The 2022 NBA Draft is fast approaching, and the San Antonio Spurs have a lot riding on June 23rd. After all, the Spurs will have four picks in the draft: a projected 9th pick, plus 20th, 25th, and 38th overall, giving them the opportunity to add to an already talented group of young players.
Those picks also give San Antonio plenty of options, whether it be using them to trade up, or keeping all of their picks and using them to take chances on players with high ceilings. With that being said, let's take a look at the dream scenario for the Spurs in the 2022 Draft.
After acquiring Toronto and Boston's 1st round picks at the trade deadline, the general consensus among fans was that the Spurs may look to move up in the lottery. That would be great, but perhaps not as realistic as it might seem for a couple of reasons. One reason is that San Antonio is one of three teams in the top ten that has multiple firsts, with Houston and Oklahoma City being the others.
While the Spurs may be willing to trade up, neither would likely trade back for a collection of picks. The same almost certainly goes for the other teams in the top five who'd rather have the chance at selecting a star. That means that barring a jump into the top four in the draft lottery, the Spurs aren't likely to select Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, or Jaden Ivey, even in their dreams.
Who should the Spurs select?
There are several prospects deserving of being selected 9th overall, but of those players, Jalen Duren makes the most sense. This is the case even despite the Spurs already having Jakob Poeltl, who's one of the best centers in the league. That said, I believe that Duren can eventually be better, considering how good he is now. Plus, he's eight years younger than Poeltl.
Better yet, he could even help the Spurs next season, providing them with another stellar rim protector and rebounder, ensuring that one is on the floor at all times. He also has a fairly high offensive ceiling and can score in several ways, including by being a big lob threat and consistently getting easy second-chance points by dominating the offensive glass.
Duren even has a jumper that he uses when he faces up in the post to score, and that could eventually make him a pick and pop threat, particularly if paired with Dejounte Murray. Thus, Duren would make for a great long-term option at center if selected 9th by San Antonio while Poeltl would become expendable as he enters the final year of his contract.
With three other selections, I could see the Spurs keeping the 20th pick and dealing picks 25 and 38. Trading the 25th pick for another team's 2023 first and the 38th pick for two future second-rounders are certainly options, but so is combining them in a deal to acquire the 21st pick from the Nuggets. Were that to happen, San Antonio should choose E.J. Liddell and Nikola Jovic with back-to-back selections.
Liddell is a 21-year-old, 6'7, power forward who had a terrific season for Ohio State, averaging 19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks. Liddell is a little on the small side for an NBA four, but he plays bigger than his height and can even score consistently in the post by facing up or using turnaround jumpers. He has perimeter skills too, connecting on 37.4% of his 3.8 3-point attempts, and is a physical driver, throwing his weight around on his way to the rim.
On the defensive end, he can guard on the perimeter, protect the paint and even hold his own in the post, making him very versatile. All of that makes him an excellent fit for San Antonio, who could use a two-way power forward who can pick and pop from three, drive, score in the paint, and defend multiple positions. In fact, he could theoretically start for the Spurs next season.
As for Jovic, he's an 18-year-old, 6’10, small forward who has repeatedly been projected to go to the Spurs in mock drafts. It makes sense when looking at the Spurs' history of drafting international players, and they should be enthralled with his ability to create shots, particularly in pick-and-roll situations.
That skill combined with his size makes him a distinctive player, but it's also difficult to project how good he could be. In the NBA, Jovic probably won't play with the ball in his hands as often. Despite that, he could still be very effective because he's an impressive shot-maker, knocking down pullups and step-back threes even with a hand in his face.
Those tough shots resulted in an underwhelming 3-point percentage, but he should be much more accurate when primarily spotting up or running off screens. Jovic should also prove effective attacking closeouts, given his ability to handle the ball. Plus, he'd still thrive in pick and rolls. The potential is definitely there for him to be an excellent offensive player.
Overall, although San Antonio may not be able to move up into the top five via trade, there are still a number of intriguing prospects including Duren, Liddell, and Jovic. They could all turn into very good players, and the Spurs are in a position to select each of them.