Spurs' 5 worst NBA Draft selections with the 9th pick
I think it’s best to start with the draft prospects that could come back to bite the Spurs, and what I’m paying closest attention to with these prospects is their risk vs. reward. If the balance between those two things in a prospect is too lopsided one way or the other, the pick could end up looking far too safe or far too dangerous in retrospect.
With that in mind, though, even with that balance being less-than-ideal, all of the following players still have a strong case to be selected in the lottery. So, to elaborate a bit more on this category, rather than the “worst,” these players can be considered the “worst of the best.”
It’s worth reminding everyone that I didn’t give my Air Alamo co-writers any context as to why I grouped these players together when I asked them for their predictions, so at the risk of making you and my co-writers mad, let’s go over who I think could be some of the "worst of the best” options for the Spurs at the 9th overall pick. Warning: hot takes ahead — enter at your own risk.
Honorable Mention: Patrick Baldwin Jr.
I don’t think there’s a player that was more disappointing in my eyes this season than Patrick Baldwin Jr., particularly when comparing his freshman season with his FIBA tape. Baldwin is a name still frequently attached to the Spurs due to his size and shooting, but if the Spurs will be going upside hunting in the lottery, let alone later on in the 1st round, I’m very confident that there will be better swings to take. Even with his supposed upside, I question whether Baldwin is a 1st-round prospect at all.
TyTy Washington – 0 Votes
I feel like I’m one of the lone draft writers left that still has a late lottery grade on TyTy Washington, but even so, I think this would be a big mistake for the Spurs at 9th overall. Several outlets have the Spurs selecting Washington at some point in the draft for relatively good reasons (yes, even at 9th overall), but if I’m the Spurs, I’m passing for a better-fitting, higher-upside option.
Washington is an incredibly efficient, high-level guard in the pick and roll, is a better shooter than his stats suggest, and plays with a high IQ on both ends of the floor. I think he’s the next Kentucky guard that will be selected later than he deserves, but this pick would be far too safe for the Spurs’ highest draft pick since Tim Duncan. While I think he’s a much lower-risk prospect than he’s given credit for, I don’t think the potential reward is particularly high either for a top-10 pick, particularly given the wealth of guards already on the Spurs’ roster.
Mark Williams – 0 Votes
Mark Williams was Paolo Banchero’s partner in crime in Duke’s frontcourt this past season and it became very easy to see his appeal. He was one of the better rim protectors in college basketball, is highly effective as the roll man in the pick and roll, is an underrated passer, and shows some promise as a midrange shooter.
The Mark Williams vs. Jalen Duren discussion has really been taking off lately, and while I’m a big fan of Williams, I am firmly not a buyer if Duren is still on the board. Similarly to TyTy Washington, while I think Williams could be a very good pick for someone in the lottery, I think this is too safe of a pick for the Spurs at 9th overall unless they’re highly confident they can take an intelligent high-upside swing with a later pick.
Rather, I think Williams could be a good trade-up candidate for the Spurs using their late 1st round picks.
Nikola Jovic – 1 Vote
Our very own Jonah Kubicek was the lone voter for Nikola Jovic in this group of prospects, and I appreciate his way of thinking here. For being a 6’11” wing, Jovic has unprecedented shooting and playmaking ability relative to his size. Because the Spurs could already use more shooting and will possibly need a dose of frontcourt playmaking if Jakob Poeltl departs the team, it makes sense if Jovic is on their radar.
Unfortunately, where Jovic clearly falls short at this point is in his defense both on and off the ball. While I could see the Spurs being buyers for Jovic later in the first round, Jovic’s best developmental situation will require a team placing several high-level defenders around him in lineups, and even then, he’s going to be targeted frequently in the half-court in the NBA.
While his offensive potential is undeniably high, if he proves to be a black hole on the other end of the floor, spending a lottery pick on him could prove to be a mistake.
Shaedon Sharpe – 3 Votes
Get ready for the hottest take yet: at risk of looking back on this and cringing a few years from now, I think Shaedon Sharpe could be another mistake for the Spurs in the lottery. Sharpe is very much the enigma of the 2022 NBA Draft being that he didn’t play a minute of college basketball, didn’t participate in combine events, and yet is considered one of the highest-upside plays in his class.
Touted as an all-world explosive athlete with star-level shot-making ability, many mock drafts and big boards have him near the likes of Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, Jaden Ivey, and Jabari Smith Jr.
Once again, this comes down to risk vs. reward. Sharpe’s high-end outcome could turn out to be an offensive superstar, and likely for that reason, he received three votes from our writers; and if Brian Wright believes in that offensive upside, then he'll surely be a target at 9th overall.
On the other hand, though, I think there’s also a world in which his questionable decision-making (and year-long break from in-game basketball) hinders him on offense while his largely theoretical defense doesn’t live up to his promising measurements.
After the Spurs took a big swing in last year’s draft with Josh Primo, would they be willing to take perhaps an even bigger swing on another similarly-sized wing based solely on high school and AAU play? My money says the Spurs will feel just as, if not more confident in other prospects’ upside.
Air Alamo’s & Roberto’s Prediction: AJ Griffin – 5 Votes
This stings a bit after I called AJ Griffin a “must-draft” for the Spurs earlier during the college basketball season, but the more I watched him, the more I feel that I could have jumped the gun on that assessment. Regardless, though, I and the majority of my co-writers predict that the Spurs would be most interested in Griffin out of these five players.
While he isn’t quite as safe of a pick as Williams or Washington, I would argue that the combination of his shooting efficiency and strength along with his upside as a shot creator give him the best balance between risk and reward in this group.
At this point, Griffin’s most surefire projection at the next level is his effectiveness as a 3-point shooter. He shot an incredibly convincing 45% from beyond the arc on over four attempts per game despite a slightly unorthodox wide base on his shot. Even so, particularly on the defensive end of the floor, much of his potential will depend on whether or not his twitch athleticism and bounce return to pre-injury levels.
His heavy-footedness dramatically affects his usefulness as a perimeter defender and space creator on offense, which could significantly hamper his two-way ceiling.