San Antonio Spurs: 2021 NBA Draft Big Board 1.0
San Antonio Spurs NBA Draft Big Board: Players 8 - 5
8. Kai Jones - PF/Center, Texas
Kai Jones probably has the highest "boom-or-bust" potential out of every player on this big board. While he played most of his minutes coming off the bench for Texas, what he was able to do on the court was intriguing enough for teams to take a serious look at him in the lottery. Standing at 6-11, Jones is a superb athlete, has above-average shooting numbers for his size despite being on low volume, and has upside as a rim protector and switchable defender on the other end of the floor.
While there are several promising signs that Jones could be very good in the future, he's very raw. He only began playing organized basketball at 15 years old, and while he's come a long way in that short time, his IQ, decision-making, and court awareness show that inexperience.
While I have a lot of trust in the Spurs' development of young players, Jones would be the biggest project of every player in the top ten of this big board. If he develops well, though, the payoff could be massive.
7. Usman Garuba - Power Forward, Real Madrid
In my recent piece going in-depth on Usman Garuba, I talked about just how impactful he could potentially become in the league. I am quite a bit higher on him than the consensus and it's because I am becoming a believer in him developing a solid offensive game. He is already one of the best rim-runners in his draft class and is debatably just as impactful of a defender as the number six player on this big board. He will immediately fill a position of need and will make the Spurs roster even more athletic than it already is.
Even though Garuba's rebounding and defense should translate well to the NBA, his ceiling entirely hinges on his ability to develop his offense. While he projects as a decent facilitator, his handles are still in the early stages of development and his shooting splits speak for themselves. Like I've said, though, I'm a believer based on his shooting mechanics and recent free-throw shooting numbers and think he would be a fantastic lottery pick.
6. Scottie Barnes - Power Forward, Florida State
Scottie Barnes was incredibly fun to watch all season long at Florida State. His defensive IQ and court awareness are nearly superhuman and he's drawn many comparisons to Draymond Green for good reason. It's quite rare to find someone that has the size and ability to defend the 1-4 and is also as comfortable with the ball in his hands on the other end of the floor as Barnes is.
For a long stretch of the season, I was concerned about his offense, but much like with Garuba, his free-throw shooting toward the end of the year is a promising indicator for his development of a jump shot.
That said, his shooting mechanics are still awkward and inconsistent off the catch-and-shoot and only seem to get worse when he puts the ball on the floor. In this way, Chip Engelland will have his work cut out for him once again. Barnes is also only an okay rebounder at his position for the time being, which may be the biggest concern of mine at this point.
5. Alperen Sengun - Center, Besiktas J.K.
Alperen Şengün's meteoric rise this season has really been incredible to witness. The 18-year-old playing in the Turkish Super League has had a dominant season, to say the least, recently winning league MVP. He averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.7 blocks per game during his time with Besiktas and led them to a first-place finish in the league this past season. He went from barely being on my radar in early 2021 to easily reaching my top five based on his unmatched skillset.
Many concerns revolving around Şengün have to do with his lack of athleticism, and I'm here to tell you: those concerns are overblown. Don't get me wrong, he's far from being one of the most athletic in his class, but he has sneaky strength and athleticism that still has room to develop. Also, despite his poor 3-point shooting numbers, his smooth stroke and great free-throw shooting are indicators that his shot could develop quite nicely for him as well.