20th Overall- Original Pick: Malaki Branham; New Pick: Walker Kessler (C, Jazz) and 25th Overall- Original Pick: Blake Wesley; New Pick: lots of options
As I mentioned earlier, neither Branham nor Wesley have played nearly enough minutes for them to be fairly judged as players. In fact, when given the opportunity, each has shown promise— Malaki has averaged 8 points, 2 assists, and 2 rebounds on 20 minutes per game in the month of January, while Blake had 5-1-1 in limited minutes in his second game back from injury on Sunday night.
I figure that at least one of these guys ends up being a staple in the Spurs' rotation when they return to competitiveness. Hopefully post-trade deadline, they will be given plenty of time to grow. I combined their sections here because the conversation surrounding the two is almost identical.
My drafting of Walker Kessler at 20 says more about who he is—10-10 with 3 blocks in his last five—than it does prove anything about the young Spurs guards. Kessler, one of the many assets shipped from Minnesota to Utah for the services of Rudy Gobert, would be the Defensive Rookie of the Year if such an award existed in the NBA, and thus probably isn’t even here in a re-draft.
The Jazz essentially got a much cheaper, much younger version of The Stifle Tower as a throw-in to the massive trade. I know I just talked about being happy with San Antonio taking Sochan over Jalen Duren, but snagging the likely All-Rookie First Team center outside of the lottery would be huge.
The 25th pick could go in any number of directions; hence there being “options.” I think either Branham or Wesley would still be a good pick here, assuming Malaki doesn’t go in the 4 picks between where he was originally selected and 25. I do really like the Spurs thinking backcourt here.
I was confused when the team went guard-guard during the draft, but after the Josh Primo news broke, it became very clear why they wanted to bolster their young depth at guard. The other name that I’d really be considering here is Jaden Hardy. He's under the microscope more because of the Mavs’ success and has delivered in the role given to him.
Other guys in the conversation for either pick include Christian Braun, David Roddy, Nikola Jovic, and Andrew Nembhard. I didn’t mention the guards as options alongside Hardy above because each is quite a bit older, and it was clear that the Spurs were targeting age. All four of these players have flashed NBA skills, but again, no regrets.
To wrap up my thoughts here, I thought that the Spurs came out of the draft as winners back in June (as did most of the media), which holds true today. I made a different selection based on who was available, but there was no truly obvious missed pick. Again, it is mostly too early for that conversation, and I reserve the right to change my opinions.
Nonetheless, I strongly feel that this year’s draft—along with those in 2019 (Keldon Johnson) and 2020 (Devin Vassell, Tre Jones)- will be seen as a catalyst toward the Spurs' success in a couple of years.