San Antonio Spurs Draft Prospects: Power Forwards
Scottie Barnes: Draft
I won't spend too much time talking about Scottie Barnes since it's looking increasingly likely that he'll be selected in the top five or six of this year's draft, but drafting him should be a no-brainer for the Spurs if they have the opportunity.
Barnes could very well be the best defender in his class, or at least competing to be the best alongside Evan Mobley and the next player on this list. His awareness, positioning, instincts, and athleticism on the defensive end of the floor are elite, and his floor as a defender is quite high.
His overall swing factor is his shooting; if he can begin to hit his jumpers consistently, he could turn into an All-Star rather quickly. Even if he doesn't though, he should at least be able to grab some rebounds, make plays for others, and get the occasional transition bucket. I have no doubt he'll at least become a good NBA player, if not a great one.
Usman Garuba: Draft
Until the draft actually happens, I will continue to press my opinion that Usman Garuba is criminally underrated as a prospect. Like with Scottie Barnes, I think Garuba is in the running to be one of the best defenders in his draft class and that he would be game-changing for the Spurs. It's downright baffling to me that he's being mocked as low as the late 20s.
For a big man hovering around 230 pounds, his motor is unmatched in his draft class and he's fantastic at running the floor. I thought that this part of his game was very much on display in yesterday's USA vs Spain exhibition game when he was given the responsibility of keeping up with both Kevin Durant and Keldon Johnson.
Garuba can defend several positions on the perimeter, poke the ball away in iso situations, get some incredible blocks off closeouts, meet bigs at the rim for some monster blocks, and invade passing lanes to get the basketball equivalent of a 'pick-six.' He can seriously do it all on that end of the floor, to the point that I think Paul Millsap is a reasonable player comparison for him.
On offense, he's already great at cutting off the ball and got some easy points that way in his game against the US Men's National Team. While his shooting and/or ball-handling will need to improve if he wants to make his presence truly felt on that end of the floor, I'm a believer that he can develop that with time. In my mind, he's very worthy of the Spurs' 12th pick.
JT Thor: Draft
JT Thor has been rising up draft boards lately because of an impressive performance at last month's NBA Draft Combine. He went a bit less noticed during his time with Auburn likely because he was playing right next to Sharife Cooper, who seems to be a lock for the first round of this year's draft, if not the lottery.
Admittedly, I wasn't able to watch as much of Thor as I wanted to this past season, but I put together a brief scouting report based on what I have been able to see of him. The young power forward measured in at approximately 6'10" with a 7'3" wingspan and is impressively mobility for his size. While he's still incredibly raw in terms of skill, he's also one of the youngest players in the draft and will have plenty of time to grow with the team.
His defense appears to be what stands out most to scouts, although he also has upside as a shooter that is going a bit underappreciated for a player of his size. I think he could potentially slide in the draft the same way that Pascal Siakam did back in 2016, but it could be to the Spurs' benefit. If the Spurs manage to get their hands on another first-round pick, I'll be looking for them to reach a bit for Thor.
Jalen Johnson: Pass
While one of our draft contributors, Damien, is confident that Jalen Johnson is worth the risk for the Spurs, I am not nearly as confident in that assessment. If you know anything about Johnson, it may be from the news of him deciding to sit out the remaining three weeks of Duke's regular season. While this drew some controversy, this is not where my issues lie with him.
Johnson is a 6'9", 220-pound point forward, which may initially sound good, but I warn may be a bit of an overly optimistic description of him. While I'm pleased with most of his defense, particularly when he's around the basket, watching him in the games he did play in was a bit frustrating.
He certainly had occasions when he was able to flash his potential, with his game against Coppin State immediately coming to mind, but otherwise, he was wildly inconsistent. In some games, he would show up in a big way, while in others he would more or less disappear on both ends of the floor. While he was able to shoot 44% from three (on very low volume), he only shot about 63% from the free-throw line, which is a bad sign for his long-term shooting development. Additionally for being dubbed as a point forward, it was a bit disconcerting to see that he averaged more turnovers than assists per game.
While I don't think he'd necessarily be a terrible pick, I'm not exactly enthusiastic about his long-term potential either, and I think the Spurs ought to go in a different direction.