Nov 19, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; San Antonio Spurs draft prospect Jaden McDaniels (4) shoots against the Maine Black Bears during the second half at Alaska Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs need to be wary of selecting one of these three players
The 2020 NBA Draft has by and large been classified as one without much superstar level talent. There are few surefire superstars and even teams in the lottery, the San Antonio Spurs included, will likely be selecting role players rather than All-Stars.
What it lacks in start talent this class does make up for with depth. You can find similar caliber players in the 20s as you can in the early teen’s. That’s great for teams picking just outside the lottery but not such good news for our Spurs, who will be picking 11th.
There are plenty of players who should be able to step in and contribute on an NBA team from day one but also a few with quite a bit of risk associated with them. But in a draft that’s short on star potential, teams might be more willing to swing for the fences than they have in years past and take a chance on high risk, high reward kind of player.
These three prospects are all very talented but they’ve also got serious shortcomings that could hurt them in the long run. Here are our three highest risk players in the 2020 draft class.
Next: A top-five pick
San Antonio Spurs Draft: Deni Avdija’s shooting makes him a risky pick
Since he started popping up on NBA draft boards, Deni Avdija has been steadily climbing upward and upward until he became a near consensus top-five pick.
It’s easy to see why so many people are high on Avdija. He’s a playmaking guard in a small forwards body. He makes smart decisions in halfcourt sets, can rebound, push the pace, and set up his teammates in transition. When he’s not dishing dimes on the break he’s finishing at the rim with either hand and through any defender that’s in his way.
If that wasn’t enough, he also defends well. He’s a strong on-ball defender and compliments that with a knack for jumping passing lanes and creating easy fastbreak opportunities for his team.
But he straight up cannot shoot from behind the arc. He connected on just 33 percent of his 3-points attempts for Maccabi Tel Aviv last season and was nearly as bad from the free-throw line, hitting just 59 percent of his free-throws. A player’s free-throw percentage has long been a strong indication of their ability to improve from behind the arc so that garish free-throw percentage is not encouraging for Avdija’s long-term prospects as a shooter.
To his credit, Avdija seems very aware of the questions around his jumper. We’ve seen plenty of video of him putting up shots in the gym to try to work things out and he’s expressed confidence in his ability to find his way from behind the arc.
That’s great, and I hope he does figure it out, but if you’re picking in the top-five you’d like a little substance to back up his statements. It’s hard to play non-shooters in today’s NBA and if Avdija continues to shoot 33 percent from behind the arc at the next level teams are simply going to ignore him. That’s going to make every one of his teammate’s lives harder.
At the very least, Deni Avdija is going to be an impressive playmaker and finisher. But for a top-five pick, you’d like a little bit more well-rounded player without a huge hole in his game.
Next: Another exciting overseas player
San Antonio Spurs Draft: Will Aleksej Pokusevski be able to handle the NBA?
Aleksej Pokusevski is one of the most interesting players in this draft class. The 18-year-old Serbian stands 7 feet tall, has a nice handle and has impressive court vision. But there are serious concerns about his ability to play in the NBA.
Poku’s game isn’t built on strength right now. He’s more of an outside shooter and passer than he is a low post bruiser. But that’s probably born of necessity rather than a lack of skill.
He’s listed at 208 pounds but that might be with lead in his shoes. This has to be the skinniest draft prospect I’ve ever seen. Seriously, he’s almost entirely skin and bones at this point.
His slight frame has impacted all areas of his game. He isn’t as good of a rim protector as he could be because he gets pushed around so easily. He also has shown any ability to score in the post because, again, he gets bodied almost every defender he comes across.
Pokusevski is going to need a serious weight program to help him bulk up to the point where he can hang with the grown men in the NBA. Even then, it’s probably going to be a year or two before he’s ready to play. And even at that point, there will be concerns. Barring a Giannis like bulk-up he’s still probably going to be one of the lighter big men in the league.
There are ways to mitigate this on offense. A team could use him as a spot-up shooting threat, with his high release his shot will be nearly unblockable. He’ll also surely grab a few rebounds here and there. But is what he could potentially bring to a team worth the risk that’s going to come with drafting a player whose body is so far from being ready to play in the NBA?
The talent is there and a creative offensive mind would find ways to bring out the best in him but his NBA readiness is a huge question mark and makes him one of the riskiest picks in this draft.
Next: An underwhelming freshman
Jan 5, 2020; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies forward Jaden McDaniels (0) shoots against USC Trojans forward Nick Rakocevic (31) during the second half at Alaska Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs Draft: Jaden McDaniels had a very disappointing year
On paper, Jaden McDaniels looks like the perfect forward for today’s NBA. He’s a versatile 6’9 forward with a nearly 7-foot wingspan who has a nice handle and can spread the floor. But his freshman season with the Washington Huskies left more questions than answers about his long term potential.
McDaniels came into the season as one of the most hyped players in the country. Watching his high school highlights it was hard not to be enamored by his potential. Here was a guy who had prototypical height who was shaking and baking his way down the court, crossing up defenders and smacking pull-up three’s in their face. But when he got Washington he wasn’t quite the player we thought he would be.
He was able to use his size and skill to his advantage in highschool but when he got matched up against older, stronger players his thin frame and weak lower body strength were quickly exposed.
He was able to defend well when switched onto smaller, faster players but when he was matched up against someone his size he struggled to hold his own. He got pushed around and often found himself in foul trouble as a result.
On offense, he’s able to get to the rim at will but finishing isn’t his strong suit. He’s pushed off his path far too easily and struggles to finish through contact. Unless he seriously commits to the weight room he’s going to struggle to compete in the paint when he gets to the NBA.
From a basketball IQ standpoint, McDaniels is still far from a finished product. His assist to turnover ratio was an ugly 3.2 to 2.1 and it seems like he’d rather get his shot off rather than make the easy pass.
All the talent and physical qualities a team looks for in a floor stretching forward are there but Jaden McDaniels is a low floor, high ceiling prospect. Any team that picks him has to understand that there’s a chance he might not amount to much more than an oversized gunner.
Any one of these players could end up being a star. But the San Antonio Spurs and any other team that’s considering drafting them should be very aware of the sizeable risks that come with them.