After struggling through most of the 2021-22 season, the San Antonio Spurs caught fire late and beat their rivals the Los Angeles Lakers for the final spot in the NBA Play-In Tournament. While the Spurs ultimately lost to the Pelicans, just making it was both an accomplishment for a rebuilding team and a stinging embarrassment for their rivals.
To make matters worse for the Lakers, the Spurs own their second round selection, and the 38th overall pick is now a valuable asset for San Antonio. After all, first-round talent often falls into the second round, and teams picking in the 31-40 range can benefit.
Also, players picked in the second round aren't bound by rookie-scale contracts, meaning a team can sign their pick to a four-year deal worth the minimum, saving them several million dollars while still getting a talented young player.
San Antonio was in that position when they selected DeJuan Blair 37th overall in 2009. Blair was one of the best players in college that year and was expected to be a lottery pick, but he was passed over due to injury concerns.
The Spurs didn't, of course, and took a chance on him, even signing him to a low-cost, four-year contract. That ultimately worked out for the Spurs, and Blair was a productive rotation player during his time with the team. Now, San Antonio is in that position again, and they should be able to find another steal in the second round.
Who should the Spurs take with the 38th pick?
There are several interesting options here, but my first choice would be Ousmane Dieng. Dieng is a 6'9 small forward who plays for the New Zealand Breakers in the NBL and has seen his profile rise given his recent play. In fact, over his last four games, he’s averaged 17.7 points in just 24.5 minutes. Not bad for an 18-year-old.
Still, Dieng's draft stock is all over the place; The Ringer has him going 15th overall while Bleacher Report doesn't have him being drafted at all, as do several others. It's hard to imagine the latter being the case while the former also feels like a bit of a stretch. That said, he could be available at 38th and the Spurs should take him if they have the opportunity to, given his skill set.
Dieng has good court vision and is a skilled ballhandler who can break down defenders one on one or by using ball screens to consistently get into the paint. Once in the paint, he's capable of knocking down pull-up jumpers, is a crafty finisher at the rim, and can also find open teammates on the perimeter.
Dieng can even shoot it from outside and has solid form but is hitting just 27.1% of his 4.2 3-point attempts per game. He's a better shooter than that would indicate, however, with some of his issues being a result of him shooting a fair amount of his threes off the dribble, which are tougher shots than spot-ups.
Dieng has raw tools that the Spurs can work with
That would likely be less of an issue in the NBA, and with the Spurs, where Dieng would play less with the ball. That should help his shot selection, and his 3-point percentage, as could Spurs shooting coach Chip Engelland. Additionally, were he to be selected by San Antonio, he'd probably spend significant time in the G League finetuning his game while also learning the team's plays.
That could do him some good and he could eventually prove quite useful on the Spurs, where his length and size could be helpful on defense. He also has the ability to play off-ball and create for himself and others with the ball in his hands. Actually, his game sort of reminds me of former Spur Kyle Anderson, but Dieng is definitely faster, more athletic, and projects to be a much better shooter.
Ultimately, San Antonio making the Play-In Tournament came at the expense of their former rivals, an added bonus. Better yet, the Spurs benefited from Los Angeles' dysfunction after acquiring their second-round pick from Chicago in the DeMar DeRozan trade.
Now armed with the 38th pick, San Antonio could find yet another steal in the draft. Dieng could be that player, given his age, skill set, and potential.