Jan 15, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; San Antonio Spurs draft prospect, Auburn Tigers forward Isaac Okoro (23) pressures Alabama Crimson Tide guard John Petty Jr. (23) at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports.
These prospects should model their games after these San Antonio Spurs greats
The San Antonio Spurs don’t find themselves near the top of the order of the NBA Draft often but when they do they make it count. Three out of their four most recent picks in the lottery have ended up having their jersey numbers retired by the team.
Whomever the Spurs use their 11th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft on is going to have some serious expectations to live up to. However, it would be slightly unfair to compare the Spurs rookie, whoever it may be, to the greats that came before him.
As a practice, comparing draft prospects to current or former NBA players can be very flawed. Our willingness to jump to flawed comparisons based on more visible things like height or build rather than measurable attributes was one of the reasons former Rockets GM Daryl Morey cut out nearly all player comparisons from the Rockets pre-draft process while he was running the team.
These players shouldn’t necessarily be expected to live up to the standards of the San Antonio Spurs greats that were going to compare them to. But they could use the habits and progress that these players made as models of how they want to grow throughout their own careers.
San Antonio Spurs Draft: Isaac Okoro should model himself after Kawhi Leonard
The best defender and one of the most highly regarded players in the draft, Auburn’s Isaac Okoro has nearly locked himself in as a top-ten pick on draft night. Even if his offensive game never reaches its full potential he will make some team very happy by being a lockdown presence on the defensive end of the floor for the next decade.
It would be incredibly preemptive to say that Okoro has a shot at a career similar to the one that Kawhi Leonard has had. They have similar scouting reports coming out of college – strong wing defenders and rebounders who will need to round out their offensive games to become impactful two-way players – but expecting him to mimic the Klaw’s progression is asking a lot.
Kawhi is one of the greatest defenders of all-time. Reaching his level of success has to be at the absolute peak of Okoro’s projected ceiling. Even if he reaches his full potential as a defender there’s a strong chance he never captures the two DPOY’s that Kawhi has.
Where Okoro should really be watching the progress Kawhi has made is on the offensive end of the floor. His defense is what got him recognized but over the past few years, Kawhi has turned into one of the most lethal offensive weapons in the game.
Remaking his shot to what it is today took years of hard work between Leonard and the Spurs training staff. That’s the kind of commitment that Okoro is going to have to match. He shot just 29 percent from behind the arc in college. Until he raises that number he’s going to have a hard time getting defenses to take him seriously.
Okoro could actually have the edge on Leonard if he focuses on improving his playmaking ability from the get-go. That was an area of Leonard’s game that didn’t advance too much in his early years – having Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili for teammates is partially to blame for that.
Okoro is already showing some touch as a playmaker. If he devotes himself to it early it could help make up for the limitations that his shooting ability will have on his overall offensive potential during these first few years.
Next: James Wiseman and The Admiral
Nov 8, 2019; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Tigers center James Wiseman (32) walks off the court after the game against the Illinois-Chicago Flames at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs Draft: James Wiseman can aspire to be the next Admiral
In his aptly named book The Book of Basketball, Bill Simmons goes into detail about how he knew that David Robinson was going to be good.
“It was breathtaking to watch him glide by for the first time, like standing a few feet away from a prized thuroughbred or a brand new Ferrari Testarossa. To this day, I have never seen anyone that close who looks more like a basketball player…Really, he was just a specimen. That’s the best way I can describe it. He was a freaking specimen.”
Standing 7’1 and weighing in at a chiseled 240 pounds it’s easy to see where the Wiseman and Robinson comparisons stem from. Some big men can lumber clunkily up and down the court but like Robinson, Wiseman glides. He’s a smooth athlete who should be one of the most intimidating rim protectors in the NBA if he reaches his full potential.
Two areas where Wiseman can model his game after Robinson’s will be in his attention to detail down low and as a playmaker. Wiseman is billed as a “unicorn” by some, a rare do-it-all big man who can score from anywhere inside the arc. And it’s clear that he views himself that way, but should he?
Wiseman could end up in two drastically different situations. He will be vastly better off if he goes to Golden State with the second pick but if he falls to Charlotte at third it’ll be crucial that the Hornets don’t ask too much of him too soon.
All the potential is there for Wiseman to be a versatile scorer at the next level but early on he should focus on dominating the paint, much as Robinson did during his 7-straight All-Star appearances to start his career.
Improving as a playmaker will be even more important for Wiseman if he goes to the Warriors. They’re a team built around fast-paced ball movement and that’s not exactly his strong suit right now. At the peak of his career, Robinson was averaging nearly five assists per game and had built out a variety of ways he could get the ball to his teammates in easy scoring situations.
No one is asking him to become the next Nikola Jokic but if Wiseman wants to dominate he’s going to have to show that he can make basic reads quickly and consistently. That’s something that he has yet to prove he can do. This will be a key area to watch over his first few years in the league.
Next: Kira Lewis Jr. and Tony Parker
Mar 3, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard Kira Lewis Jr. (2) shoots against Vanderbilt Commodores forward Dylan Disu (1) during the second half at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs Draft: Kira Lewis should be studying film of Tony Parker
When Tony Parker first came to the San Antonio Spurs he was a blur of a French point guard who played faster and more recklessly than his coaches would have preferred. But as time went on his game rounded out, he played more in control, and he helped lead San Antonio to one of the greatest runs in modern sports.
Kira Lewis Jr. is another blindingly fast point guard who will need some time to adjust to the NBA. They say slow is smooth and smooth is fast but right now Lewis is playing by the motto of “fast is good but faster is better.” Not so true, rookie.
One of the biggest improvements Lewis can make to his game is by studying Parker’s ability to finish in the paint. Both Lewis and Parker were speedy guards but neither lives above the rim. They have to get creative in order to score.
When he was at his peak, Parker was a fixture amongst the best players in the league in points scored in the paint. It was funny to see bruising big men like Dwight Howard and other world athletes like LeBron James in the same company as the diminutive French guard but he made it work.
Parker was able to dominate in the paint thanks to a deep, deep bag of finishing moves. He had a variety of creative flip shots that he could break out to get the ball up and over a defender’s outstretched arm but one of his most lethal moves was his teardrop floater.
Lewis should spend serious hours watching film and in the gym to try to emulate Parker’s buttery floater. He’s got the speed to put defenders on their heels but if he can put together a consistent stop and pop floater he’ll next to impossible to stop in transition.
Another area of Parker’s game that Lewis should be watching is how mindful he was of his surroundings once he got in the paint. It might have looked out of control at times but Parker was hyper-aware of where his teammates were at all times. As soon as it looked like he had dribble himself into a trap he would sneak a dump-off pass into the waiting arms of a teammate for an easy basket.
Lewis is already good at using his driving ability to collapse defenses in and kick the ball out to a shooter but he has room to improve when it comes to making tougher passes in tighter windows.
They might not ever reach the levels that these three San Antonio Spurs greats did but if these impressive young draft prospects model their games after these three Hall of Famer’s they’ll be well on their way to having impressive careers of their own.