San Antonio Spurs Draft

Spurs 2023 NBA Draft: top college returners to watch

Marcus Sasser - Houston v Oregon
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Spurs early-season top five returners: bigs

5. Trevon Brazile - Arkansas

Trevon Brazile is the first of two small-ball bigs to make this list, but his tools are fascinating for his size. He's a springy athlete that runs well in the open court that may be one of the best rim protectors for his size, posting a 9.9 BLK% in his rookie year at Missouri (per Sports Reference). This athleticism also helps him to be an aggressive rebounder and strong finisher above the rim.

Beyond this, what makes Brazile interesting as a potential 1st round prospect is his shooting upside. He hit roughly 33% of his threes on 1.3 attempts per game with seemingly smooth mechanics. Despite being a bit undersized, if his shooting improves and he maintains his impressive production on the boards, he could be an interesting fringe 1st round candidate.

4. Johni Broome - Auburn

While Johni Broome looks to be coming into the regular season recovering from an ankle injury, he's still someone we'll be keeping an eye on next to Yohan Traore in Auburn's frontcourt. The Moorehead State transfer proved himself to be one of the best shot blockers in college basketball last season, posting nearly 4 per game. He's just as high-level of a rebounder, can pass the ball a bit, and is a good rim runner in transition.

While his outlier skills above are what put him on this watch list, his half-court offense is still quite limited outside of his reliable jump hook around the bucket. For now, he'll likely be limited to scoring out of the dunker's spot and occasionally as the roll man in the pick-and-roll. If he can hit a few midrange shots, then I'll be more comfortable moving him further up the board.

3. Efe Abogidi - G-League Ignite

Efe Abogidi is technically the only non-returner on this list given that he now plays for the G-League Ignite rather than in the NCAA, but his first two seasons with Washington State count enough to me in this case. I had the opportunity to watch him in person this past October in Nevada, and both then and now, he's looked like a quality NBA big. At 6'10" and roughly 225 pounds, Abogidi is an incredibly fluid athlete that can handle the ball a tad, is one of the better vertical floor spacers on this list, and has greatly improved the touch on his jump shot.

Up to this point, Abogidi is only about a 25% three-point shooter for his career, but he didn't get many opportunities to let it fly at Washington State and saw his usage cut back a bit in his sophomore season. He appears to have a bit more freedom in that regard with the G-League Ignite, however, and if he can knock down midrange and three-point shots with more consistency, he could certainly be a 1st rounder.

2. Julian Reese - Maryland

Julian Reese is by far one of the biggest sleepers on this entire list regardless of position, and his appeal for me comes down primarily to the public intel I've read on him along with the increased role he'll fill. Maryland underwent a coaching change this past year, now having Kevin Willard and Grant Billmeier at the helm, both of whom have a good track record with bigs (with the Milwaukee Bucks' Sandro Mamukelashvili being the most recent example), and Reese has a chance to be their next developmental success story.

The 6'9", 230-pound small-ball big is now about 25 pounds heavier than when he first entered the program as a freshman, will likely be the team's starting center, and has all of the athletic tools to be an effective two-way player. He plays a bit more like a forward than a true big, but has good size, handles the ball well for his size, has a decent shooting stroke from three, and shot 80% from the free-throw line last season. He's one of the more volatile players on this list, but if he's improved as much as the Maryland coaching staff thinks he has, he could skyrocket up draft boards.

1. DaRon Holmes II

DaRon Holmes is very easily the most versatile two-way big man on this list and someone that I think teams in the late lottery to the late teens will love come draft day. He's a great rim protector that can play drop coverage and slide out to defend on the perimeter a bit, has the timing to alter jump shots, and has the fluidity necessary to turn defensive plays into transition points.

On offense, he's an incredibly smart roll man, is hyper-efficient around the rim, handles the ball well for a traditional big man, can make some high-level passes, and has shown a few glimpses of a developing jumper. I highly recommend watching some or all of his interview and film breakdown with Sam Vecenie for a bit of a preview into Holmes' demeanor and how he thinks the game.