There are several players besides the ones listed below who could potentially be drafted by the Spurs, but I have selected the ones that I found the most likely. Personally, I am for Whiteside or Crawford, but I trust the Spurs to get the most bang for their buck with the 20th pick. Here are the players that I consider the top prospects for the Spurs in this year’s draft.
Solomon Alabi 7-1 C Floirda St.
Alibi is already a controversial pick as the debate about whether he is a potential steal or potential bust rages on. He certainly has the height and raw talent to lure any scouts in with his upside, but will he be able to cultivate his game and thrive in the NBA? Air Alamo weighed in on the debate and had this to say:
In our opinion, whoever the Spurs select with the 20th pick will serve as an early indicator of how negotiations with Tiago Splitter are faring this off season. In our latest Mock Draft we have the Spurs taking Solomon Alabi from Florida State. Given Pop’s recent non-committal statements on that topic we’ve gone with what we think is a very intriguing prospect at this stage in the draft. Alabi has only been playing organized basketball for about 7 years now, but has been pretty fully immersed in the world of USA-style hoops for that entire period of time (unlike say Ian Mahinmi). Alabi is listed at 7’1” tall. He has been measured with a wingspan of 7’3” and a standing reach of 9’1”. This length has served him well at the collegiate level but he relies a bit too much on that alone for his success. He won’t have quite the same advantage at the pro level and his relative light weight (241 lbs) could be a problem.
Larry Sanders 6-10 PF/C VCU
Sanders is widely considered an “athletic freak” – and yes, that’s a compliment. He also is drawing comparisons to Theo Ratliff – the All-Star version, not the one the Spurs traded last season. Courtside with the Spurs chimed in about Larry Sanders and had this to say:
Sanders — a 6-foot-10 power forward/center not to be confused with a character Garry Shandling played on HBO — improved in each of his three college seasons, cresting at 14.1 points and 9.1 rebounds as a junior. His long arms and athleticism make him a natural rebounder, and he can finish around the rim with authority. Sanders has the ability to run the floor and finish breaks, fitting a role the Spurs have been looking to fill (mostly unsuccessfully) essentially since David Robinson retired.
Sanders is still raw as an offensive player — he lacks even the semblance of a post move — but scouts are optimistic he can polish his game given NBA experience.
The website NBAdraft.net projects Sanders as a Theo Ratliff type, which is a compliment. At his peak, Ratliff was an All-Star.
Daniel Orton 6-10 C Kentucky
Daniel Orton was a trendy pick in recent months, but he may be someone that the Spurs ultimately decide to pass on. His stock is dropping according to Yahoo Sports’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
There’s a great deal of uncertainty and caution surrounding Kentucky center Daniel Orton, who has cancelled several workouts in the final days before the draft, but has tentatively planned a visit with Indiana on Tuesday.
League executives say Orton has been out of shape and struggling with knee issues during the predraft process. Orton, a 6-foot-10 freshman, had planned to hire agent Raymond Brothers, but sources said an internal family struggle over control has kept him without formal representation. With so much uncertainty surrounding Orton, he could face a steep drop Thursday night.
Orton has been working out with former NBA coach Bob Hill. As one Eastern Conference executive said Monday, “There are too many red flags right now.”
Hassan Whiteside 6-11 PF/C Marshall
Hassan Whiteside is high on a lot of peoples’ lists largely due to his defensive prowess. I’ve seen folks predicting everything between Theo Ratliff in his prime to Marcus Camby, which are both intriguing possibilities. Pounding the Rock mock drafted Whiteside and had this to say:
Whiteside is arguably the ‘Best Player Available’. He is a shot blocker, leading the NCAA last year in blocks per game, per 40 possessions, and per 40 minutes. All Spurs fans agree that a shot-blocking big is something we want. He’s a good rebounder and efficient scorer as well. His defense isn’t great, but this draft pick is for depth, potential, athleticism, and the future. I guess the other two serious contenders for C are Daniel Orton and Larry Sanders. Most of our bigs are currently on the shorter side of 6’10″ so I’d prefer 7’0″ Whiteside to 6’9″ Sanders. I’m picking Whiteside over Orton for his shot blocking. By the way, I would have taken Alabi over Whiteside.
Jordan Crawford, 6-4 SG, Xavier
Crawford is the only Guard on this list. The main reason is that the Spurs let Michael Finley go, and should be considering letting Roger Mason go, and need someone besides George Hill to pick up the slack in the backcourt for Ginobili and Parker. Crawford could very easily be the perimeter scorer that the Spurs wanted Mason to be last season. Bill Simmons evaulated him after the NCAA tournament, and he puts it all in perspective better than I ever could.
On the flip side, Xavier’s Jordan Crawford didn’t just score 55 points in the first two rounds or make a variety of clutch plays. He got to his spots. Those were 55 relatively easy points. Crawford had been pigeonholed as a “talented with a crummy attitude” second-round prospect, but those two games changed everything. He certainly didn’t hurt his cause Thursday night, pouring in 32 points and making a game-saving 3 in the first overtime. I guarantee every Kansas State fan was petrified of him. So why couldn’t he sneak into the top 20 of this year’s draft? How many NBA 2-guards make 40 percent of their 3s AND get to their spots? Trust me, it’s not a long list. Of course …
Back to Crawford. By all accounts, it sounds like he had trouble suppressing his inner a-hole this season. Maybe dunking on LeBron last summer (and the subsequent Internet firestorm) was detrimental to him. But that’s a defensible character flaw. And a fixable one. These are young kids. They are easily influenced. They have no experience handling adversity or prosperity. Heck, on my podcast this week, Ohio State’s Mark Titus discussed how much Evan Turner changed since his freshman year, when he played with a chip on his shoulder and clashed with teammates and coaches. Now he doesn’t. What happened? He got older. He matured. He learned how to deal with other people.
What’s the difference between being a fixable head case and an unfixable head case? It’s simple, actually. You can’t become un-lazy. You can’t go from being clueless to having a clue. You can’t go from crazy to sane. You can’t go from selfish to selfless. You can’t go from soft to tough. You can’t go from being a knucklehead to being savvy. You can’t go from ADD to totally zoned in. You can’t go from being a DEFCON 1 hothead to a soothing presence. But you can absolutely mature from “being an a-hole” to “not being an a-hole.” Crawford may have had issues earlier in the season, but all we saw in the tournament was heart and swagger. That has to count for something.
Damion James 6-7 SF Texas
Last but not least, is Damion James. James is the player that 48MinutesofHell selected in their mock draft:
So we can see that the Spurs’ wing situation is thin. Jefferson will either be traded or wished-well when his contract expires. Gee and Hairston are interesting, but uncertain. And the Spurs need to upgrade their collective skill set at the 3.
What does Damion James does well is enough to justify the 20th pick. He can guard three positions, is a passable spot-up shooter, and can supply a brand of low-minute, high-energy hoops that necessarily enamores players to coaches. Beyond this, James receive high praise for his work ethic and professionalism, two things the Spurs value as basketball skills and not merely character traits.
So there you have it, the players I think are the most likely candidates to be Spurs in the next few days, and the case for each of them. We’ll see how it all plays out and in the meantime keep our fingers crossed for Tiago Splitter’s arrival in San Antonio.