Spurs' 5 Best 2022 NBA Draft selections with the 9th pick
I think that “best” can be a bit too ambiguous in some draft conversations, particularly when team fit is added into the mix, so here’s why the following five players were included in this group: they all possess upside worthy of a top-10 pick, bring positive attributes on both ends of the court, and bring more balanced risk vs. reward compared to the players in the previous category. Essentially, all of the following players developing and playing long-term in San Antonio would benefit both them and the team.
Honorable Mention: Bennedict Mathurin
Bennedict Mathurin is the reason I’m including honorable mentions here at all—he's one of the best movement shooters in the draft, has Lonnie Walker-like bounce, and is a menace in transition. The only reason he wasn’t included in our 5-player vote in this category is that he profiles a bit too similar to Devin Vassell in my mind (with a bit more shooting and a bit less defense), but I have no doubt he’d be a great asset for the Spurs. If the Spurs believe in his upside, then he’ll be a serious candidate at 9th overall—don’t let his questionable fit lead you to believe they’ll pass on him.
Johnny Davis – 0 Votes
Lots of Spurs fans seem to not be thrilled with the idea of Johnny Davis, but he’s undoubtedly one of the best players in the draft. He led a below-average Wisconsin Badgers team to win the Big Ten by taking on a heavy offensive workload and yet is impressively also considered one of the best perimeter defenders in his class. He’s a wrecking ball in the midrange, is an underrated passer, and is generally one of the best bucket-getters in his class. He’s deserving of much more love in San Antonio.
But even so, the Spurs’ roster is full of mid-sized wings that are largely unable to play minutes at the power forward spot, and Davis would only exacerbate that issue. Even though Davis has the upside to warrant using the 9th overall pick on him, selecting him would likely mean that one of the Spurs’ established young wings will be losing their roster spot sooner rather than later.
Tari Eason – 0 Votes
Mock drafts seem to be comfortable with Tari Eason being selected in the late teens to early 20s, but I'm quite comfortable having him in the back end of the lottery. I’d argue he’s the most instinctual defender in his class, was one of the most statistically impactful players in college basketball this past season, and is a top-10-level athlete.
His anthropometric measurements were eerily similar to those of Kawhi Leonard at the NBA Combine and considering they have a similar play style as well, Eason’s absolute highest-end outcome in the league could resemble something similar to Leonard.
My reservations with him lie in his feel for the game on both ends and clear lack of a left hand on offense, but if a team can scale back his role a bit to allow him to learn the game at his own pace and give him a clear developmental pathway, the eventual payoff could be massive. Don’t be surprised if the Spurs are interested and if a team gambles on him a bit earlier than currently projected.
Jalen Duren – 2 Votes
Jalen Duren is surely on the Spurs’ radar at this point -- it’s very understandable that two of our writers think the Spurs will go in his direction if he’s still available at 9th overall, and I very nearly gave him my vote as well. Why? Duren is one of the youngest participants in the upcoming draft and will play his first NBA game still at only 18 years old, and simultaneously, he has one of the most NBA-ready bodies in the draft, measuring 6’11” and weighing 250 pounds at Memphis’ pro day earlier in the year.
Duren’s high-end outcome in the league has All-NBA defensive upside, will likely be one of the best vertical spacers in the league, and has quite a bit of potential as a playmaker out of the short roll. But while the upside is certainly enticing, much of it is still theoretical (particularly on offense).
In that same vein, while their circumstances are quite different entering the league, Duren feels a bit to me like this year’s Kai Jones. At this point, I think there’s a slightly greater chance that Duren will be a primary trade-up candidate for the Spurs if he falls far enough.
Air Alamo’s Prediction: Keegan Murray – 4 Votes
The majority of our writers predicted that the Spurs would like Keegan Murray the most out of this group if he were still available at 9th overall, and it’s easy to see why. He was a 40% three-point shooter as a power forward, is one of the most fluid transition athletes in his class, and will do a lot to address the Spurs’ rebounding issues; there’s a lot to like with him. Participating in NBA Combine events was also commendable considering how highly-touted he is.
With that in mind, my concerns with Murray lie mostly on defense, where I think he’ll have trouble keeping up with NBA-caliber guards on the perimeter. While this pick on its own in a vacuum feels a bit too safe for the Spurs to me at this stage, if they’re confident that they can pair Murray with a hyper switchable center in the frontcourt (ahem... like the previous player on this list), that could make for one of the most dynamic two-way frontcourt pairings in the league.
For now, though, if there’s any consensus top-10 player I could see taking an unexpected Tyrese Haliburton-like slide, it’s Murray.
Roberto’s Prediction: Jeremy Sochan – 3 Votes
I’ll be honest: this group in particular makes for an incredibly difficult prediction, and I think the deciding factors between these candidates could come down to intangibles and other minute details that are largely a blind spot for us. I still find myself changing my mind frequently, but if I’m forced to guess now, I along with two of our other writers predict that the Spurs would like Jeremy Sochan the most out of this group. To get an in-depth look as to why he’s my prediction at this point, my most recent in-depth scouting report on Sochan explains why in great detail.
To boil his game down to the essentials, I think Sochan is one of the two or three best defenders in the class, is still an underrated passer, and is very efficient around the rim on offense. He fills a clear position of need on the Spurs, will get to work with one of the best shooting coaches in the game, and will have a chance to have a day-one impact as the Spurs’ best defender. Is Sochan a flashy pick? Definitely not. Is he the most athletic on this list? Again, no. But where I think Sochan ultimately could come out on top is in his ability to elevate his teammates.
On offense, he’ll be able to grab rebounds and create more second-chance opportunities for the Spurs’ young guards on the perimeter. On defense, he’s someone that can be thrown on just about anybody at the point of attack, switch and fight through screens, be trusted to make timely rotations, and will be a disruptor away from the ball. Someone near the top of the draft board is going to fall in love with the idea of such a wide-ranging impact, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if it’s the Spurs.