With the news of longtime San Antonio Spurs shooting coach Chip Engelland leaving at the end of his contract, the team's player development department will undoubtedly take a hit. It also comes at the worst possible time, after the Spurs just drafted three teenagers in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft.
Engelland joined the Spurs in 2005 and quickly established himself as one of the league's best shooting coaches. He did so by turning Tony Parker into an above-average mid-range shooter, which helped him realize his full potential.
Engelland’s success working with Parker likely resulted in the Spurs taking chances on other players with questionable jumpers. However, they soon won't have his expertise to rely on, and the Spurs may have to reconsider how they draft. Let's see how Engelland's upcoming departure may change the team's draft approach.
When the Spurs acquired the draft rights to Kawhi Leonard in 2011, it was unclear if his jump shot would ever come around. It did, and Engelland was again responsible for helping a Spurs prospect reach their full potential. Leonard was named Finals MVP after the team won the championship in 2014, and Engelland's work didn't go unnoticed.
The Golden State Warriors tried to lure him away from the Spurs later that summer, and losing him would've been a disaster. After all, the Spurs' ability to identify talent has been key to the team's success, and Engelland's ability to teach players to shoot ensures they maximize their potential.
The loss of the 'Shot Doctor' could cause a change in strategy
Unfortunately, without Engelland, the Spurs may soon have to decide whether to pass on prospects they like because they're not confident that they'll learn to shoot. Then again, the Spurs probably knew that Engelland was leaving in advance and they still drafted Jeremy Sochan and Blake Wesley. Neither shot the ball well in college last season, so it either shows that the Spurs believe in their upsides or it suggests that they won't change course post-Engelland.
If it's the latter, then that could be a mistake. Teaching players how to properly shoot isn't easy, but Engelland has made it look that way. Therefore, without him, the Spurs may want to go with a young player that's more of a sure shot than one who isn't.
To their credit, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Joshua Primo, and Malaki Branham were all good shooters in college. So the team has clearly put more emphasis on drafting shooters in recent years, and they should continue to do so.
Obviously, taking the best player available takes precedence, but if it's a tie between a player that can already shoot and one who can't, then the Spurs should take the former. After all, no Engelland means the likelihood of a non-shooter developing into an average one is probably pretty low.
All in all, Engelland's pending departure could drastically alter the team's ability to develop young talent. With him, there was an expectation that the Spurs could fix players' broken jump shots, but those expectations should be lowered once he leaves.
That should result in a change in the Spurs' draft approach, with the team continuing to prioritize shooters now that Engelland is departing.