The 2021 Draft Class is stacked for the San Antonio Spurs to choose from
With the San Antonio Spurs youth movement in full effect, draft night for Spurs fans has become the most exciting that it’s been in the past couple of decades.
After drafting Devin Vassell and Tre Jones in a supposedly weak draft class, many NBA analysts gave the Spurs high grades on draft night as usual. That said, looking forward to next offseason, the 2021 NBA Draft is an entirely different animal.
This upcoming draft class is already receiving comparisons to the ridiculously loaded 2003 draft class that included the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh, to name a few. Just as it can be difficult to decipher a weak draft class, it can be just as if not more difficult to decide who any given team should decide to pick out of a particularly strong draft class as well.
Since the Spurs have yet to even hit the halfway mark this season, there are still many questions that are up in the air, especially when it comes to how the Spurs will approach the upcoming draft. It’s reasonable to suggest that the front office will simply look for the best player available but team fit will more than likely be taken into consideration more so in this draft now that the Spurs young core is beginning to take shape.
Looking at who the Spurs have drafted in recent years though, it’s safe to assume that the front office is looking for players with two-way potential and athletic ability. Their recent selections of Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell show that the team is putting a greater focus on these kinds of players.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the Spurs’ biggest area of need is in the frontcourt. LaMarcus Aldridge is 35 years old, and while he has still proven himself to be a valuable member of the Spurs starting unit on offense, he has recently had some serious defensive struggles and more than likely will not be around for much longer.
This list of prospects leans frontcourt heavy but is will be updated as we go through the season. Here is our first look at some dark-horse 2021 NBA Draft prospects the San Antonio Spurs should be watching.
Next: Versatile forwards
2021 Draft class loaded with forwards for San Antonio Spurs to choose from
Prcakin is a SF/PF combo forward from Croatia currently playing in the Adriatic (ABA) League. Standing at 6’9″ with a 7′ wingspan, he nearly made it to the non-dark-horse list and, as time goes on, still could.
He has fantastic handles for his size and has solid fundamentals on both sides of the ball. That said, his lack of athleticism holds him back. He’s not very fast or explosive, and does not quite have an NBA body yet compared to most of the others on this list. He plays well off the ball on offense which makes up a bit for his lack of athleticism, but he’s also not the best shooter.
Ultimately, while he could potentially be a good player in the NBA if his development goes well, he doesn’t fit the Spurs current needs, and the Spurs arguably already have a relatively similar player in Luka Samanic.
Robinson-Earl is a key component of a top-ranked Villanova Wildcats team and is a bit of a Swiss Army knife on both sides of the ball. He’s an incredibly versatile defender with a high IQ and a solid motor.
His most obvious player comparison is probably his recently drafted teammate Saddiq Bey, and while definitely not as good of an outside shooter, I think Robinson-Earl is an even better defender coming out of college.
That said, he’ll have to develop his outside shot to see success in the league, and his underwhelming 6’9″ wingspan will definitely be a limiting factor in terms of his ceiling, along with the fact that he is not the most athletic or explosive player on the floor.
Alperen Sengün is a prospect from Turkey playing on Besiktas in the Turkish Super League: one of the top international leagues in all of basketball outside of the EuroLeague. The 6’9″ combo forward/center, at only 18 years old, is averaging 20.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.6 blocks per game in 16 games.
For someone that is so young, to put up such numbers in the Turkish Super League is very impressive and should not go understated. He is definitely one of the least athletic players on this list and may have trouble when facing bigger, stronger players in the NBA, especially in space. Still, his craftiness and finishing ability alone though make him well-deserving of a mention here.
Next: More traditional big men
Nov 29, 2019; Nashville, TN, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers center Charles Bassey (23) during the first half blocks the shot. Of Louisville Cardinals forward Dwayne Sutton (24) at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs can easily find their big man of the future in this draft
Jackson is an absolute monster on the defensive end of the floor and seems to be a natural shot-blocker. In an early-season game against a talented Kansas team, he posted a stat line of 7 points, 12 rebounds, and a ridiculous 8 blocks. He then had another great defensive game against Alabama, posting 14 points, 6 rebounds and 7 blocks.
There have been some questions about his basketball IQ on that side of the ball, but regardless, he’s averaging 7 rebounds and 3 blocks per game, so he’s doing something right. What is going to be a deal breaker for Jackson, at least in my mind, is the lack of a developed offensive game.
He generally doesn’t shoot threes at all and, frankly, doesn’t have any offensive skills that stick out in a meaningful way at this point other than a few nasty poster dunks. I like Jackson, but in the first round, there are several better options that would need to be off the board before considering him.
Of all of the more or less “traditional” centers rumored to be declaring to next year’s draft, Kofi Cockburn is the most interesting of all of them to me, and it isn’t relatively close.
Standing at 7’0″ and weighing in at 285 pounds, the 2019-2020 Big Ten All-Freshman Team member and Big Ten Freshman of the Year is undoubtedly one of next draft’s biggest prospects, if in a physical sense if nothing else.
What separates Cockburn from other traditional centers though is his sheer mobility and athleticism. He can run the court very well for his size, and is therefore pretty terrifying in transition. He could be a force for whichever team drafts him but is still going to need time to develop in the pro’s.
Since the beginning of the college basketball season, Western Kentucky’s Charles Bassey has been one of my favorite players to watch. Currently averaging 17.8 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game, Bassey is without a doubt the Hilltoppers’ anchor on both sides of the floor.
The 20-year-old Junior, standing at 6’11” and weighing in at 235 pounds, has shown to be a bully in the low block. Combined with his sheer athleticism and impressive motor, he is nearly unstoppable around the basket. He would fit in seamlessly with the Spurs athletic young core of Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker, Keldon Johnson, and Derrick White.
Bassey is impressively fluid for his size when running the court and is a serious threat in transition, which would allow for the Spurs to continue with playing at a faster pace.
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At this point, Bassey’s biggest weaknesses are his outside shooting and playmaking ability. He has shot 29 percent from behind the arc and is averaging just under one assist per game. While it would be nice for the Spurs to find a big man in the draft that has a better sense of sharing the ball, Bassey’s half-decent shot mechanics would give the Spurs coaching staff something else to work with.
What seems to have scouts most worried about Bassey though is his health. In December of 2019, he suffered a tibial plateau fracture in his left leg, with the resulting surgery ending his season and draft chances in 2020. He was also sidelined as recently as last month dealing with nagging back spasms. Again though, with how he has managed to play this season, his strengths outweigh his drawbacks enough for me to warrant him as a solid pick in the 20-30 range.
Even considering the severity of his injury from 2019, it is baffling to me to see many current mock drafts having him go as late the middle of the second round of the 2021 draft. This could only increase the chances for the Spurs to grab someone with more versatility and upside in the first round and wait to pick Bassey in the second round, so I won’t complain too much.
It’s still far too early to have a clear cut favorite of who the San Antonio Spurs should draft but keeping an eye on these six prospects wouldn’t be a bad idea. Any one of them could end up being selected by the Spurs in the 2021 NBA Draft.