San Antonio Spurs Option No. 1: F Kai Jones, UT
UT's Kai Jones is the best blend of upside, fit, and skills when it comes to the San Antonio Spurs and the 2021 NBA Draft. While the Bahamian big man may not be the polished big man we'd expect to see in year four or five, he can carve out a role for himself early while offering a new dynamic to the Spurs frontcourt.
In a piece from last week, I touched on the skills of Jones and his upside. For the sake of this piece, I'll break it down in shorter terms.
Jones won't be the best player as it pertains to skill when the Spurs are picking at number 12. There might be a better shooter, better ball-handler, or a better defender. But the Spurs would be correct in selecting the sophomore due to his unique skillset for such a young player.
Jones can contribute in year one as a rim-runner that attacks in transition and cleans the glass on both ends. He can hit your occasional spot-up three and set hard screens to spring guys open in the half court.
His skillset is polished in limited aspects like in transition or as a finisher, but the things outside of that, like shooting or shot creation, still have a ways to go. But Kai has shown the assertiveness and comfort of taking your occasional pull-up jumper or quick read to feed a cutter in the half-court.
While guys like Mitchell or Butler might be the better players from day one, they might hit their ceiling very early in their career. For guys like Jones that have only played organized hoops since age 15, he's shown an immense deal of progression and seemingly fits the mold for what you want as a modern 4/5.
His fit in San Antonio initially as a backup 4/5 would be an interesting and much-needed dynamic.
He'd be a needed dose of athleticism, motor, and transition play that fits perfectly with a young group in Dejounte, Keldon, Lonnie, and Devin that likes to go out and run, and he can play alongside Drew Eubanks or Gorgui Dieng.
He fits a higher pace of play that's evident and effective with the younger group, but if he becomes a threat from deep and continues to progress while in the dunker spot, the Spurs could be looking at a three-level threat offensively for stretches at a time.
This doesn't even touch on his defense presence, as he's shown to already be an effective perimeter defender with quick feet and adequate length to disrupt passing lanes and shots.
While Kai may not be the best player from day one, he has the highest ceiling of all the prospects mentioned. In addition, he's a player who can contribute in a bench role in years 1-2 at a position of need that can benefit from early playing time as he learns the pro game.
Combined with the supremely talented coaches in San Antonio, unlocking Kai Jones's upside looks like a reasonable and fulfilling task for the Alamo City.