NBA Draft Big Board: How Spurs Can Balance Talent and Fit

Chet Holmgren, Jalen Duren, NBA Draft
Chet Holmgren, Jalen Duren, NBA Draft / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages
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San Antonio Spurs
Jabari Smith / Eakin Howard/GettyImages

Tier One: Elite Prospects Who Address the Spurs’ Needs

We've finally arrived to the main event. It's long been decided that these three players are the top three prospects in the draft (although Jaden Ivey might give them a run for their money). Genuinely, any of these three prospects could be a complete and utter grand slam for the San Antonio Spurs in the 2022 NBA Draft.

3. Jabari Smith, Auburn

  • DRAFT AGE: 19
  • HEIGHT: 6’10”
  • WEIGHT: 220 lbs
  • POSITION: Big Forward

Lauded by many as the top pick in the 2022 NBA Draft class, Jabari Smith is an explosive athlete with a killer jumper who doesn’t need the ball in his hands for long to be effective. With great size and mobility at the four-spot, he projects to be a tough cover at the next level whose physical tools give him tremendous defensive upside.

Smith’s jumper is like a stick of butter at room temperature: Soft, smooth and versatile. You can implement it in a variety of styles and still find success—whether it’s the main ingredient or a part of the whole. He shot 42% from 3-point land with a blend of spot-ups, pull-ups, and catch-and-shoot jumpers. When he finds the right opportunity, Smith can use the threat of his shot to draw gravity to the perimeter and attack gaps for mid-range shots or layups.

Where Smith slides from one to three on the board is his upside and consistency as an all-around player. Like so many freshmen, he’s prone to tunnel vision and poor shot selection. It’s certainly something he can get past like many great players before him, but in the Spurs’ system, shot quality and passing are too important to be overlooked.

Someone has to be the last of these three elite prospects, and while Smith is a tremendous player, he lacks some of the intangible qualities the other two bring to the table. His handles need tightening and his court vision is far from where it needs to be for him to eventually reach his star potential. All things considered, the San Antonio Spurs would be overjoyed to welcome Smith to their ball club.

San Antonio Spurs
Paolo Banchero / Lance King/GettyImages

2. Paolo Banchero, Duke

  • DRAFT AGE: 19
  • HEIGHT: 6’10”
  • WEIGHT: 250 lbs
  • POSITION: Big Forward

At every level of the game, Paolo Banchero has proven his ability to go out and get a bucket. Using guard skills attained before the growth spurt that made him a bulky yet shifty bruiser in college, Banchero has three-level scoring talent and shot creation to match.

First and foremost, he’s a terror near the basket. Between dynamic athleticism, smooth finishing ability, and soft touch, Banchero can score at the rim nearly any way he wants to. He’s not afraid to absorb contact, forcing defenders to pick their poison and give up fouls while defending him. With that baseline of scoring talent, he leverages a clean pull-up jumper, impressive handle and wicked triple-threat package to catch defenders off-balance. 

He’s unafraid to launch jumpers but needs work to hit 3-pointers on a more consistent basis. The on-ball defense can be shaky at times, but his blend of size and skill—plus the cherry on top being his pre-existing relationship with Dejounte Murray—make him a surefire match for the Spurs.

San Antonio Spurs
Chet Holmgren, Jalen Duren / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

1. Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga

  • DRAFT AGE: 20
  • HEIGHT: 7’0”
  • WEIGHT: 195 lbs
  • POSITION: Center/Stretch Four

Between style, physique, and skill-sets, NBA Draft prospects often draw comparisons to players from previous classes. There’s no such player for Chet Holmgren—a polarizing yet undeniably talented young star from the likes we’ve never seen before. A tormenting shot-blocker who plays at his own pace, Holmgren is one of the best rim protectors to come from the draft in some time.

Oftentimes, Holmgren feels like a guard stuck in a slender, 7-foot body. He’s a talented passer who served as an offensive hub from the high post in Gonzaga’s offense. Holmgren drained 41 3-pointers at a 39% clip in college—though his consistency and shot selection will need fine-tuning at the next level.

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There are basically no holes in his game, and if the San Antonio Spurs jumped into the top of the NBA Draft Lottery, he’d make a stellar fit next to Jakob Poeltl. With that said, he’ll need time to adapt to the physicality of the pros. This has generally been the only knock against him from most draft evaluators.