San Antonio Spurs History

What if Manu Ginobili spent his career as the first option?

Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages
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When the San Antonio Spurs drafted Manu Ginobili 57th overall in 1999, they had no idea that they had picked an icon and a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. His four rings, two All-Star appearances, two All-NBA nods, and the greatest gold medal ever got him where he deserved to be. 

It’s not very often that a third option gets into the Hoops Hall. At any given point during his career, Manu was behind the likes of David Robinson, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, and LaMarcus Aldridge on the depth chart. All of these guys are soon to be Hall of Famers if they aren’t already enshrined. 

Ginobili is undoubtedly the greatest Sixth Man of all time, which got him to Springfield, but what if he didn’t have the luxury of playing behind and alongside some of the best players ever? Well, in a 1999 redraft, Ginobili probably gets drafted first overall, which means he goes to the Chicago Bulls. 

At the turn of the century, the Bulls were coming off the (second) best dynasty the NBA has ever seen, but by 2000, they were playing 15-win basketball. Sure, Elton Brand was a fine player for them, but getting ahold of a top foreign player ever might have sent the team in a different direction. 

I’m picking the Bulls for this experiment since they had the first pick, but it doesn’t really matter what team Manu plays for, as long as they were struggling and he would get to take over. The Bulls, Grizzlies, Hornets, Clippers, and Cavaliers would all make sense. This is not about him playing on another team per se. Instead, I’m looking at what his career would look like as the first option. 

The Spurs had the Twin Towers of Robinson and Duncan in the late 90s and early aughts, so Manu would have been lost in the noise. If he was drafted to be the first option, he would not have been stashed in Europe for three years and would have come to the states as soon as his name was called. 

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