.
Isaac Okoro = ICE-aac Okoro ❄️
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) November 13, 2019
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When the San Antonio Spurs traded for the draft rights to Kawhi Leonard, they knew this wouldn’t be an overnight process. In due time, Leonard put his defensive tools and physical nature to the test, winning two Defensive Player of the Year awards in the process. Eventually, the scoring caught up and made him a perennial MVP candidate. None of that would’ve been possible without the guidance and development that he underwent in the San Antonio Spurs’ system.
There’s a roadmap for the same to happen with Okoro. The jumper is going to take a ton of work and his basketball IQ isn’t going to blossom overnight. Even with that being the case, Okoro doesn’t need to carry a scoring load with the team as constructed — The Spurs need his defense. A lineup featuring a rotating cast of the Spurs’ young guards and Okoro is going to cause hell for opposing ball-handlers and perimeter players.
If Okoro is still on the board at No. 11, there’s little doubt in my mind that the San Antonio Spurs would let him pass them by. His career trajectory would skyrocket because of it.