Spurs NBA Draft: Usman Garuba can be a defensive gamechanger

Usman Garuba
Usman Garuba / Sonia Canada/Getty Images
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San Antonio Spurs
Usman Garuba / Sonia Canada/Getty Images

Why the Spurs could be skeptical of Garuba

While Usman Garuba is a defensive force, he is far from being the perfect draft prospect. Most mocks and big boards seem to have him in the high teens going into the twenties, with a few even having him going in the second round. The primary reason for this is some troubling signs from him on the offensive end of the floor.

Something else that typically translates well from Europe to the NBA is 3-point shooting. In the EuroLeague and ACB this past season, Garuba has shot 63 percent from the free-throw line and just over 30 percent from three.

Those numbers do not bode particularly well for his potential as a floor-spacer in the future, and given the Spurs' incredibly poor 3-point shooting this past season, this may not be ideal unless the Spurs are able to pick up some shooting firepower either in the free-agent market or the second round of the draft.

On top of that, Garuba still has a good amount of trouble when attempting to put the ball on the floor as his handles are still in the very early stages of development. When he does manage to get to the rim, his relatively average verticality leads to other bigs occasionally meeting him at the rim for a block.

Particularly when he is able to catch the ball near the rim, he has a tendency to bring the ball down too low to gain more power in his jump to finish above the rim. This could turn out to be a problem in the league if it's something that persists in his game as he'll be going against faster and more athletic shot-blockers.

With those areas of improvement in mind though, I am still very much a believer in Usman Garuba. Looking at his shot, his mechanics look relatively good for the most part other than the fact that his shot is consistently flat.

After comparing his shooting numbers from the first half of the season to the second half of the season (combining EuroLeague and ACB games), I found that while his 3-point shooting remained relatively constant (about a 2.5 percent dip in efficiency on 14 more attempts in the second half of the season), his free-throw shooting saw significant improvement.

In the first half of the season-- in 16 ACB games and 18 EuroLeague games-- Garuba shot 20 total free throws and only made 45 percent of them. In the second half of his season, he shot 45 free throws and made 73.3 percent of them: a 26.5 percent improvement on nearly double the volume. This gives me some hope that his jump shot will steadily begin to improve as well with a few adjustments once he enters the league.

Overall, at the very least, Garuba should be able to come into the league and immediately provide a team with a solid, versatile defensive presence on the floor, which is something that is very valuable in today's game.

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Usman Garuba is well-deserving of a pick in the mid-teens, and I could see a team like the Spurs reaching a little early for him on the lower end of the lottery based on his defensive skillset alone.