I've been addressing a lot of revisionist history from San Antonio Spurs fans this week, such as the tendency many have to blame Gregg Popovich for the Game 6 loss in the 2013 NBA Finals. Today, I want to go a little more current and address the 2019 NBA Draft.
Specifically, I'd like to talk about the 1st round draft pick the Spurs had, which fell at number 19. A year prior, San Antonio had taken Lonnie Walker with the highest pick they'd had since 1997, which fell at 18th. This time around, it's safe to say the front office's gamble on a project failed.
With guys like Matisse Thybulle, Kevin Porter Jr, and Jordan Poole still on the board, the Spurs took a chance on a 6-10 forward from Croatia who had many tools they needed at the time. Luka Samanic could shoot threes, demonstrate defensive mobility, and get buckets. Unfortunately, he didn't really seem to show much interest in playing basketball once he hit the floor.
As a result, Samanic officially became a bust when he was waived by San Antonio last October. He hasn't found an NBA gig since, and there's a reason for that. Naturally, some fans love to come out with the benefit of hindsight and blast the organization every time anyone taken behind Samanic blows up.
The Revisionist takes are simple-minded
Yes, it's frustrating to see such a high pick flop so badly, but it's important to have some perspective here. Every team is going to make mistakes in drafts just as every team besides maybe Sacramento is going to find some gems later in drafts.
Just in that draft alone, Philadelphia selected Ty Jerome 24th, Cleveland took Dylan Windler 26th, and Brooklyn took Mfiondu Kabengele 27th. Meanwhile, Jordan Poole, Keldon Johnson, and Kevin Porter were all still on the board.
We all are seeing what Jordan Poole is doing for Golden State, and it's extremely impressive. Much of that can be attributed to his work ethic and I'm sure much of that is the result of the Warriors' top-notch developmental staff. There are simply no benefits to constantly revisiting past picks because literally every person taken in a draft is a gamble in one way or another.
The Spurs' track record speaks for itself
People are going to say what they want about San Antonio's drafting abilities, which is fine. But the proof is in the results. Since 2016, the Spurs have selected at least one promising prospect in every draft through 2021.
2016: Dejounte Murray, 29th
2017: Derrick White, 29th
2018: Lonnie Walker, 18th
2019: Keldon Johnson, 29th
2020: Devin Vassell, 11th
2021 Joshua Primo, 12th
Yes, there are guys like Jaron Blossomgame, Quinndary Weatherspoon, and Samanic in that group as well, but such is the luck of every NBA Draft. Just look at the value the Spurs have been able to find with the 29th pick in a span of four years.
If tweets like the one above, which received over 400 likes, are trying to imply San Antonio doesn't know how to draft, then I'm not sure what to tell you. That's just not based in reality. If the point is just to generate buzz for conversation, then that makes a little bit more sense.
The fact of the matter is some guys will turn into major steals in every draft class while others, like Samanic, will decide they don't really like playing basketball anymore once they make it to the league.
Nikola Jokic was passed up 40 times. Giannis Antetokounmpo -- 14 times, the same amount Kawhi Leonard was overlooked.
It's easy to play the "I told you so" card after everything happens. Complain about past decisions all you want, but I can assure you this is going to happen again -- that's just how drafting works.