Grading the Athletic’s Spurs picks in latest 2024 NBA mock draft

The Athletic's Sam Vecenie had two first-round selections for the San Antonio Spurs in his latest 2024 NBA mock draft. Here's how we'd grade his picks.
Nikola Topic (center) - Fenerbahce Beko v Kizilyildiz - Turkish Airlines Euroleague
Nikola Topic (center) - Fenerbahce Beko v Kizilyildiz - Turkish Airlines Euroleague / Anadolu/GettyImages
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With the NBA All-Star break in the rearview mirror, the 2024 NBA Draft cycle is now in full swing, meaning big boards, mock drafts and scouting reports are taking center stage. The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie, who is as connected in the NBA as anyone, recently released his post-All-Star break mock draft, where the San Antonio Spurs made two lottery selections at #3 and #7 overall. Vecenie’s analysis and intel are both thorough and trustworthy, meaning his insights should be taken seriously by Spurs fans.

Here, the objective will be to grade each selection individually and take a moment to analyze the Spurs’ overall draft haul in a more holistic sense. So, without further delay, here’s how we’d grade Vecenie’s picks for the Spurs.

Spurs select Nikola Topic 3rd overall

In a vacuum, Red Star Belgrade guard Nikola Topic is quite a good player and is deserving of the top-ten nods he’s been getting from draft analysts over the past couple of months. He didn’t appear on many draft boards at all in the very early stages of this year’s draft cycle, but after putting up 18.4 points, 7.1 assists, and 3.6 rebounds per game in his 12-game stretch with Mega Basket to end 2023, he quickly shot to the very top of big boards and mock drafts.

As Vecenie says in his analysis, he brings an outstanding feel for the game, finds his way into the paint with ease in the Adriatic League, and is a savant as a playmaker in ball screens.

Even so, however, only going off of the current sample size, the Spurs selecting him at 3rd overall over names like Cody Williams, Ron Holland, and even Stephon Castle (all selected in the three picks immediately after San Antonio in Vecenie’s mock draft) would be difficult to stomach. While it’s abundantly clear that the Spurs are still in need of a long-term solution at point guard and Topic has the requisite upside to fill that role, it’s his potential downside that gives me significant pause over this selection.

Topic’s shooting touch (~26% from three) and defense—both on and off the ball—are questionable at best, which is a typically worrisome combination of deficiencies to have as a lead guard in the NBA even with good positional size. While that may be easier to look past for a team with good shooting/scoring infrastructure, the Spurs are currently the worst three-point shooting team in the league and are in the bottom 12 from inside the arc.

Playing all of Topic, Sochan, and Wembanyama together in a way that leads to winning basketball while also prioritizing development would be an incredibly tough ask for the Spurs coaching staff.

In that way, this selection would be a far more massive gamble by the Spurs than many may assume. While I think that type of upside gamble is warranted at this stage of the team’s rebuild (particularly if the Spurs have two lottery picks in this coming draft), there could be several more intelligent gambles that can be made with such a high pick come draft day. If you’re a believer in Topic’s top-end outcome in the league, this is a solid pick. Otherwise, this has the potential to be a big miss.

Grade: B-