There's no doubt in my mind that the San Antonio Spurs have managed to compile a very interesting group of young players in the last several drafts. Even if those picks don't end up becoming bonafide superstars, though, at the very least, most of them came at a great value. With several of the team's long-time veterans now off of the team, that group may begin to look very impressive starting soon.
Dejounte Murray and Derrick White, the Spurs' two longest-tenured players, were both picked 29th overall in the 2016 and 2017 drafts, respectively. Since then, those two players have become integral components of the Spurs and are now both undoubtedly starting-caliber players. Thankfully, Bleacher Report's 2016 re-draft and 2017 re-draft both reflect their improvements by a decent margin.
We have taken issue with content from Bleacher Report in the past and, unfortunately, this is where the compliments for their re-drafts end. When looking a bit closer at some of the decisions that were made, and their reasoning behind those decisions, more and more problems begin to arise.
To be blunt, even looking outside of where the Spurs' players were re-drafted, Bleacher Report successfully botched several draft boards. These are a few of the issues I take with them.
Bleacher Report selects Jakob Poeltl over Dejounte Murray in 2016, Drew Eubanks over Lonnie Walker IV in 2018 Draft
Beginning with Bleacher Report's 2016 re-draft, they have Jakob Poeltl being selected 10th overall to the Milwaukee Bucks and Dejounte Murray being picked one spot later to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Upon first reading this, I was happy to find that Murray lept 18 spots up the draft board as he was surely worthy of being a lottery pick. I was similarly pleased (albeit a bit surprised) to see Poeltl so high on the list and, if I'm being honest, thought that their analysis of him was decent. While it felt as if it was a bit cluttered with stats, they certainly don't undersell his defense.
The glaring issue with this re-draft is just how much they understate Murray's two-way upside. I recently attempted to predict Murray's stat line for this coming season, and I thought it necessary to mention that having a team full of score-first veterans likely shadowed his potential on that end of the floor. In this way, I think Bleacher Report dramatically underrates him here. If it were me, I would not have hesitated to select Murray if I were either the Denver Nuggets or Phoenix Suns, who picked 7th and 8th, respectively.
What was possibly Bleacher Report's most egregious decision in their recent series of re-drafts, though, was to completely snub Lonnie Walker IV out of the first round of their 2018 re-draft.
While this is an obviously abysmal decision for several reasons, I'll begin by listing a few players that the author of these re-drafts, Andy Bailey, says should have been picked ahead of Walker. Those names include: Moritz Wagner, Mo Bamba, Bruce Brown, Jarred Vanderbilt, Jevon Carter, and Hamidou Diallo.
There is also one more name that belongs in that list that Spurs fans should be familiar with-- Drew Eubanks. This happy surprise was the only saving grace of this re-draft.
Even so, choosing to have all of those players selected before Walker is so awful that it's downright reprehensible. Based on Walker's statistics alone, particularly when also comparing them to his age and total playing time, he is well worth a first-round pick. While it's true that he hasn't had a crystal-clear "breakout" year up to this point, having him slip all the way to the second round (or go undrafted) is inexcusable.
It's first worth noting that, out of the top 20 picks in the 2018 draft class, only two players have played fewer minutes than Walker. One of those two players is Zhaire Smith, who has barely played up to this point after having an allergic reaction in his rookie season that nearly killed him.
Walker spent quite a bit of time with the Austin Spurs after being drafted and, even when he finally did make it to San Antonio, found himself competing for minutes with Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli. Somehow, even after all of that, Walker managed to play respectably well this past season after seeing his first semi-consistent role with the team.
Being that he is now one of the longer-tenured Spurs players and will surely have a far more consistent role on the team this coming season, I expect Walker to make this re-draft look incredibly questionable, if not laughably nonsensical. He has the skill and athleticism to become a fearsome two-way guard and will undoubtedly have the opportunity to show off his ability to score next season.
At the end of the day, even seeing that Poeltl, Eubanks, and White all placed highly in their re-drafts (relative to when they were originally selected), that does not change the fact that Bleacher Report clearly did not put much thought or effort into their content outside of copying and pasting stats. Count me as unsurprisingly disappointed once again.