As we approach the halfway point of what has been a season of ups and downs for the San Antonio Spurs, college basketball is now in full swing. Believe it or not, March Madness is only about two and a half months away and many of the NCAA's best prospects are beginning to make names for themselves.
Being that the NBA season is still far from coming to a close, it's still quite early to say with absolute certainty just how good or bad the Spurs truly are. Despite still coming in under .500, the Spurs have managed to compile some very good wins against good competition, including a few streak-ending wins against the Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz, and Portland Trailblazers.
With that in mind, though, the Spurs are still out of the playoff picture for the time being, and even if they do manage to sneak their way in, they'll surely have to face some championship-contending competition. A lottery pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, if not a top-five pick, is still very much on the table. It's only natural at this point to begin speculating as to who the Spurs will target next July.
If the Spurs end up near the top of the draft board, it's difficult to imagine that the team will prioritize fit over talent. The reality may be that only a few of the current Spurs players will be truly "safe" come draft night. Seeing how he's played through the first half of the season, one of those players is undoubtedly Dejounte Murray. He has emerged as one of the best two-way guards in the league in his first year being the team's number one option and will have a serious case to be selected as an All-Star.
While we've seen doses of this in Drew Eubanks and even Devin Vassell, Murray would dramatically benefit from having a consistent lob threat on the floor (and vice versa). Thankfully, such a threat can be found in next year's draft, and here, I'll briefly discuss my top five lob threats to pair with Murray.
Before beginning, it's worth specifically mentioning that this list excludes the players who (for now) make up the consensus top three picks of next year's draft: Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, and Jabari Smith. For the record, though, if I were forced to pick between the three, I think Banchero will by far be the biggest lob threat upon entry into the NBA.
Let's get the countdown started.
After having a relatively mundane freshman season last year, Duke's Mark Williams has come out looking far more polished in 2021 and certainly deserves some recognition here. His game is by no means flashy. Williams serves as a rim-protecting, big-bodied seven-footer that plays a very defined role but has done so quite well.
The number-two ranked Blue Devils have looked much closer to their old selves this season, and while Paolo Banchero, Wendell Moore Jr., and Trevor Keels are the primary reasons for that success, the impact of Williams should not go understated. In just a fraction over 20 minutes per game, he's averaged 9.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.1 blocks, and 1.0 assists per game.
If anything has become abundantly clear about the Spurs over the past couple of months, it's that they're desperately in need of some frontcourt depth. Being that Thaddeus Young will more than likely be on his way out sooner or later, a lot has been asked of Drew Eubanks, and he has struggled mightily as a result. Compounding that with the fact that Zach Collins is still recovering from injury and Jock Landale has barely seen the floor, the Spurs will surely be looking to bolster the paint soon.
Williams won't space the floor, most definitely won't add and self-creation in the offense, and won't dish out many great passes like Jakob Poeltl. But he can stick in the dunker's spot to catch some lobs, grab more rebounds, and help to protect the rim when Poeltl is on the bench. For the right value, he could be a welcome addition to the Spurs.