We're now nearly a full month into the college basketball season and over a quarter of the way through the NBA season, meaning NBA Draft coverage is in full swing. After the San Antonio Spurs' Friday-night loss to the New Orleans Pelicans at home and a Houston Rockets win, the Spurs are now tied for last place in the Western Conference.
Despite a few positive developments from the Spurs' latest matchup, the team's now 10-game losing streak has been a tough one to watch for many hopeful fans. But on the positive side, It's becoming more and more clear that the Spurs will be in a position to earn a top pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. And even if the team doesn't end up with the 1st overall pick, we think this draft is far deeper than one, two, or even three top players.
But with that in mind, ESPN's Jonathan Givony has the Spurs striking gold in his first mock draft of the season. These are the players he picked for the Spurs and what fans can expect from each of them.
No. 2 overall pick: San Antonio Spurs select Scoot Henderson, G-League Ignite
Scoot Henderson is simply the best point guard of the 2023 NBA Draft class, and I can comfortably say that this version of him would have been the best point guard prospect of the past two draft classes as well (at the very least), both of which I covered here on Air Alamo. I had the opportunity to watch him live in Las Vegas as he took on Victor Wembanyama and Metropolitans 92, and he was just as good as advertised if not much, much better.
So what maked Henderson so appealing? At roughly 6'3" and 195 pounds, he has the requisite length and size modern NBA point guards typically need. He has a stalkier-than-advertised appearance and can easily bump off contact in drives, but also has Ja Morant-like hops that allow him to finish above the rim. He has good burst, adequate lateral quickness for defense, and shiftiness that makes him hard to stop with the ball in his hands. He's good if not far above average in just about every aspect of athleticism that can be thought of.
On the skill side, though, he's just as tantalizing. He has advanced ballhandling skills that alow him to weave through set defenses, he's a more gifted passer than many give him credit for at this point, he has a deadly midrange pull-up game, and he appears to have improved his jump shot. Henderson has palpable superstar upside, and the Spurs walking away with him next summer would automatically make the draft a massive win for the franchise.
No. 32 overall pick: San Antonio Spurs select Ousmane Ndiaye, Baskonia
The Spurs only have one guaranteed 1st-round pick at this point in the draft cycle, so for this mock draft, the team doesn't have another pick until early in the 2nd round. While all signs are pointing toward Scoot Hederson being a fully capable jump shooter at the next level, with him and Jeremy Sochan in the same lineup, the Spurs will likely want to add more shooting--particularly in the forntcourt if they can find it. This would likely be the Spurs' primary motivation for selecting Baskonia's Ousmane Ndiaye.
Portland Trailblazers Assistant General Manager Mike Schmitz explains it very well in his tweet above, but at his size, Ndiaye is a good ballhandler, has a sweet shooting stroke, grabs a lot of rebounds, and has shown a few interesting flashes of playmaking. If he begins shooting the ball a bit better later on in Baskonia's season, expect him to go a bit higher than this. But in the early second round, don't be surprised if the Spurs look for a high-upside big man like Ndiaye or DaRon Holmes II.
No. 39 overall pick: San Antonio Spurs select Julian Strawther, Gonzaga
At this point in the draft, the Spurs have come away with two extremely high-upside picks, one being a bit on the safer side (Henderson) and the other being a swing for the fences (Ndiaye), so at this point it may make more sense to find a player that's easy to plug-and-play in a variety of lineups. In this case, the answer for that is Gonzaga's Julian Strawther.
Strawther has good size for a wing at around 6'7" to 6'8" and 205 pounds, has turned into a very consistent distance shooter (hitting 46% of his threes so far this season) and is a capable perimeter defender. He rebounds the ball incredibly well, gathering 8.4 per game (!!) this season, has shown a few flashes of shooting off the dribble, and is a good cutter away from the ball. He simply brings a multitude of desirable pro traits and would be a good deal in the second round.