San Antonio Spurs: Top 5 2021 first-round draft targets

Charles Bassey (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
Charles Bassey (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Usman Garuba (Photo by Borja B. Hojas/Getty Images)
Usman Garuba (Photo by Borja B. Hojas/Getty Images) /

San Antonio Spurs Draft Prospect 5: Usman Garuba (Real Madrid)

Usman Garuba was featured on my way-too-early list of San Antonio Spurs draft prospects from this past January, and not too much has changed in my mind about him. Garuba is a 6’8, 230-pound combo forward/center who has played with Real Madrid since age 11.

After finishing in first place at the 2018-19 U18 Adidas Next Generation Tournament and playing two seasons with Real Madrid’s first team (both in the ACB and Euroleague), Garuba has proven himself worthy of being a first-round pick in the upcoming draft.

The regular season has made it abundantly clear that, despite the efforts of the Spurs’ best defenders in Jakob Poeltl, Dejounte Murray, and even Derrick White, the Spurs will need to add some defensive firepower to the roster.

While the addition of Gorgui Dieng was certainly a good start toward that goal, adding Garuba would be another step in the right direction. He is one of the more switchable players on the defensive end in this draft, having the length to contest shooters on the perimeter and block shots near the basket, particularly in the pick and roll. His athleticism and mobility for his size should complement the likes of Lonnie Walker and Murray very well on both sides of the floor.

The fifth spot on this list nearly went to one of either Scottie Barnes or Isaiah Jackson, but their offensive production is a big concern of mine, particularly with Barnes. Unfortunately, the same can be said about Garuba.

I was hopeful that he would show some sort of improvement in his scoring in his second full season with Real Madrid’s first team, but in fact, his production has only dropped lower than it already was. While he has some decent post moves and is more than capable of finishing at and above the rim, his shooting numbers are less than promising.

He has shot at about 29 percent from beyond the arc through 65 games and only shoots at about 55 percent from the free-throw line. That said, Garuba is playing only about 16 minutes per game and playing against much tougher competition in the ACB and Euroleague, where it is typically more difficult to score.

If the Spurs were to end up with a mid-to-late first-round pick and none of the other players on this list are available, Garuba would make a fantastic energetic and defensive addition at the very least, but the front office would be asking a lot from Chip Engelland in the developmental department.

That said, if his offense develops well, he could have the versatility to play the four or five on offense while helping the Spurs’ perimeter defense and rebounding needs on the defensive end.

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